ain't them bodies saints

Best Director and Best First Feature

Director Prediction: JC Chandor (All Is Lost), Joel & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), Alexander Payne (Nebraska)
Director Spoilers: Woody Allen (Blue Jasmine), Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines), Destin Cretton (Short Term 12), Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said), Harmony Kroine (Spring Breakers), Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), Jeff Nichols (Mud), Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club)

First Feature Prediction: Afternoon Delight (Jill Soloway), Don Jon (Joseph Gordon Levitt), Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler), In a World (Lake Bell), Kill Your Darlings (John Krokidas)
First Feature Spoilers: Blue Caprice (Alexander Moors), Concussion (Stacie Passon), Escape From Tomorrow (Randy Moore), Sun Don't Shine (Amy Seimetz)

One of the most interesting races to watch is the one that has no Oscar equivalent: Best first feature. 2013 was an exceptional year for first time filmmakers. Yes, Ryan Coogler's work on "Fruitvale Station" is the clear frontrunner, but he could be joined by an impressive lineup of other new filmmakers: Jill Soloway ("Afternoon Delight"), John Krokidas ("Kill Your Darlings"), Alexander Moors ("Blue Caprice"), Lake Belll ("In a World"), Stacie Passon ("Concussion") and yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Don Jon").

As for the best director race, this seems like Steve McQueen's to lose. Which if Coogler wins as well, would make for a big first: Both winners would be black filmmakers.

Wadjda "Wadjda"

Best Foreign Film

Prediction: Blue is the Warmest Color, Gloria, The Past, Philomena, Wadjda
Spoilers: Broken Circle Breakdown, Child's Pose, The Grandmaster, The Great Beauty, The Hunt, In The House, I'm So Excited, The Rocket

This category is always quite interesting in that it often honors both foreign-language films and English-language films made outside the United States. As a result, "Once," "An Education" and "The King’s Speech” are recent winners, though last year "A Separation" and "Amour" won here the last two years just like they did at the Oscars.

This year, the only English language film that seems like it has a real shot is Stephen Frears' "Philomena," which might square off against the impressive international likes of "Blue is the Warmest Color," "Broken Circle Breakdown," "Gloria," "The Hunt," "The Past" and "Wadjda." And we bet that even though it's ineligible for the Oscars, "Blue Is The Warmest Color" will be taking home a consolation prize in this category.

"20 Feet From Stardom"
Radius-TWC "20 Feet From Stardom"

Best Documentary

Prediction: The Act of Killing, After Tiller, Cutie and the Boxer, The Square, Twenty Feet From Stardom
Spoilers: American Promise, The Armstrong Lie, Blackfish, Call Me Kuchu, God Loves Uganda, Inequality For All, Let The Fire Burn, Leviathan, Our Nixon, Running From Crazy, Tim's Vermeer, The Unknown Known, Valentine Road

As the recent IDA Award and Cinema Eye Honors nominations helped made clear, another thing 2013 has going for it is an extraordinary output of documentary filmmaking. How the Spirit Awards end up choosing to represent that is probably the toughest call of all; historically, they have very much gone their own way in this category.

Last year Kirby Dick's "The Invisible War" won while Oscar winner "Searching For Sugar Man" was nowhere in sight. The year before, Steve James’ “The Interrupters” won, helping make up for an Oscar snub. The list of possibilities is literally dozens of films long, though it would be surprising if at least one or two of our five predicted films -- "The Act of Killing," "After Tiller," "Cutie and the Boxer," "The Square" and "Twenty Feet From Stardom" -- didn't make it.

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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