The Harlem story "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is tied for the lead at the Friday awards show with five nominations, including best picture, actress for newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, supporting actress for Mo'Nique and director for Lee Daniels.
"Precious" is competing for those same prizes Sunday at Hollywood's biggest event of the year, the Academy Awards.
Also up for best picture at the Spirit Awards are the romance "(500) Days of Summer," the Tolstoy drama "The Last Station" and the immigrant stories "Amreeka" and "SinNombre."
"The Last Station" tied "Precious" with five nominations, including a best-actress slot for Helen Mirren and a supporting-actor honor for Christopher Plummer, both also competing for the same awards at the Oscars.
Also nominated at both ceremonies are best-actor contenders Jeff Bridges for "Crazy Heart" and Colin Firth for "A Single Man" and supporting-actor nominee Woody Harrelson for "The Messenger."
The lineup for best film from a first-time director include "A Single Man," ''Crazy Heart" and "The Messenger," as well as the surprise horror hit "Paranormal Activity."
The Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker," tied with blockbuster "Avatar" for the Oscar lead with nine nominations each, is absent from this season's Spirit Awards. "The Hurt Locker" premiered at film festivals in 2008 and was eligible for the Spirit Awards a year ago, when it earned nominations for actors Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.
The Spirit Awards normally are handed out at an afternoon ceremony along the beach in Santa Monica the day before the Oscars. With the event marking its 25th year, organizers made it a Friday night bash in downtown Los Angeles.
Presented by the cinema group Film Independent, the Spirit Awards honor movies that cost less than $20 million to make, with a significant part of their budget originating outside the Hollywood studio system. Other criteria for nominations include originality and provocative subject matter.