Best Lead Female
Prediction: Ann Dowd (Compliance), Melanie Lynskey (Hello I Must Be Going), Helen Mirren (Hitchcock), Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed)
Spoilers: Emily Blunt (Your Sister's Sister), Emayatzy Corinealdi (Middle of Nowhere), Greta Gerwig (Damsels in Distress), Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Melissa Leo (Francine)
Quvenzhané Wallis for the win! The young lead of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" might be a long shot for an Oscar win (though she still seems like a likely nominee), the Spirit Award is very likely her prize to lose. Though she does has some impressive, eclectic competition in the likes of Ann Dowd ("Compliance"), Emily Blunt ("Your Sister's Sister"), Melanie Lynskey ("Hello I Must Be Going"), Emayatzy Corinealdi ("Middle of Nowhere"), Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Smashed") and Helen Mirren ("Hitchcock").
You'd think a combination of those actresses would make up the nominees, but you never know how this category will work out. Last year Lauren Ambrose ("Think of Me") and Rachael Harris ("Natural Selection") came out nowhere to nab nominations over favorites like Glenn Close ("Albert Nobbs") and Felicity Jones (“Like Crazy”). And as previously noted, if Greta Gerwig's performance in "Frances Ha" is eligible, watch out for her.
Prediction: Jack Black (Bernie), Richard Gere (Arbitrage), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Anthony Hopkins (Hitchcock), Matthew McConaughey (Killer Joe)
Spoilers: Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk With Me), Mark Duplass (Your Sister's Sister), Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch), Frank Langella (Robot and Frank), Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)
Certainly the most competitive of all the acting categories, the race for best lead male is a doozy that could offer an awesomely mixed bag of actors. Jack Black, Richard Gere, John Hawkes and Matthew McConaughey (twice over, though as noted, "Magic Mike" isn't eligible) gave what some would consider career performances this year; it’s hard to imagine any of them being snubbed. And then there's Anthony Hopkins, whose performance in "Hitchcock" is still sight unseen but seems like a pretty safe bet all things considered (but hey, last year they snubbed George Clooney here for "The Descendants," so you never know).
That doesn't leave much room for newcomers like Mike Birbiglia and Logan Lerman, or Jake Gyllenhaal and Frank Langella, who also gave what many considered their best performances in years for "End of Watch" and "Robot and Frank," respectively.
As for the winner, it seems like John Hawkes is the one to beat. This would notably also be his third nomination in a row after "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Winter's Bone" (which he won for). John Hawkes, the new king of the Spirit Awards.