Spirit Awards 2009Most of us complain about the Academy Awards, which will be presented next Sunday, but most of us can't do anything about them. In the first place, most of us can't even vote for them!

Ah, but the Independent Spirit Awards are different: almost anyone can vote for them. All you have to do is become a member of Los Angeles-based Film Independent (annual membership: $95) and then register to vote.

The Film Nest has an interesting article on someone who went through the process. Film Independent members in general have no input into the nomination process, but after the nominations were announced, members could choose to receive DVD screeners of the nominees or attend special, one-time-only screenings at a local theater. Ultimately only eight of the 30-plus nominated films were made available on screeners, so conscientious voters had to trek down to the theater if they hadn't already seen the nominees.

With all the attention given to the Oscars, and more recently to the Berlin film fest and the concurrent European Film Market, "it may be easy to forget that the Independent Spirit Awards happen next weekend," as Matt Dentler blogs, He discusses the nominees for Best Feature (Ballast, Frozen River, Rachel Getting Married, Wendy and Lucy, The Wrestler) and other categories, and gives his thoughts on who might win. There's a lot of "Who knows?" inherent in the Spirit Awards, and part of that is because voting is so much more open than the Academy.

That openness is just one of the reasons why the Spirit Awards are so much fun to watch. The awards will be presented in Santa Monica, California, next Saturday afternoon, February 21, and you can watch the show live on cable channel IFC and rebroadcast later that evening on AMC.