Sandler, Pattinson indie films top Spirit Award nominations

Actresses Natasha Lyonne (L) and Zazie Beetz presented the nominations at a Los Angeles press conference

Adam Sandler and Robert Pattinson saw their Oscar hopes boosted Thursday as "Uncut Gems" and "The Lighthouse" led the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations with five each, in the unofficial start to Hollywood's annual prize-giving season.

While major studio releases are not eligible for the Spirit Awards, the prizes are still seen as an strong indicator of the independent movies that could eventually be Oscar winners.

Sandler stars as a brash, larger-than-life New York jewel dealer in the high-octane drama "Uncut Gems" from the Safdie brothers, who also earned a directing nod.

Former "Twilight" and "Harry Potter" star Pattinson underlined his indie credentials with a nomination for Robert Eggers' black-and-white tale of two lighthouse keepers on a remote island.

Both films were made by production house A24, which once again dominated, earning 18 nods. The indie powerhouse is behind previous Oscar winner "Moonlight," as well as "Lady Bird" and "The Disaster Artist."

Actresses Zazie Beetz ("Joker") and Natasha Lyonne ("Orange Is The New Black") presented the nominations at a Los Angeles press conference.

Film Independent President Josh Welsh described 2019 as "a year of bold, audacious and accomplished filmmaking" despite significant change and challenges affecting the movie industry.

Netflix's "Marriage Story" was selected to receive the Robert Altman Award, which is bestowed upon one film's director, casting director and cast.

The movie, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, will vie with "Uncut Gems" for the best feature prize.

While Sandler and Pattinson will compete for best male lead, A-listers Renee Zellweger ("Judy") and Elisabeth Moss ("Her Smell") were nominated for best female lead, and Jennifer Lopez ("Hustlers") will vie for the best supporting female award.

Five best feature winners this decade have gone on to best picture glory at the Academy Awards, including "Moonlight," "Spotlight" and "Birdman."

The winners, selected by Film Independent members, will be announced at the Spirit Awards on February 8 -- the day before the Oscars.