The Artist has won best picture and three other prizes at the Spirit Awards honouring independent film, a possible prelude to a big night at the Academy Awards for the black-and-white silent film.

The film also won for best director for Michel Hazanavicius and lead actor for Jean Dujardin as a silent-era star whose career crumbles as talking pictures take over in the 1920s. It earned the cinematography prize, too.

The Artist is the best-picture favourite at the Oscars.

Michelle Williams won best actress as Marilyn Monroe in the filmmaking tale My Week with Marilyn.

Supporting-acting honours went to Christopher Plummer as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in Beginners and Shailene Woodley as a troublesome Hawaiian teenager in The Descendants.