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by Peter Knegt
November 28, 2011 12:34 PM
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For Your Consideration: Indiewire Predicts The Oscar Precursors, Part 1

"Winter's Bone" director Debra Granik celebrates at the 2010 Gotham Awards. Photo by Brian Brooks.
With tonight's Gotham Awards and tomorrow's double dose of the Spirit Award nominations and the voting of the New York Film Critics Circle, the onslaught begins in pre-Oscar awards, including the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the Critics' Choice and dozens of critics' groups.

Suddenly, a murky season can become crystal clear. Each announcement will bring with it shifts in buzz and a new round of speculation regarding the alleged ultimate prize of them all: Oscar (check out an updated list of predictions for those awards here).

With all that in mind, here's the first part of a handy guide to some of the upcoming ceremonies and announcements (next week we'll take on the LA Film Critics, Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and the Critics Choice Awards).

November 28

The Gotham Independent Film Awards 

Last Year's Big Winners: Debra Granik's "Winter's Bone" dominated the ceremony, taking prizes for best feature and best ensemble performance. There were some major surprises as well: "Daddy Longlegs" star Ronald Bronstein beat out "Bone" star Jennifer Lawrence for breakthrough performance, while "Holy Rollers" director Kevin Asch beat frontrunner Lena Dunham in the breakthrough director category. Check out a full list of winners here.

How This Year Could Shake Down: Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" and Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene" led the nominations, so it's likely they'll each pick up a trophy or two ("Descendants" for best feature and "Martha" for breakthrough director and performance). Keep in mind the Gothams' aforementioned tendency to go against expectation: Besides snubbing Lawrence last year, in 2009 they gave the breakthrough award to Catalina Saavedra for "The Maid" over Ben Foster, Jeremy Renner and Patton Oswalt. Here's our predictions, and check back with Indiewire tonight for a full list of winners.

November 29

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Last Year's Big Winners: David Fincher's "The Social Network" took picture and director, though "The Kids Are All Right" led the overall winners with prizes for actress (Annette Bening), supporting actor (Mark Ruffalo) and screenplay (Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg).

Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" Fox Searchlight
How This Year Could Shake Down: One of the two granddaddies of the critics' group prizes (along with the LA critics), the New York group caused a stir this year by moving their date up to late November. Distributors scrambled to get their later releases in order (with "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" opting out in the end) and the National Board of Review lost their long-cherished status as the first ones out of the gate.

That aside, it will be interesting to see how the NYFCC starts things off. This year does not seem like one in which a single film will sweep all the critics' groups (as "The Social Network" and "The Hurt Locker" did in the past two years). The two films that seem in the best positions are "The Artist" and "The Descendants." But also look out for "Hugo," "The Tree of Life" and "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo," which will be the final film the group screens before voting.

As for the acting prizes, New York critics have the opportunity to further the frontrunner-ish status of an Oscar contender (George Clooney, Christopher Plummer) or give a significant boost to the scores of folks who need one. Here's how Indiewire sees things potentially going down:

Best Picture: The Descendants
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia
Best Supporting Actor: Albert Brooks, Drive
Bes Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Help, The Tree of Life & Take Shelter
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Best Screenplay: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, The Tree of Life
Best Documentary: The Interrupters
Best Foreign Language Film: Miss Bala
Best Animated Film: The Adventures of Tintin

November 29

Independent Spirit Award Nominations

Last Year's Big Winners: Darren Aronofsky's "Black Swan" took home four trophies, including best feature, best director and best actress for Natalie Portman. Other major winners included "127 Hours" (best actor), "Winter's Bone" (best supporting actor and actress) and "Get Low" (best first feature).

How This Year Could Shake Down: This year’s event promises to be much less Oscar friendly than last year’s Spirits, which was dominated by Oscar crossover. The best actress category, for example, featured all five Oscar nominees—and identical winners. This year, there might not even be one (though Glenn Close might have something to say about that).

Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s actually quite refreshing, since it gives opportunity to honor many deserving indies a little too outside the mainstream for Academy tastes.

Let’s break it down with respect to some of the Spirits’ major categories to see where things might be headed. When considering what is seemingly left out, keep in mind the awards’ eligibility rules.

For example, “The Tree of Life” has a budget that exceeds $20 million, placing it outside the awards’ limitations .

Meanwhile, “The Artist,” “Melancholia,” “Shame,” “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Tyrannosaur,” “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and “Weekend” are not American productions, thus excluding them from all categories except “foreign film” (expect a lot of them to pop up).

There’s also the tricky thing of films that haven’t been theatrically released, thanks to their festival screenings. “Sound of My Voice” would be a film to watch out for if that ends up being the case in their regard. So that all said, here’s some best guesses.

December 1

National Board of Review

Last Year's Big Winners: "The Social Network" had a bit of a sweep, taking honors for best picture, director, adapted screenplay and actor (Jesse Eisenberg). They threw out a few odd bones as well, giving best original screenplay to "Buried."

How This Year Could Shake Down: The NBR is a non-profit organization made up of 110 "film enthusiasts," academics, professionals, and students and are difficult to predict, thanks to occasionally wacky choices that tend to go against Oscar's grain ("Black Swan" and "The Kids Are All Right" weren't even on their top 10 list last year). So not making it here doesn't necessarily mean a film's golden dreams should die.  They also are much more mainstream than most other critics' groups and definitely love them some Clint Eastwood (even "Changeling" and "Hereafter" made their top 10 lists). So one wonders if the critically panned "J. Edgar" will still be able to be a player here.

Here's how Indiewire sees things potentially going down (take these with a serious grain of salt):

Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar." Warner Bros.

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: Leonardo diCaprio, J. Edgar
Best Actress: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Bes Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Best Director: Steven Spielberg, War Horse
Best Adapted Screenplay: Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Best Documentary: Project Nim
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Animated Film: The Adventures of Tintin
Best Ensemble Cast: The Help
Best Breakthrough Performance: Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene

December 3

European Film Awards

Last Year's Big Winners: Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" swept the festivities, taking picture, director, actor, screenplay, production design and music. Other winners included Sylvie Testud for best actress ("Lourdes") and "Lebanon" for cinematography.

How This Year Could Shake Down: Lars von Trier has won best picture twice here before (for "Breaking The Waves" and "Dancer In The Dark") and the European Film Awards are not afraid of repetition (Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodovar and Ken Loach's films have all repeated), so considering how it led the nominations (the EFAs also tend to give the big prize to whatever film does so), it seems likely "Melancholia" could take top honors here. It's greatest threat is indeed "The Artist" (and maybe also - gasp - "The King's Speech," eligible this year), though the fact that it failed to get a best director nomination doesn't bode well.

Here's our entirely unofficial predictions.

Best Picture: Melancholia
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Best Director: Lars von Trier, Melancholia
Bes Screenwriter: Aki Kaurismaki, Le Havre
Best Cinematographr: Manuel Alberto Claro, Melancholia
Best Editor: Molly Malene Stensgaard, Melancholia
Best Production Designer: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best Documentary: Pina
Most Animated Feature: Chico and Rita
People's Choice Award: The King's Speech

December 4

British Independent Film Awards

Last Year's Big Winners: It was all about "The King's Speech" as the film took picture, actor, supporting actor, supporting actress and screenplay (though oddly lost best director to Gareth Edwards for "Monsters" -- proof this group can do some very unexpected things).

Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Focus Features.
How This Year Could Shake Down: It was an extraordinarily strong year for British independent film, as this year's nominations make clear. Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," Steve McQueen's "Shame" and Paddy Considine's "Tyrannosaur" led the nominations with seven each, though Lynne Ramsay's "We Need To Talk About Kevin," Ben Wheatley's "Kill List" and Richard Ayoade's "Submarine" followed close behind. Other films finding multiple nominations included John Michael McDonagh's "The Guard," Joe Cornish's "Attack The Block," Ralph Fiennes' "Coriolanus," Andrew Haigh's Weekend" and Asif Kapadia's "Senna," the latter of which managed a best film nomination alongside "Tinker," "Shame," "Tyrannosaur" and "Kevin."

Hopefully as a result, the BIFAs chose to spread the wealth. Here's our entirely unofficial predictions.

Best Picture: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Actor: Michael Fassbender, Shame
Best Actress: Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Best Supporting Actor: Tom Hardy, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Bes Supporting Actress: Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus
Best Director: Steve McQueen, Shame
Best Debut Director: Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur
Best Screenplay: Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump, Kill List
Best Documentary: Senna
Most Promising Newcomer: Craig Roberts, Submarine
Best Technical Achievement: Seamus McGarvey - Cinematography - We Need To Talk About Kevin
Best Foreign Film: Drive

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog. Check out his weekly Oscar prediction chart here.

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