Everyone's talking about who will and should win the Oscars in five days, but there's another award show this weekend too: The Spirit Awards, which go down Saturday afternoon in Santa Monica and honor the best in independent filmmaking. And it's looking like a showdown between two films.
It came as something of a surprise when David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" led the Spirit Award nominations last November. Not because people didn't think it wasn't good enough, but because most assumed it was ineligible due to having a budget over the Spirit Awards' $20 million cut off. But it turns out there was a loophole where films above the limit (in this case, just $1 million over, which is admittedly very close) could make the cut "at the sole discretion of the nominating committees and Film Independent."
Nearly three months later, that eligibility poses a big question heading into Saturday afternoon's award ceremony: Is what was once assumed to be a big night for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" about to become the "Silver Linings" show"? The former has four nominations, while the latter has five. But both square off in three categories where they also have Oscar nods: Best picture, best director and best actress (oddly "Beasts" didn't get a screenplay nom here, despite getting one at the Oscars).
Indiewire's predictions — and further commentary — in all categories are below. Spoiler: We suggest that while "Silver Linings" will win both lead acting prizes and a screenplay trophy for David O. Russell, overall voters will make it "Beasts" of the Spirit Awards.
Despite the mission made clear in their name, the Spirits tend to pick the most Oscar-favored possibility in their top category (see: "The Artist," "Black Swan," "Precious," "Little Miss Sunshine," etc). But "Beasts" ended up doing much better at the Oscars than anyone could have imagined. This gives both films near-equal momentum going into the ceremony. One would hope that Spirit voters would be up for rewarding the much more sincerely "indie" spirit of "Beasts," but I thought going into the year when "Winter's Bone" lost to "Black Swan" that the same would occur. It didn't. Still, we're gonna bet this year is an exception to the rule. The external narrative behind "Beasts" is just so extraordinarily rare, and its beloved in a way that "Winter's Bone" just quite wasn't. But we could easily be wrong.
Who Will Win: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Could Win: "Silver Linings Playbook"
Who Should Win: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Shoulda Been Here: "Your Sister's Sister"
Best Director: David O. Russell won Spirit Awards for both Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay in 1994 for his very indie debut, "Spanking The Monkey." 19 years later, will he get his second for a film that despite its merits is much, much less indie? Or will they opt to reward newcomer Benh Zeitlin, who was nominated here instead of in the Best First Feature category (where he would have 100% won). Given the recent surge in support for "Beasts," and Zeitlin's shocking nomination for a best director Oscar, we're going with him. Especially since there's another category where the Spirits can reward Russell (he's nominated for screenplay too, though his noted history suggests he can pull off both wins). But it's a very close call.
Who Will Win: Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Could Win: David O. Russell, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Who Should Win: Benh Zeitlin, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Shoulda Been Here: Richard Linklater, "Bernie"
Best Female Lead: Jennifer Lawrence lost in this category to Natalie Portman back in 2010 (where in an extraordinarily rare feat all five Spirit Award nominees were also Oscar nominees). Here she's one of two Oscar nominees, the other being Quvenzhane Wallis of "Beasts." But it's hard to imagine Wallis toppling Lawrence, despite the disappointment in thinking that had "Silver Linings" not been eligible, this would have been Wallis' one chance to make a surely adorable acceptance speech. This is probably the surest bet "Silver Linings" has at the Spirit Awards.
Who Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Who Could Win: Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Should Win: Quvenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Who Shoulda Been Here: Melanie Lynskey, "Hello I Must Be Going"
Best Male Lead: Will John Hawkes' unexpected snub at the Oscars for his incredible work in "The Sessions" help him gain sympathy votes or hurt him here? Probably the latter, especially since he won a Spirit Award two years ago for "Winter's Bone." Bradley Cooper will likely win instead, giving "Silver Linings" another trophy and Cooper his only major award of the season.
Who Will Win: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"
Who Could Win: John Hawkes, "The Sessions"
Who Should Win: John Hawkes, "The Sessions"
Who Shoulda Been Here: Logan Lerman, "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Best Supporting Female: Helen Hunt will very likely take the one and only Spirit Award for "The Sessions" here, though she faces some competition from Ann Dowd, who came so close to an Oscar nomination after a personally financed campaign that got a bit of attention. But the Oscar nominee almost always wins (almost — last year they gave Oscar snubbed Shailene Woodley this award over nominee Janet McTeer), so we're going with Hunt (oddly, her fellow Oscar nominee Jacki Weaver didn't make the cut here).
Who Will Win: Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"
Who Could Win: Ann Dowd, "Compliance"
Who Should Win: Rosemarie DeWitt, "Your Sister's Sister"
Who Shoulda Been Here: Gina Gershon, "Killer Joe"
Best Supporting Male: Like the aforementioned Weaver, Robert DeNiro was another bizarre "Silver Linings" snub and would have easily won this had he been nominated. The same probably goes for Dwight Henry, who was another odd omission for his work in "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Instead we got the only category without an Oscar nominee, with Michael Pena ("End of Watch"), David Oyelowo ("Middle of Nowhere"), Bruce Willis ("Moonrise Kingdom"), Sam Rockwell ("Seven Psychopaths") and Matthew McConaughey ("Magic MIke") rounding it out. Willis could definitely take this, but the money's probably more on McConaughey, who had a banner year but was snubbed at the Oscars. And while a $100 million hit released by a studio once again doesn't quite scream "indie spirit," it did only have a $7 million budget, and McConaughey most definitely deserves this.
Who Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"
Who Could Win: Bruce Willis, "Moonrise Kingdom"
Who Should Win: Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"
Who Shoulda Been Here: Dwight Henry, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Best First Feature: Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" managed a sole nomination for best first feature, which would be wholly deserved if "Perks" was actually Chbosky's first feature. He directed "The Four Corners of Nowhere" back in 1995, a film that played in competition at Sundance. While 17 years is a long time between films, it doesn't quite re-virginize Chboksy's status as a first-time filmmaker. It seems like it could likely win anyway, which we'd be all for if it was a fair designation. And it seems almost like a slap in the face to Chbosky to give him an award that suggests his first film doesn't exist.
Who Will Win: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Who Could Win: "Safety Not Guaranteed"
Who Should Win: If it actually was a first feature, I'd say "Perks," but since it's not: "Gimme The Loot"
Who Shoulda Been Here: "Sleepwalk With Me"
John Cassavetes Award: Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere" is an absolute shoo-in for this award, given to a film made for under $500,000. It will also interestingly make her the second consecutive black female filmmaker to take this award (after Dee Rees' "Pariah" last year), a hopeful feat given the disturbingly low number of women of color filmmakers to manage nominations here (or anywhere) in the past.
What Will Win: "Middle of Nowhere"
What Could Win: "Starlet"
What Should Win: "The Color Wheel"
Best Screenplay: This could feasibly be the sole bone thrown to Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," though it seems likely this will be David O. Russell's prize for "Silver Linings." Whether it joins a prize for best director is — as aforementioned — a bigger question.
What Will Win: "Silver Linings Playbook"
What Could Win: "Moonrise Kingdom"
What Should Win: "Moonrise Kingdom"
What Shoulda Been Here: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"
Best First Screenplay: Four of the past six winners here have gone on to win an Oscar the next night (and another to create "Girls"), but there's no Oscar nominees here (despite Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar's Oscar-nominated script for "Beasts" being their first). Which leaves Derek Connolly of "Safety Not Guaranteed" likely duking it out with Rashida Jones and Will McCormack for "Celeste and Jesse Forever."
What Will Win: "Safety Not Guaranteed"
What Could Win: "Celeste and Jesse Forever"
What Should Win: "Gayby"
What Shoulda Been Here: "Magic Mike"
Best Cinematography: "Moonrise Kingdom" could rally, but this is probably the most assured prize for "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at the Spirits.
What Will Win: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
What Could Win: "Moonrise Kingdom"
What Should Win: "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
What Shoulda Been Here: "The Loneliest Planet"
Best Documentary: With "Searching For Sugar Man" nowhere to be found, we can finally get a refreshing winner here, likely either "How To Survive a Plague" or "The Invisible War," both Oscar nominees too. We'll bet the former, but it could truly go either way (or another — these docs are all worthy).
What Will Win: "How To Survive a Plague"
What Could Win: "The Invisible War"
What Should Win: They are all excellent.
What Shoulda Been Here: "The Queen of Versailles"
Best Foreign Film: Surest thing of the night: Michael Haneke's "Amour" is winning this award. Like "A Separation" last year, it will do so a day before doing it again at the Oscars (though oddly in the 25 years before that, no film ever won both).
What Will Win: "Amour"
What Could Win: N/A
What Should Win: "Amour"
What Shoulda Been Here: "Holy Motors"
Indiewire will be on the scene at the Spirit Awards this Saturday afternoon, and will be offering full updates as they come in.