Canadian actor Christopher Plummer has won the supporting-actor prize at the Spirit Awards honouring independent film for his role as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in Beginners.

Plummer's win Saturday in Los Angeles could be a prelude to Hollywood's top prize at Sunday's Academy Awards, where the 82-year-old is favoured to become the oldest acting winner ever.

The supporting-actress prize went to Shailene Woodley for the family drama The Descendants.

Joking that it took him a long time to realize the Spirit Awards had nothing to do with booze, Plummer gave thanks to all the spirits that have come his way in his career, "good and evil."

Plummer is the favorite to win for supporting actor at Sunday's Oscars. Woodley was not nominated for an Oscar.

The Artist won best picture and three other prizes, which could mean 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 favorite at Sunday's Oscars.

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