While the notoriously idiosyncratic Film Independent Spirit Awards nomination juries go their own way, it’s the more than 6,400 members of Film Independent who vote. In recent years, these selections tend to mirror the Oscar winners, from Weinstein Co.’s “The Artist” and “Silver Linings Playbook” and Fox Searchlight’s “12 Years a Slave” and “Birdman” to Open Road’s “Spotlight” and A24’s “Moonlight.”
So what wins this Saturday (the often raucous show hosted by Nick Kroll and John Mulavey is broadcast live on IFC at 2 pm Pacific, 5 pm eastern) could well predict the eventual Oscar winner. Except that this year, neither of Searchlight’s eventual Oscar frontrunners, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (which skirted the $20 million budget cap) or British auteur Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” were nominated by the Spirits for Best Picture.
Therefore, the top dogs at the Spirits are three lower-budget Oscar contenders: Luca Guadagnino’s gay romance “Call Me By Your Name” (six nods, Sony Pictures Classics), Jordan Peele’s racial thriller “Get Out” (five nods, Blumhouse/Universal), and Greta Gerwig’s family dramedy “Lady Bird” (four nods, A24).
Read on for my fearless picks to win the Indie Spirits.
Will win: “Get Out”
Rookie actor-turned-writer-director Peele’s audaciously original Hitchcockian audience-pleaser ($255 million worldwide) is a longshot to win the Best Picture Oscar, but a shoo-in with the indie crowd. The low-budget horror movie starring British import Daniel Kaluuya has risen well beyond its genre roots. Peele leaned into the horror classics that brought Grand Guignol wit to their dark themes: “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Stepford Wives,” and “Scream.”
Universal positioned “Get Out” ($255 million worldwide) as a crossover movie with deeper thoughts on its mind, and Peele won support from every guild in which he is a member: SAG, Producers, Writers, and Directors. One reason: Peele’s clearly the auteur behind this original movie, which took years to get made on a $4.5 million budget. The secret of “Get Out”: from the unsettling opening frames accompanied by a series of warning music cues (“Run rabbit run!”), Peele seduces, subverts, and manipulates audience expectations — as the masters Alfred Hitchcock, John Carpenter, and Stanley Kubrick did before him. Who else could have pulled this off?
Spoiler: “Lady Bird”
Actress-writer-director Gerwig’s Sacramento relationship drama is so specifically observed that it tugs at the universal. At festivals and screenings, audiences have been sharing their stories with Gerwig and her cast, moved by the strained mother-daughter dynamic. Some people who like the movie well enough are saying it’s a small coming-of-age movie in an all-too-familiar high school setting. Never mind that: The film community relates to Gerwig’s indie-made-good narrative. She has been preparing herself for years, moving from theater maven and actress and constant writer to full-fledged collaborator with Joe Swanberg (“Nights and Weekends”) and her partner Noah Baumbach (“Frances Ha,” “Mistress America”) to solo filmmaker. She has arrived.
Will win: Jordan Peele
With Del Toro and McDonagh removed from the equation, it’s Peele’s to lose.
Spoiler: Luca Guadagnino
“Call Me By Your Name” is also popular with the indie crowd, ever since the elegiac gay romance, set in the Italian helmer’s hometown and starring Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, broke out at Sundance 2017.
Will win: Timothee Chalamet
With British movie “Darkest Hour” ineligible for the Spirits, this is the film community’s chance to reward the breakout performance of 2017. Expect a rousing standing ovation for this young actor when he goes up to accept his award.
Spoiler: Another popular favorite is British actor Daniel Kaluuya, who won the BAFTA Rising Star award for “Get Out” and is also nominated for an Oscar.
Will win: Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
She has won everything else and will take this one on the road to the Oscar for channeling John Wayne for ballbuster Mildred Hayes.
Spoiler: Soairse Ronan (“Lady Bird”)
If anyone can steal the award with this (slightly) younger voting pool, it’s Ronan for feisty Sacramento teenager Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, dying to escape the town and the family she hates — and loves — in equal measure.
Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”)
Like McDormand: He’s won everything else and will take this one on the road to the Oscar for making us care about bigoted stupid asshole Deputy Sheriff Dixon.
Spoiler: Armie Hammer (“Call Me By Your Name”)
If anyone can steal the award with this (slightly) younger voting pool, it’s Hammer as Oliver, the charming 24-year-old researcher who beds the 17-year-old son of his professor. Who doesn’t seem to mind.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”)
In the duel of the demanding mothers, “I, Tonya” Allison Janney will likely take the Oscar, but the indies could give “Lady Bird” the award here.
Spoiler: Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”)
Or not. Janney is a powerful contender, with a bird, a fur, and a knife in her corner.
Will win: Jordan Peele (“Get Out”)
He won the WGA, and will take this one on the road to the Oscar.
Spoiler: Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”)
Gerwig has been losing awards to friendly rivals Del Toro and Peele. Actors and writers also love “Lady Bird,” which took home a Golden Globe comedy win for Saoirse Ronan. But it could go home empty-handed on Oscar night, as Ronan lost the SAG and BAFTAs to McDormand and Janney keeps beating out Metcalf. This could be Gerwig’s chance to win something.
Best First Feature
Will win: “Columbus” (Sundance Institute)
Thrice-nominated Kokonada will nab this critic’s darling starring John Cho.
Spoiler: “Patti Cake$” (Fox Searchlight)
Those who saw Geremy Jasper’s Sundance breakout loved it, but Fox Searchlight just couldn’t get audiences to show up for a New Jersey white girl rapper (Danielle Macdonald).
Best First Screenplay
Will win: “The Big Sick” (Amazon Studios/Lionsgate)
Again, Amazon Studio’s popular Sundance breakout didn’t make it to a Best Picture or Supporting Actress nomination for Holly Hunter — and they won’t win the Original Screenplay Oscar. This is their best shot for a prize, and Film Independent voters want former Spirits host Nanjiani to win.
Spoiler: “Columbus” (Sundance Institute)
If anyone can take it away it’s “Columbus,” which will likely settle for Best First Feature.
Photo by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Will win: “Call Me By Your Name” (SPC)
The only Best Picture Oscar contender in this lineup will take this category for its cinematic beauty.
Spoiler: “Killing of a Sacred Deer” (IFC)
Elegantly framed from start to finish, this movie has more polish and scope than its rival grittier indies.
Will win: “I, Tonya” (Neon)
Tatiana S. Riegel is the only editor in this bunch to gain an Oscar nomination for a popular, challenging movie that includes direct address to the camera and a high degree of difficulty all around. And in this #timesup season, voters will want to lean into a woman.
Spoiler: “Get Out”
This thriller manipulates the audience with careful precision; editing was crucial to achieving those goals.
Best International Film
Will win: “A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
The favorite to win the Oscar is a well-mounted, accessible, groundbreaking transgender drama starring the remarkable Daniela Vega.
Spoiler: “Loveless” (Russia)
The indies could recognize this extraordinary portrait of a society in ruin that is not so far away from our own.
Will win: “Faces Places” (Cohen Media)
Honorary Oscar-winner Agnes Varda and JR’s Cannes-winner is heading for an Oscar win, too.
Spoiler: “Last Men in Aleppo” (Grasshopper Film)
Feras Fayyad’s humanistic portrait of heroic volunteer White Helmets in Aleppo trying to save their fellow Syrians from being buried in rubble could steal the show.
John Cassavetes Award (the creative team of a film budgeted at less than $500,000)
Will win: “A Ghost Story” (A24)
David Lowery took a hiatus from studio filmmaking to self-finance an experimental avant-garde drama without permission from any backer.
Spoiler: “Most Beautiful Island” (Orion Pictures)
Ana Asensio’s portrait of an undocumented young woman’s struggle for survival scored strong reviews.
Photo Courtesy of MACRO, photo by Steve Dietl.
Robert Altman Award for an Ensemble Cast
Winner: “Mudbound” (Netflix)
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