- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Terrence Malick’s highly imaginative “The Tree of Life” and Mike Mills’ flashback comedy, “Beginners” tied for best feature at the annual Gotham Independent Film Awards.

Presenter Tilda Swinton introduced the nominees, but before opening the envelope to reveal the winner, deferred to a prerecorded message on large video screens at Cipriani Wall Street.

Jury member Natalie Portman explained that judges were faced with the dilemma of being “stuck” when it came to selecting a winner, so they “made a bold and independent decision” and “chose to honor both.”

Swinton then read off the winners’ names and presented the award at the Monday night ceremony.

“The Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, won the Palm d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. “Beginners” was released last year and stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Plummer.

Other winners included Felicity Jones for breakthrough actor in “Like Crazy,” the cast of “Beginners” for ensemble cast and “Scenes of a Crime” for best film “not playing at a theater near you.” The audience award went to “Girlfriend,” a film about a young man with Down syndrome who has a crush on a troubled single mother.

Hosted by Edie Falco and Oliver Platt, the presenters mostly came from the independent film world and included Stanley Tucci, Melissa Leo, Vera Farmiga and Swinton.

“Independent film is my amniotic fluid. It’s like the sea I swim in,” Swinton said when she arrived.

This year’s Gotham tributes went to director David Cronenberg, film executive Tom Rothman, actor Gary Oldman and actress Charlize Theron.

Actor-comedian Patton Oswalt introduced Theron, and then made self-deprecating jokes while standing next to her at the podium. (The pair star in the upcoming dark comedy “Young Adult.”)

“I’m only here because I’m armpit height,” the much shorter Oswalt said. Later he said: “I feel like you’re accepting me for the award.”

“The irony is that you are the award,” Theron joked.

The Gotham Independent Film Awards are presented by the Independent Feature Project, the largest organization in the United States committed to independent film.

Since its inception in 1991, Gotham Independent Film Awards have honored many Oscar-nominated movies, including 2010 Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker.”

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