Female Prediction: Lauren Ambrose (Sleepwalk With Me), Rosemarie DeWitt (Your Sister's Sister), Helen Hunt (The Sessions), Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom), Lorraine Toussaint (Middle of Nowhere)
Female Spoilers: Gina Gherson (Killer Joe), Shirley MacLaine (Bernie), Susan Sarandon (Arbitrage), Octavia Spencer (Smashed), Juno Temple (Killer Joe)
Male Prediction: Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild), William H. Macy (The Sessions), Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Michael Pena (End of Watch), Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom)
Male Spoilers: Emile Hirsch (Killer Joe), Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom), Edward Norton (Moonrise Kingdom), Nick Offerman (Smashed), Nate Parker (Arbitrage)
The Spirits tend to get even more wildly unpredictable when it comes to the supporting categories. Who predicted Ashley Bell (“The Last Exorcism”) and Daphne Rubin-Vega (“Jack Goes Boating”) over Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) and Dianne Weist (“Rabbit Hole”) two years ago? Or John C. Reilly for "Cedar Rapids" last year? With that in mind, continue to take these suggestions cautiously.
But it seems pretty likely that both of John Hawkes' "Sessions" co-stars -- Helen Hunt and William H. Macy -- make it in here (and both could very well win), while it's a bit of a question mark how many (and which ones) make it from the huge cast of "Moonrise Kingdom," though it seems like consensus is that Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand were best in show.
Who knows beyond that... Michael Pena for "End of Watch"? Rosemarie DeWitt for "Your Sister's Sister"? Dwight Henry for "Beasts"? Whatever the mix, expect a diversity of performances in true Spirit Award-spirit… even if Macy and Hunt can pretty much start writing their acceptance speeches now.
Best Director and Best First Feature:
Director Prediction: Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom), Ava DuVernay (Middle of Nowhere), Ben Lewin (The Sessions). Richard Linklater (Bernie), Lynn Shelton (Your Sister's Sister)
Director Spoilers: Sacha Gervasi (Hitchcock), Julia Loktev (The Loneliest Planet), Ira Sachs (Keep The Lights On), Whit Stilman (Damsels in Distress), Craig Zobel (Compliance)
First Feature Prediction: Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin), Not Fade Away (David Chase), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky), Safety Not Guaranteed (Colin Trevorrow), Sleepwalk With Me (Mike Birbiglia)
First Feature Spoilers: Francine (Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky), Robot and Frank (Jake Schreier), Sound of My Voice (Zal Batmanglij)
One of the most interesting races to watch is the one that has no Oscar equivalent: Best first feature. 2012 was an exceptional year for first time filmmakers. Yes, Benh Zeitlin's work on "Beasts" is the clear frontrunner, but he could be joined by an impressve lineup of other new filmmakers, many of them coming to film from a different medium: David Chase ("Not Fade Away"), Stephen Chbosky ("Perks of Being a Wallflower"), and Mike Birbiglia ("Sleepwalk With Me").
As for the best director race, Wes Anderson is probably a sure bet for a nod, though a refreshing mix of filmmakers (imagine if the Oscars ever nominate two women -- one of them African-American -- in their version of this category) should be joining him.