'Sunshine,' 'Nelson' lead Spirit noms

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"Little Miss Sunshine," a comedy about a dysfunctional family on an ill-fated road trip, and "Half Nelson," a drama about the bond forged between a drug-addicted teacher and one of his students, lead the list of nominees for Film Independent's Spirit Awards, announced this past week (HR 11/29).

Fox Searchlight's "Sunshine" and ThinkFilm's "Nelson" picked up five nominations apiece in the main categories, including best feature.

Previously known as the Independent Spirit Awards, the awards, sponsored by Los Angeles-based Film Independent, honor achievements in the indie film scene. The winners will be unveiled Feb. 24 at the group's annual awards luncheon, which takes place in a tent on the beach in Santa Monica.

In the best feature category, "Sunshine" and "Nelson" will compete with "American Gun," a drama about the proliferation of guns in the U.S.; "The Dead Girl," a mystery-thriller about a serial killer's victim; and "Pan's Labyrinth," a politically charged fantasy film.

David Lynch and his frequent collaborator, Laura Dern, were singled out to receive a Special Distinction Award in recognition of their work together running from "Blue Velvet" through "Inland Empire."

"Sunshine" and "Nelson" also earned noms for their directors: the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who helmed the comedy, and Ryan Fleck, who steered the drama. Their category also includes the late Robert Altman for "A Prairie Home Companion," Karen Moncrieff for "Dead Girl" and Steven Soderbergh for "Bubble."

A complete list of nominees is at www.hollywoodreporter.com.
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