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By Piya Sinha-Roy
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb 23 (Reuters) - Quirky comedy "Silver Linings Playbook" dominated the Independent Spirit Awards on the eve of Hollywood's Academy Awards ceremony, winning four prizes including for Best Feature.
Jennifer Lawrence, 22, who plays a feisty young widow in "Silver Linings Playbook," was named best actress and David O. Russell picked up the best directing honor on Saturday.
Lawrence and Russell are also in the running for Oscars on Sunday, where "Silver Linings Playbook" is nominated for Best Picture.
"When you make a film from the heart, there is no such thing as genre. They are just real people, and if it's funny in or of itself, that's what happens and that's what my whole cast taught me," Russell said in accepting his award.
Austrian drama "Amour," about an elderly couple coping with the effects of the wife's debilitating stroke, won the Best Foreign Film award on Saturday, strengthening its march toward expected Oscar success on Sunday.
The Independent Spirit Awards are handed out by the Los Angeles-based non-profit group Film Independent and are widely considered the top honors for low-budget and art house movies in the United States.
The ceremony, held in a tent on California's Santa Monica beach, are a more laid-back affair than the formal and glitzy Academy Awards ceremony. Bruce Willis, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Renner, Daniel Radcliffe, Amy Poehler and other celebrities were treated to a casual lunch.
The awards for "Silver Linings Playbook" largely shut out rival fantasy movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which won one award for cinematography but lost in three other categories.
First-time director Benh Zeitlin, 30, had been considered a front-runner at the Spirit Awards for the mythological film, set in a Louisiana swamp.
"Benh Zeitlin is a young man, so Benh Zeitlin will be back," Russell quipped on stage.
"Amour" director Michael Haneke, 70, who also won honors at the Cesar Awards in France on Friday, was on hand to accept his award on Saturday. "I have the impression I'm the oldest man here," he joked.
Backstage, the veteran German director told reporters through a translator that he was looking forward to the Oscars, where "Amour" is a contender in five categories including for Best Picture.
"I feel wonderful. It's a complete surprise of course. No one expected that a film with themes like aging and death would have such success. It's been very rewarding for everyone involved," Haneke said.
Helen Hunt was named Best Supporting Female for her role as a sex therapist in "The Sessions," while her co-star John Hawkes, who plays a paraplegic, took the Best Male Lead award.
Backstage, Hawkes told reporters that the role was a physical challenge, but worth it.
"Anytime people notice your work, it gives you more confidence," Hawkes said.
"The Invisible War," an insight into rape and sexual assault in the U.S. military, won the Best Documentary award.
Amy Ziering, one of the film's writers, made an emotional acceptance speech, telling service members "you are heard. You are not alone and you are no longer invisible."
Matthew McConaughey was a winner for his supporting role as a male stripper in comedy "Magic Mike." The actor, who has enjoyed the biggest critical success in his career for the film, accepted the trophy saying, "I had to take my pants off to win an award." (Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, Editing by Jill Serjeant and Paul Simao)