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"