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25th Independent Spirit Awards: Predictions and Who Should Win

For the silver anniversary, the Indie Spirit awards (you can follow them tomorrow night) decided to do the gala thing without the tent and a full 12 hours in advance of their regular Saturday time slot. For the fun of it, I’ve decided to put my expertise to the test.

For the silver anniversary, the Indie Spirit awards (you can follow them here tomorrow night) decided to do the gala thing without the tent and a full 12 hours in advance of their regular Saturday time slot. For the fun of it, I’ve decided to put my expertise to the test. Red highlighted titles are those that will win. Those in blue, are what should win, and finally, the picks in purple are when “will” and the “should” mix. Look for a brief commentary on each of the categories below.

BEST FEATURE

Prior to Jason Reitman’s win at TIFF for the audience award, it was Precious that was the lead pick for the Oscars. Daniels’ film should be heavily awarded if folks cast their Spirits ballots after the noms were announced. In my opinion, the five noms are all B-level choices, and by a nose I’d say the more imaginative and better crafted 500 Days deserves the win.  

  • “(500) Days Of Summer,” Producers: Mason Novick, Jessica Tuchinsky, Mark Waters, Steven J. Wolfe
  • “Amreeka,” Producers: Paul Barkin, Christina Piovesan
  • “Precious,” Producers: Lee Daniels, Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness
  • “Sin Nombre,” Producer: Amy Kaufman
  • “The Last Station,” Producers: Bonnie Arnold, Chris Curling, Jens Meuer

BEST DIRECTOR

The Coens are tops in my books this year, but as mentioned above, this is Precious final coming out party. 

  • Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, “A Serious Man”
  • Lee Daniels, “Precious”
  • Cary Joji Fukunaga, “Sin Nombre”
  • James Gray, “Two Lovers”
  • Michael Hoffman, “The Last Station”

BEST FIRST FEATURE

I think that the positive buzz out of TIFF for A Single Man will benefit the film during these awards. Overall, I thought it was all style and very little substance. The Messenger hit me like a ton of bricks. 

  • “A Single Man,” Director: Tom Ford, Producers: Tom Ford, Andrew Miano, Robert Salerno, Chris Weitz
  • “Crazy Heart,” Director: Scott Cooper, Producers: T Bone Burnett, Judy Cairo, Rob Carliner, Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall
  • “Easier With Practice,” Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Producer: Cookie Carosella
  • “Paranormal Activity,” Director: Oren Peli, Producer: Jason Blum, Oren Peli
  • “The Messenger,” Director: Oren Moverman, Producers: Mark Gordon, Lawrence Inglee, Zach Miller

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Best feature made for under $500,000)

Humpday had Sundance audiences rolling in the aisles and Sheldon has many buds in the business. The more accomplished film is So Yong Kim’s little seen drama.

  • “Big Fan” Writer/Director: Robert Siegel; Producers: Elan Bogarin, Jean Kouremetis
  • “Humpday” Writer/Director/Producer: Lynn Sheldon
  • “The New Year Parade” Writer/Director: Tom Quinn; Producers: Steve Beal, Tom Quinn
  • “Treeless Mountain” Writer/Director: So Yong Kim; Producers: Bradley Rust Gray, Ben Howe, So Yong Kim, Lars Knudsen, Jay Van Hoy
  • “Zero Bridge” Writer/Director: Tariq Tapa; Producers: Josee Lajoie, Hilal Ahmed Langoo, Tariq Tapa

BEST SCREENPLAY

The ingenuity of 500 Days’ script, charming co-lead characters and dialogue could score even points for a win, but Oren Moverman’s screenplay digs deep into the human condition.

  • Alessandro Camon, Oren Moverman, “The Messenger”
  • Michael Hoffman, “The Last Station
  • Lee Toland Krieger, “The Vicious Kind”
  • Greg Mottola, “Adventureland”
  • Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, “(500) Days Of Summer”

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

What a close category — but I think that A Single Man might steal this one. My favorite of the bunch is the wackiness involved in Paul Giamatti playing Paul Giamatti. 

  • Sophie Barthes, “Cold Souls”
  • Scott Cooper, “Crazy Heart”
  • Cherien Dabis, “Amreeka”
  • Geoffrey Fletcher, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
  • Tom Ford, David Scearce, “A Single Man”

BEST FEMALE LEAD

I’d normally say this belongs to Mirren, but she won for The Queen, and I think that Sidibe might pull off a first time win because of the overwhelming support that Mo’Nique will receive. 

  • Maria Bello, “Downloading Nancy”
  • Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
  • Gwentyth Paltrow, “Two Lovers”
  • Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”
  • Nisreen Faour, “Amreeka”

BEST MALE LEAD

This is a Firth vs. Bridges fight that will only replicate what should occur on Oscar night. 

  • Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
  • Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, “(500) Days Of Summer”
  • Souléymane Sy Savané, “Goodbye Solo”
  • Adam Scott, “The Vicious Kind”

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Mo’Nique. Hands down. 

  • Dina Korzun, “Cold Souls”
  • Mo’Nique, “Precious”
  • Samantha Morton, “The Messenger”
  • Natalie Press, “Fifty Dead Men Walking”
  • Mia Wasikowska, “That Evening Sun”

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Maybe Plummer can pull off a win, but I think votes going towards McKay might dilute those chances giving it to Harrelson instead. Btw: how come Ben Foster wasn’t mentioned for Best Actor?

  • Jemaine Clement, “Gentlemen Broncos”
  • Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
  • Christian McKay, “Me and Orson Welles”
  • Raymond McKinnon, “That Evening Sun”
  • Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

What an awesome category here. I loved the work in Sin Nombre and Cold Souls, but Deakins should have the advantage. 

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

BEST DOCUMENTARY

With no doc about dolphins, this will unfortunately go to the film about dead cows, pigs and chickens. 

  • “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” Director: Sacha Gervasi
  • “Food, Inc.” Director: Robert Kenner
  • “More Than a Game” Director: Kristopher Belman
  • “October Country” Directors: Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri
  • “Which Way Home” Director: Rebecca Cammisa

BEST FOREIGN FILM

Hands down – the best film of the year will win, because Oscar voters don’t get it. 

  • “A Prophet” (France), Director: Jacques Audiard
  • “An Education” (UK/France), Director: Lone Scherfig
  • “Everlasting Moments” (Sweden), Director: Jan Troell
  • “Mother” (South Korea), Director: Bong Joon-Ho
  • “The Maid” (Chile), Director: Sebastian Silva

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

I’m thinking that Mumblecore community has so many more supporters – Sokol should win.

  • Karin Chien, “The Exploding Girl,” “Santa Mesa”
  • Larry Fessenden, “I Sell the Dead,” “The House of the Devil”
  • Dia Sokol, “Beeswax,” “Nights & Weekends”

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Nominated at the Gothams, Zero Bridge and better than zero chances. 

  • Kyle Patrick Alvarez, “Easier With Practice”
  • Asiel Norton, “Redland”
  • Tariq Tapa, “Zero Bridge”

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD

I’m giving cred to the only doc that I’ve seen of the three. 

  • Natalia Almada, “El General”
  • Jessica Oreck, “Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo”
  • Bill Ross, Turner Ross, “45365
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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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