The Independent Spirit Awards nominees -- Contenders for the Alternative Oscars include ''House Party,'' ''The Grifters,'' and Joanne Woodward

As an antidote to the expensive Hollywood hoopla surrounding the Academy Awards, the Independent Feature Project/West, the country’s largest association of independent movie-makers, has announced its sixth annual nominations for what can be considered the Alternative Oscars. The Independent Spirit Awards (there’s no nickname) honor the little gems financed outside the major studios, and the nominees include many of the most critically acclaimed films of the year.

Leading the field is Charles Burnett’s drama of middle-class black life, To Sleep With Anger, which picked up seven nominations, including Best Feature and Best Actor for Danny Glover. Reginald Hudlin’s hip-hop musical, House Party, garnered seven nominations too, including Best First Feature. Also up for Best Feature is Stephen Frears’ hard-boiled crime story, The Grifters, with Anjelica Huston winning a Best Actress nomination for her performance at a coldhearted con artist. Joanne Woodward’s role as a woman dominated by her WASPish husband in Mr. & Mrs. Bridge earned her a place on the Best Actress ballot. Both Michael Roemer’s The Plot Against Harry and John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer received six nominations.

Past nominees — including director Steven Soderbergh (sex, lies, and videotape), Julia Roberts (Mystic Pizza), and Winona Ryder (Heathers) — have gone on to greater mainstream recognition. Kevin Costner will deliver this year’s keynote address. And previous Independent Spirit-winner Oliver Stone (Best Director and Best Feature for Platoon in 1986) is acting as honorary chairman of the award ceremony, which will be hosted for the sixth year by Buck Henry and held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on March 23, two days before the real Oscars.