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Who Will Win: Spirit Awards Edition!

Independent_Spirit_Award_trophy_1_full Well, it seems like the Oscar predictions haven’t changed much in months—everyone seems in agreement as to what will win come March 7. So let’s turn our attention to the awards show that’s a little harder to predict—The Spirit Awards. This is always a fun show, a more laidback version of the Oscars, with goofy musical tributes to the nominated best pictures and actors like Geoffrey Wright riding to the ceremony on bicycles. The nominated films were selected by committee, then voted on by members of Film Independent, which also produces the awards show, and IFP (Independent Film Project.)

This is a big year for The Spirit Awards—their 25th!—and the ceremony will be hosted by the great Eddie Izzard. Fortunately, I was able to see most of the nominated films this year, with the exceptions of some of the films nominated in the following three categories: The Acura Someone to Watch Award, the Piaget Producers Award, and the Truer than Fiction Award. So I didn’t dare make a prediction on those. I also didn’t predict which ensemble would receive the Robert Altman Award, since it’s already been announced; that honor will go to the very deserving cast of “A Serious Man.”

Check out he Spirit Awards on IFC Friday, March 5th at 11pm ET/8pm PT to see how right (or wrong) I was. Feel free to mock me the following day.

Best Feature
"(500) Days of Summer"
"Sin Nombre"
"The Last Station"

My Take: I would love to see "(500) Days of Summer" take the top prize, but I suspect many will find it a little too slick—and the snub in the directing category doesn’t help. So my guess is it will come down to one of two highly-regarded and touted films: “Precious” and “Amreeka.” I’m going to give the edge to “Precious,” assuming more voters have seen it.

Best Director
Ethan and Joel Coen, "A Serious Man"
Lee Daniels, "Precious"
Cary Fukunaga, "Sin Nombre"
James Gray, "Two Lovers"
Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"

My Take: How is “(500) Days of Summer” helmer Marc Webb not even nominated in this category? He showed some of the most innovative and original filmmaking I’ve seen in years. With him missing from the line-up, my guess is Lee Daniels will score for “Precious.”

Best First Feature
"A Single Man"
"Crazy Heart"
"Easier With Practice"
"The Messenger"
"Paranormal Activity"

My Take: Perhaps the toughest category in the entire race. Every one of these films is excellent and deserving. For me, it ultimately comes down to my love for “Crazy Heart,” a movie that touched me more than I expected. However, this is the only nomination for “Paranormal Activity,” and there’s little doubt that film’s writer/director Oren Peli has a bright future, so expect him to take this award.

Best Lead Female
Maria Bello, "Downloading Nancy"
Nisreen Faour, "Amreeka"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Two Lovers"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"

My Take: I would love to see Helen Mirren cinch this for "The Last Station”—her Countess Sofya (wife to Leo Tolstoy) is cunning, regal, and hilarious, often all at once. But I’m guessing Gabourey Sidibe will win for “Precious”—the Spirit Awards have a long tradition of embracing newcomers. (Ironically, Mirren was originally supposed to play the teacher in “Precious.”) And as anyone who has seen Sidibe’s buoyant, gregarious appearances on talk shows knows, she pulled off some amazing acting as the withdrawn, abused Precious.

Best Lead Male
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "(500) Days of Summer"
Souleymane Sy Savane, "Goodbye Solo"
Adam Scott, "The Vicious Kind"

My Take: Adam Scott gave a star-making performance in “The Vicious Kind” and did a complete 180 from his usual comedic roles in films like “Stepbrothers.” Still, even Scott has said there’s only one dog in this race, and that’s Jeff Bridges for his career-best performance as washed up country singer Bad Blake. Bridges can get some practice in before he accepts the Oscar at the Spirit Awards.

Best Supporting Female
Mo'Nique, "Precious"
Dina Korzun, "Cold Souls"
Samantha Morton, "The Messenger"
Natalie Press, "Fifty Dead Men Walking"
Mia Wasikowska, "That Evening Sun"

My Take: Nothing can stop the freight train that is Mo'Nique in "Precious," and with good reason. After hating her for two hours straight, the actor turns around and actually lets us see the human behind the monster in the last ten minutes. Flawless.

Best Supporting Male
Jemaine Clement, "Gentlemen Broncos"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christian McKay, "Me and Orson Welles"
Ray McKinnon, "That Evening Sun"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"

My Take: So happy to see Jemaine Clement get some love for his Bluetooth-wearing egomaniac writer in “Gentleman Broncos.” Ditto Christian McKay, who channeled the infamous director in “Me and Orson Welles.” But Christopher Plummer is simply spectacular playing the passionate, fiery Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station”—plus he gets a killer deathbed scene. And who doesn’t love Col. Von Trapp?

Best Screenplay
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"
Michael Hoffman, "The Last Station"
Lee Toland Krieger, "The Vicious Kind"
Greg Mottola, "Adventureland"
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, "(500) Days of Summer"

My Take: Lee Toland Krieger’s dark, disturbing script for “The Vicious Kind” evoked the best work of writers like David Mamet and Neil LaBute (who executive produced the film.) On the opposite end of the spectrum is the sunny, sweet "(500) Days of Summer" by co-writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. Talk about apples and oranges. I suspect the award will end up going to “(500) Days of Summer.” And it’s wonderful and deserving. But I would also be pleased to see Krieger’s risk-taking rewarded.  

Best First Screenplay
Sophie Barthes, "Cold Souls"
Scott Cooper, "Crazy Heart"
Cherien Dabis, "Amreeka"
Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
Tom Ford, "A Single Man"

My Take: Another tough one. In “Cold Souls,” Sophie Barthes had a great idea with an okay execution, but the other four are all stellar screenplays. I would love to give some love to Tom Ford, who adapted the virtually story-less Christopher Isherwood novel “A Single Man,” but my passion for “Crazy Heart” wins out again.

Best Foreign Film
"A Prophet," directed by Jacques Audiard
"An Education," directed by Lone Scherfig
"Everlasting Moments," directed by Jan Troell
"Mother," directed by Bong Joon-ho
"The Maid," directed by Sebastián Silva

My Take: It would be great to see the Polish drama “The Maid” win, but I’m betting “An Education” was seen by more voters than all the other films put together.

Best Documentary Feature
"Anvil! The Story of Anvil"
"Food, Inc"
"More Than A Game"
"October Country"
"Which Way Home"

My Take: The great “Anvil!” followed the journey of a Spinal Tap-esque rock band to hilarious effect, but might be considered too lighthearted and entertaining to cinch the prize. “Food, Inc,” on the other hand, was entertaining and terrifying in examining the mechanized food industry. Count on the more “important” of the two to win.

Best Cinematography
Roger Deakins , "A Serious Man"
Adriano Goldman, "Sin Nombre"
Anne Misawa, "Treeless Mountain"
Andrij Parekh, "Cold Souls"
Peter Zeitlinger, "The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans"

My Take: It’s tough to top a legend; count on Roger Deakins for "A Serious Man."

John Cassavetes Award
"Big Fan"
"The New Year Parade"
"Treeless Mountain"
"Zero Bridge"

My Take: Both “Humpday” and "Big Fan" were films I thought would do better at the box office, and both feature great performances. But I’m betting the tour-de-force by comic Patton Oswalt as a dedicated sports aficionado will carry “Big Fan” to the win.

--Jenelle Riley

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