Previewing the Spirit Awards

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There’s probably no awards show I like more year in and year out than the Independent Spirit Awards. It’s quirky as can be and tends to honor films the Academy wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. As always, there’s some crossover with Oscar, but no more than usual (though ‘The Artist’ did as well here as indie favorites ‘Drive’ and ‘Take Shelter’, so make of that what you will). As for how the ceremony might go, I admit to not always being the greatest with these predictions, but I always take a crack at it. This year is as hard a one to decipher as ever, but that’s not going to stop me from doing my best to give you a complete look at the potential wins, upsets, and everything in between, since…well, it’s my job and all.  Anyway, enough of me waxing poetic on my love of the Spirit Awards, since that’s not what you want to read.  You want a real preview of the show, so it’s time for that. Let’s go ahead now and take a look at how the Spirit Awards might turn out on Saturday night, starting right off with the big categories!


Best Feature
The nominees are: 50/50, The Artist, Beginners, The Descendants, Drive, and Take Shelter

-It’s a rather strong slate of contenders for the top prize of the night, and I could see any of the half dozen nominated flicks taking it, though the likely frontrunners are ‘The Artist’, ‘The Descendants’, and ‘Drive’. It would seem that the latter two have the best chance, and one might take into account that the almost complete snub of ‘Drive’ could work in its favor, but there’s something big standing in its way. That thing is the fact that an Alexander Payne film has never lost here when nominated (nor has Payne himself, but more on that in a bit). I don’t see any reason why that will change this year, though I’ll be crossing my fingers that ‘Drive’ can break the trend.

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Drive

Best Director
The nominees are: Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist), Mike Mills (Beginners), Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)

-This looks like a duel to the death between Hazanavicius, Payne, and Winding Refn, again with the latter two being the most likely. This would seem like a better chance than Best Feature for a ‘Drive’ win, especially when the direction is one of the most praised aspects of the work, but I’m going to again err on the side of caution and history and pick Payne’s winning streak to continue here with his work on ‘The Descendants’. Of course, I’ll be overjoyed if Nicolas Winding Refn can win it…

Will Win: Alexander Payne
Should Win: Nicolas Winding Refn

Best First Feature
The nominees are: Another Earth, In The Family, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Natural Selection

-This seems like a likely win for ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ and while I wouldn’t bet against it, both ‘Another Earth’ and ‘Margin Call’ will get their fair share of votes. In the end though, ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ is the best directed of the works, and that should put it over the top. I very slightly prefer ‘Margin Call’, but I have no complaints with ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ winning here.

Will Win: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Should win: Margin Call

John Cassavetes Award
The nominees are: Bellflower, Circumstance, Hello Lonesome, Pariah, and The Dynamiter

-There’s very little I want more here than for ‘Bellflower’ to win the category that goes to the best film made for under $500,000 in a given year, but while it’s got a strong shot, there’s a big chance that ‘Pariah’ will take it instead, with perhaps an outside chance for an upset by ‘Circumstance’. I’m going to go out on a bit of a limb and predict that ‘Bellflower’ holds off ‘Pariah’ on the strength of its debut DIY filmmaking from Evan Glodell. Hopefully my heart isn’t interfering with my head here.

Will/Should Win: Bellflower

Best Screenplay
The nominees are: The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius), Beginners (Mike Mills), The Descendants (Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, and Alexander Payne), Footnote (Joseph Cedar), and Win Win (Thomas McCarthy)

-There’s no reason to expect anything other than another win here for Alexander Payne, though another Spirit Awards favorite is up for the award in Thomas McCarthy and his script for ‘Win Win’. Mike Mills will get some votes for ‘Beginners’, but Payne’s adaptation of ‘The Descendants’ is almost assuredly what’s going to win here.

Will/Should Win: The Descendants

Best First Screenplay
The nominees are: 50/50 (Will Reiser), Another Earth (Mike Cahill and Brit Marling), Cedar Rapids (Phil Johnston), Margin Call (J.C. Chandor), and Terri (Patrick Dewitt)

-This is looking like a slam dunk win for Chandor and ‘Margin Call’, but the upset special here is Will Reiser’s deeply personal script for ’50/50′. I’m not brave enough to actually predict it, but it’s a bit of a hunch on my part, as well as my personal pick of preference. ‘Margin Call’ will likely get honored here, but keep my hunch in mind.

Will Win: Margin Call
Should Win: 50/50

Best Female Lead
The nominees are: Lauren Ambrose (Think of Me), Rachael Harris (Natural Selection), Adepero Oduye (Pariah), Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn)

Another three way race is at hand here, with Oduye, Olsen, and Williams in a pretty evenly matched fight for the win. This is the 5th Spirit nomination for acting that Williams has received, so there might be sentiment to finally reward her, but it could be too bland a film for them. I’d personally vote for her and think she could definitely win despite ‘My Week with Marilyn’ being nothing to write home about, but it’s likely between Oduye and Olsen for their breakthrough works in ‘Pariah’ and ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’, respectively. Don’t be surprised if the former takes it, but I’m going with the latter here.

Will Win: Elizabeth Olsen
Should Win: Michelle Williams

Best Male Lead
The nominees are: Demian Bichir (A Better Life), Jean Dujardin (The Artist), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Woody Harrelson (Rampart), and Michael Shannon (Take Shelter)

-Aside from Bichir, I think all of the gentlemen here are majorly in play, though I think Dujardin will wind up not winning unless ‘The Artist’ does better at the ceremony than I’m expecting it to. That leaves Gosling, Harrelson, and Shannon to vie for Best Male Lead. This is Shannon’s first time with Film Independent, but his film ‘Take Shelter’ was highly nominated, so that shouldn’t work against him, even though the latter two have a stronger history with the Spirit Awards. Gosling is now a 3 time nominee and previous winner (having been nominated for ‘The Believer’ and winning for ‘Half Nelson’), while Harrelson can now boast a second nomination after previously winning for ‘The Messenger’. I think that the latter would be in the lead if ‘Rampart’ had done better with this group, but that it now comes down to the former’s work in ‘Drive’ against the aforementioned Shannon. Any of the 3 could take it, and while my heart clearly says Gosling, I have to go with Shannon here. Watch out for Harrelson though…

Will Win: Michael Shannon
Should Win: Ryan Gosling

Best Supporting Female
The nominees are: Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter), Anjelica Huston (50/50), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs), Harmony Santana (Gun Hill Road), and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)

-There’s a good chance that Chastain sees her most underrated work of 2011 rewarded here, but she’s up against Woodley, who will benefit a lot from Alexander Payne films also doing well in the acting categories historically. I’d love to say that Huston has a shot for ’50/50′, but she’ll have to settle for being the personal vote that I would cast. I’m tempted to say Chastain will take it for ‘Take Shelter’, but I’m going to continue siding with history and say Woodley’s role in ‘The Descendants’ is what wins.

Will Win: Shailene Woodley
Should Win: Anjelica Huston

Best Supporting Male
The nominees are: Albert Brooks (Drive), John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Christopher Plummer (Beginners), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris), and John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids)

-This seems like the place where Oscar will match up easily with the Spirit Awards. While the case could be made for Brooks to win for ‘Drive’, it appears that Plummer’s terrific turn in ‘Beginners’ will be the victor here. It’d be very cool if Brooks or even Stoll’s scene stealing work in ‘Midnight in Paris’ got the citation, but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Should Win: Albert Brooks

Best Cinematography
The nominees are: The Artist, Bellflower, The Dynamiter, Midnight in Paris, and The Off-Hours

This is looking like an easy win for ‘The Artist’ and cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman, though if there’s any real competition it’s going to either come from Joel Hodge’s creative work for ‘Bellflower’ or DP Darius Khondji and his work on ‘Midnight in Paris’. My vote would go to Hodge and ‘Bellflower’, but the realistic analysis says that this is where ‘The Artist’ is going to receive its due at this awards show.

Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Bellflower

Best Documentary
The nominees are: An African Election, Bill Cunningham New York, The Interrupters, The Redemption of General Butt Naked, and We Were Here

-I don’t have a real good handle on this category this time around, but it strikes me as a race between ‘Bill Cunningham New York’, ‘The Interrupters’, and ‘We Were Here’. Of the three, I recently saw ‘The Interrupters’ and my friend Robert Hamer is right on in his effusive praise of it. That being said, this likely will come down to ‘Bill Cunningham New York’ narrowly losing to ‘We Were Here’. My confidence level isn’t that high on this one though, so tread lightly.

Will Win: We Were Here
Should Win: The Interrupters

Best International Film
The nominees are: The Kid With a Bike, Melancholia, A Separation, Shame, and Tyrannosaur

Having ‘Shame’ only eligible here but having ‘The Artist’ eligible as an American film in all categories is a strange call to me, and that ultimately will probably prevent it from winning, even though it fully deserves to. The race will then come down to ‘Melancholia’ or ‘A Separation’. Lars von Trier didn’t hurt himself at will this group, I’m sure…but I’m inclined to say that ‘A Separation’ is just too strong to ignore. We shall see though.

Will Win: A Separation
Should Win: Shame

Piaget Producers Award
The nominees are: Josh Bond (Martha Marcy May Marlene), Chad Burris (Mosquito y Mari), and Sophia Lynn (Take Shelter)

-Your guess is as good as mine here, though I think it’s between Bond’s duties on ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ and Lynn’s on ‘Take Shelter’. I liked the former better than the latter, but I think the latter has the best shot to win here, but that’s working off of very limited information.

Will Win: Sophia Lynn
Should Win: Josh Bond

Someone to Watch Award
The nominees are: Simon Arthur (Silver Tongues), Mark Jackson (Without), and Nicholas Ozeki (Mamitas)

-I’m completely lost here, so I’m just going to take an absolute shot in the dark and say that Arthur wins for ‘Silver Tongues’, but that’s just a complete guess.

Will/Should Win: Simon Arthur

Truer Than Fiction Award
The nominees are: Bombay Beach, Hell and Back Again, and Where Soldiers Come From

-This category can be unpredictable, but I’m decently confident in predicting a win for the deserving documentary ‘Hell and Back Again’. It’s certainly got quality in its favor, so I’m going to back it and hope for the best.

Will/Should Win: Hell and Back Again

Finally, the Robert Altman Award (given to one film’s director, casting director and its ensemble cast) has already been announced as going to ‘Margin Call‘, so no need to analyze, just a simple congrats to everyone involved there is in order!

Well, that’s how I see the Spirit Awards going down. If nothing else, it’s likely to be another fun show, and that’s always a plus.  As for the article itself, I turn things over to you now. What do you think of my predictions? Am I on the ball or off the mark? Let me know!

Thoughts? Discuss on the Forum!