LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Quirky comedies "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Moonrise Kingdom" led nominations on Tuesday for the 2013 Spirit Awards, one of the largest celebrations of independent films.
The two movies notched up five nominations apiece, including best feature film and director, just ahead of the mystical "Beasts of the Southern Wild," gay drama "Keep the Lights On," and dark drama "Middle of Nowhere" with four each, organizers announced.
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were both nominated for their lead roles in "Silver Linings Playbook" as a mentally ill man and a young widow who strike up an unusual romance, while John Hawkes and Helen Hunt were recognized for their performances as a disabled man and his sex surrogate in "The Sessions."
"Silver Linings Playbook," directed by David O. Russell, is also seen as a strong contender for Oscar glory in February, reflecting the growing profile of indie films in the mainstream Hollywood industry.
"Moonrise Kingdom" - director Wes Anderson's take on the romance between two odd children - won nominations for its screenplay, cinematography and supporting actor Bruce Willis.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild," an apocalyptic fantasy set in the impoverished watery fringes of southern Louisiana that has swept festivals around the world, won nods for its rookie director, Benh Zeitlin, along with amateur child star, Quvenzhane Wallis.
"The nominations this year represent an astonishingly strong group of artists both in front of and behind the camera," said Josh Welsh, co-president of Film Independent, the nonprofit group that produces the Spirit Awards.
Winners will be handed out in the California beach city of Santa Monica on February 23 - the day before the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.
Last year, silent film "The Artist" won four Spirit Awards including best film, before going on to win five Oscars a day later.
(This story corrects description of "Middle of Nowhere" in 2nd paragraph)
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; editing by Matthew Lewis)