The Indie’s Oscars

The day before the Oscars, there’s a party in Santa Monica that’s more “smart chic” than “custom couture,” more “new kid in town” than “living legend,” more “vote of the people” than “who votes for these again?”

Spirit_Awards_TrophyIt’s the Spirit Awards, and over the last several years it’s become the indie Oscars, even as the films recognized are less and less truly independent films (case in point: several films are nominated for both Spirit Awards and Oscars.). Dress code is decidedly relaxed; hosts are the likes of Andy Samberg and, this year, Patton Oswalt; and far as I know, though it is televised, there’s no orchestra kicking winners off stage after a paltry few seconds of a speech.

You can see the full list of this year’s nominees here. You can also vote on the nominees, just by becoming a member of parent organization Film Independent (the democratization of film awards in action!). The only reason I’m not is because 90% of the perks are in LA – I’m all for supporting independent film, but it makes more sense for me to be part of the Film Society.

So instead, as any good observer who has no actual impact on the outcome of events would do, allow me to wax philosophical on who the winners will be. Then check out the telecast on Saturday and see how much of a Spirit Awards-whisperer I really am (or am not!).

BEST EDITING – Upstream Color I’m still not entirely sure I know what happened in this movie, but dang was it beautiful. And the way it all pieced together, someone knew what they were doing in that editing room.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – 12 Years A Slave McQueen has crafted an arthouse studio film; by that I mean his eye, his framing, the shape of his visuals are of an arthouse ilk. It just so happens he had a studio-sized cast and budget. His cinematographer should get the credit he’s due.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE – I really want it to be Will Forte, in Nebraska. He’s a revelation as a dramatic actor, could totally shift gears if he were interested in leaving his MacGruber days behind. Will probably go to Leto, who’ll go on to win an Oscar on Sunday night (but more on those predictions later!).

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE – June Squibb in Nebraska. At least, that’d who I’d give it to; like above, Lupita Nyong’o may take both the Spirit Award and the Oscar this weekend for 12 Years A Slave. Wouldn’t suck to be her.

BEST MALE LEAD – three of the six nominees in this category are also up for the Best Actor Oscar on Sunday. Any one of them could take it, but in an effort to spread the love, I gotta hope for Michael B. Jordan. Fruitvale Station is still the most moving film I saw last year, in no small part thanks to his incredibly touching performance.

BEST FEMALE LEAD – I love this crop of women. Shailene Woodley and Brie Larson included? A random Gaby Hoffman nod? That’s keeping it real. Brie Larson is this year’s Elizabeth Olsen, and she’ll walk away with the Spirit Award to prove it.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY – My heart’s with Lake Bell on this one. In A World… is just charming in every way, a female-driven story without being overly sappy or romantic. Good on ya, Lake.

BEST FIRST FEATURE – Fruitvale Station. No question.

BEST SCREENPLAY – I’d love to see this go to The Spectacular Now. What could’ve been a superficial teen romance proves itself to be capable of a depth and sincerity that you don’t see coming. That’s great writing.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – I would love for it to be either Computer Chess or Pit Stop, as I know the teams (or at least parts of the teams!) on each film, and either would be worthy selections.

BEST DOCUMENTARY – The Act of Killing gets my bet. It’s hard to do something new in documentaries anymore, and this one does. And then some.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM – this is a really tight category for me to call. Every film is exceptional. Blue is the Warmest Color gets my prediction, if only because it was the film France should’ve put in for the Oscar and didn’t, so it deserves to get some love this weekend.

BEST DIRECTOR – While I don’t think he’ll win over the Academy enough to nab the Oscar, I do think Steve McQueen’s film is an achievement, and I’d love for him to take the Spirit Award.

BEST FEATURE – I think 12 Years A Slave has this locked up. I respect the nomination of Francis Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis, for sure. Yet even as I hate to give the nod to the popular favorite, it’s popular and a favorite for a reason. It’s just that good.

Sadly, I don’t have cable and won’t be able to watch the awards unfold. But I’ll keep an eye out on Twitter, and we’ll see how I do in my predictions. And maybe one of these years, they’ll be more than a guess and an actual vote instead!