Do they even qualify? Maybe. Though some, like British production "Anna Karenina," Spanish production "The Impossible," and studio releases like "Argo" and "Looper," we can probably count out for sure.
And then there's the "breakthrough" categories (actor and filmmaker), which has been confusing in the past: Greta Gerwig was considered a "breakthrough performance" for "Greenberg," despite being well known in the independent film world. Ben Foster was named for "The Messenger" in 2009, even though he'd had many notable previous roles.
That said, there's no shortage of possibilities this year in any category. Roughly, it seems like the best feature race could boil down to any of the following 20 films, baring any of them don't end up qualifying:
• Nicolas Jarecki's "Arbitrage" (FILM PAGE)
• Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (FILM PAGE)
• Richard Linklater's "Bernie" (FILM PAGE)
• Craig Zobel's "Compliance" (FILM PAGE)
• Whit Stilman's "Damsels in Distress" (FILM PAGE)
• Ira Sachs' "Keep The Lights On" (FILM PAGE)
• Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" (FILM PAGE)
• Ava DuVernay's "Middle of Nowhere" (FILM PAGE)
• Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" (FILM PAGE)
• David Chase's "Not Fade Away" (FILM PAGE)
• Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (FILM PAGE)
• Gus Van Sant's "Promised Land" (FILM PAGE)
• Jake Schreier's "Robot and Frank" (FILM PAGE)
• Colin Trevorrow's "Safety Not Guaranteed" (FILM PAGE)
• Ben Lewin's "The Sessions" (FILM PAGE)
• Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me" (FILM PAGE)
• James Ponsoldt's "Smashed" (FILM PAGE)
• Zal Batmanglij's "Sound of My Voice" (FILM PAGE)
• Lynn Shelton's "Your Sister's Sister" (FILM PAGE)
Also, remember these films come Independent Spirit Award time, as they should also make up the bulk of nominees there (save "The Master" and "Silver Linings" which definitely have budgets that exceed Spirit Award rules).
It's been a fantastic year for American independent film -- and perhaps a fairly Oscar friendly one as well.
Of the 20 noted, a few have significant chances at a best picture nomination come Oscar time ("Beasts of the Southern Wild," "The Master," "Silver Linings," and perhaps "Hitchcock," "Promised Land," though we haven't seen them yet). Sundance favorites like "Compliance," "Middle of Nowhere," and "Sleepwalk With Me might prove a little too independently minded for Academy tastes (especially given the multitude of heavyweight studio options not being mentioned here), but that is why awards like the Gothams and Spirits are important.
Just for fun, Indiewire took a stab at predicting tomorrow's nominations (though we didn't attempt the "best film not playing at a theater near you" category, if only because that one's ten times as impossible to figure out as the rest). You can find those predictions on the next page. Check back with us Thursday morning for the actual nominees.