2019 Precursor Predictions: Spirit Awards

Film Independent’s Spirit Awards, which always get handed out the night before the Oscars, have a notable lack of Oscar nominees this year than it has in the recent past. Whether that’s because more studio films were released that could compete for the Oscars or just that the Oscar nominees aren’t appreciated enough by Film Independent’s voters is unknown. This is the last formal precursor before the Oscars on Sunday, so here are our predictions.


Best Feature

The Farewell (Thomas)
A Hidden Life
Marriage Story (Wesley, Tripp, RU:Peter, RU:Thomas)
Uncut Gems (Peter, RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)

Wesley Lovell: The first rule of Spirit Awards predicting is to look for Oscar nominees and pick them. There are times that this isn’t always the case as the voters like to make statements at time, but betting against the Oscar nominee is not typically the wisest idea. So, for this category, the sole Oscar nominee is Marriage Story. If that film doesn’t win, there are two titles that seem likely. The Farewell probably came closest to getting an Oscar nomination, but ultimately Uncut Gems is more this group’s style.
Peter J. Patrick: Uncut Gems is a prime example of the kind of independent film that used to win this award hands down. If they want to vote a higher profile film, expect Marriage Story to prevail.
Tripp Burton: My rule is always to go with the Oscar nominee in the category, but Uncut Gems is really popular and could be the winner here over Marriage Story, which seems to have faded a bit.
Thomas LaTourette: I’m thinking one of the more commercially successful films will win.

Best First Feature

Booksmart (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
The Climb
The Last Black Man in San Francisco (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
The Mustang
See You Yesterday

Wesley Lovell: This category has no Oscar nominees, but it does have Booksmart, which probably comes close. It didn’t get the nomination in this category at the DGA, but Olivia Wilde won several prizes for it. Then again, The Last Black Man in San Francisco also got a lot of recognition and I suspect the drama is more likely to win than the comedy.
Peter J. Patrick: The Last Black Man in San Francisco is another fine example of the kind of independent film that used to easily win this award. Booksmart seems to be its closest competition.
Tripp Burton: Last Black Man and Booksmart are the highest profile films here, so it is probably between them.
Thomas LaTourette: The Last Black Man sounded interesting and very original, so I will guess it might win, though Booksmart was the more talked about film.

John Cassavetes Award

Burning Cane (Peter, Tripp)
Give Me Liberty (Wesley, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Wild Nights with Emily (Thomas, RU:Wesley, RU:Peter)

Wesley Lovell: This is one of those categories no one really knows what to do with or what to predict. Three of these titles got more press than the others, Burning Cane, Give Me Liberty, and Wild Nights with Emily. I lean towards Give Me Liberty, which has other nominations (including acting citations) this year.
Peter J. Patrick: Just a guess – I have no idea how they will vote on this one.
Tripp Burton: Burning Cane has a lot of buzz around it for it’s young filmmaker and will probably win here.
Thomas LaTourette: I heard more about Wild Nights with Emily than the others, so will guess it.

Best Director

Robert Eggers – The Lighthouse (RU:Peter)
Alma Har’el – Honey Boy (Thomas)
Julius Onah – Luce (RU:Thomas)
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie – Uncut Gems (Wesley, Peter, Tripp)
Lorene Scafaria – Hustlers (RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)

Wesley Lovell: Because of Film Independent’s refusal to allow non-American films to compete outside of the foreign language film category, there are no Oscar nominees on the list. The Safdies have quite a following, but Eggers, Har’el, and Scafaria do as well. I suspect that the Safdies will win (they are the only ones with a Best Picture nominee in these awards), though I could see any of the others winning as well.
Peter J. Patrick: As best picture goes, so goes best director.
Tripp Burton: The Safdies are one of the big stories of the end of the year for their surprise hit, but if voters want to honor a female, Lorene Scafaria could get a lot of love for her even bigger hit.
Thomas LaTourette: Honey Boy sounds interesting and personal. The Lighthouse was distinctive, but just plain weird.

Best Female Lead

Karen Allen – Colewell
Hong Chau – Driveways
Elisabeth Moss – Her Smell
Mary Kay Place – Diane (Peter, RU:Tripp)
Alfre Woodard – Clemency (RU:Wesley, RU:Thomas)
Renée Zellweger – Judy (Wesley, Tripp, Thomas, RU:Peter)

Wesley Lovell: One Oscar nominee on the list and she’s swept every other award, so why not this one. Elisabeth Moss and Mary Kay Place have also earned some recognition for these roles this year as has Alfre Woodard. After Zellweger, I think Woodard is the next most likely, but I won’t count out Place or Moss.
Peter J. Patrick: I’m expecting a win for critics’ favorite Mary Kay Place over Oscar front-runner Renée Zellweger on this one.
Tripp Burton: The Oscar nominee will win here, but Moss, Place, and Woodard all have a lot of love coming their way. This could be a tighter race than expected.
Thomas LaTourette: Renee had the most noted performance and will win the Oscar, though Alfre Woodard was awfully good too.

Best Male Lead

Chris Galust – Give Me Liberty
Kelvin Harrison Jr – Luce
Robert Pattinson – The Lighthouse (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Adam Sandler – Uncut Gems (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
Matthias Schoenaerts – The Mustang

Wesley Lovell: There are no Oscar nominees in this bunch, but many felt Adam Sandler was unfairly snubbed by the Academy, so he’s probably got this one locked up, but don’t count out any of the others, especially Robert Pattinson earning his best reviews since he worked with the Safdie Brothers.
Peter J. Patrick: Sandler should take this one over Pattinson.
Tripp Burton: I don’t see how Sandler isn’t the odds on favorite here.
Thomas LaTourette: Sandler had Oscar buzz, so might pull off the win here. Pattinson and Schoenaerts also received a lot of press.

Best Supporting Female

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers (Wesley, Tripp, Thomas)
Taylor Russell – Waves (RU:Peter, RU:Thomas)
Zhao Shuzhen – The Farewell (RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)
Lauren “Lolo” Spencer – Give Me Liberty
Octavia Spencer – Luce (Peter)

Wesley Lovell: With only one Oscar nominee among all twenty acting nominees, it’s interesting to see what else could win in that situation. Lopez, Shuzhen, and to a lesser extend Spencer were all in the conversation for Oscar nominations, though Lopez probably came closest with Shuzhen right behind her. Lopez will easily walk away with this award since she’s one of the most honored actors of the year.
Peter J. Patrick: A close one, but veteran Spencer should take this over newcomer Russell.
Tripp Burton: JLo got so much attention for not getting an Oscar nomination that she will get a good consolation prize here, unless she loses to another Oscar “snubee,” Zhao Shuzhen.
Thomas LaTourette: I’m thinking that they may award Jennifer Lopez since the Oscars overlooked her.

Best Supporting Male

Willem Dafoe – The Lighthouse (Wesley, Peter, Thomas, RU:Tripp)
Noah Jupe – Honey Boy
Shia LaBeouf – Honey Boy (Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Jonathan Majors – The Last Black Man in San Francisco (RU:Peter)
Wendell Pierce – Burning Cane (RU:Wesley)

Wesley Lovell: It’s hard to imagine Spirit voters not going for the legend Dafoe. That said, all of the others have earned a lot of praise this year. Still, I have a hard time picking any one of these for the win, but Pierce has earned probably the best reviews of the others.
Peter J. Patrick: Veteran Dafoe should take this over newcomer Majors.
Tripp Burton: Shia LaBeouf will be rewarded here for writing and playing his own father.
Thomas LaTourette: Dafoe was good in a strange film. LaBeouf was supposed to be very good playing his father.

Best Screenplay

Clemency (RU:Thomas)
High Flying Bird
Marriage Story (Wesley, Tripp, Thomas, RU:Peter)
To Dust
Uncut Gems (Peter, RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)

Wesley Lovell: The third Oscar nominee at the Spirit Awards is surely the frontrunner. Marriage Story was one of the most honored screenplays of the year, but don’t count out Uncut Gems and Clemency. While I think the latter is weaker, the former could upset.
Peter J. Patrick: Another close call, but Uncut Gems should take this over Marriage Story.
Tripp Burton: Like Best Film, this is between Marriage Story and Uncut Gems, and Baumbach might finally win a prize for his screenplay.
Thomas LaTourette: Marriage Story seems the likely winner here.

Best First Screenplay

Blow the Man Down (Peter, RU:Thomas)
Driveways (RU:Peter)
Greener Grass (Wesley, Tripp, Thomas)
See You Yesterday (RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)
The Vast of Night

Wesley Lovell: Not only no Oscar nominees, but no Best Film or Best First Feature nominees in the batch. I’ve heard the most about Greener Grass and See You Yesterday, which is the only reason I’m predicting either.
Peter J. Patrick: This is another category in which I’m just guessing.
Tripp Burton: Greener Grass is the most high concept film here and will probably win.
Thomas LaTourette: Greener Grass didn’t get the best of reviews, but it was noted for its uniqueness.

Best Editing

Give Me Liberty
The Lighthouse (Peter, RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Sword of Trust
The Third Wife
Uncut Gems (Wesley, Tripp, Thomas, RU:Peter)

Wesley Lovell: Another category devoid of Oscar nominees. Uncut Gems is nominated for Best Film and several other awards and earned quite a bit of praise for its editing. So much praise in fact that it was thought to have an outside chance of an Oscar nomination. The Lighthouse could displace it, but I doubt it.
Peter J. Patrick: Another close one between The Lighthouse and Uncut Gems with Lighthouse coming out ahead in this one.
Tripp Burton: The high octane Uncut Gems seems like an easy winner here.
Thomas LaTourette: I heard Uncut Gems had lots of jump cuts, so that showiness may play out with this award.

Best Cinematography

Honey Boy
Hustlers (RU:Tripp)
The Lighthouse (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
Midsommar (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Thomas)
The Third Wife

Wesley Lovell: Oscar nominee The Lighthouse seems like a certain nominee, but Midsommar did receive a lot of praise for its photography, so it could win.
Peter J. Patrick: Oscar nominee The Lighthouse should take this easily.
Tripp Burton: The only Oscar nominee in the category should win easily here.
Thomas LaTourette: The Lighthouse is Oscar nominated and may win here since it won’t there.

Best International Film

Invisible Life – Brazil
Les Misérables – France
Parasite – South Korea (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire – France (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Retablo – Peru
The Souvenir – United Kingdom

Wesley Lovell: Six Oscar nominations say Parasite will win this award and it would be a devastating shock if it didn’t. Portrait of a Lady on Fire was the most acclaimed film on this list after Parasite.
Peter J. Patrick: The popularity of Parasite should prevail here as well as everywhere else.
Tripp Burton: Like every other awards body, this will go to Parasite.
Thomas LaTourette: I imagine that Parasite will take this one too.

Best Documentary

American Factory (Thomas, RU:Wesley)
Apollo 11 (Wesley, Tripp, RU:Thomas)
For Sama (Peter, RU:Tripp)
Honeyland (RU:Peter)
Island of the Hungry Ghosts

Wesley Lovell: In an extreme rare occurrence, three of this year’s nominees in this category are Oscar nominees: American Factory, For Sama, and Honeyland (which also has a Best International Film Oscar nomination). Apollo 11 is the most honored documentary of the year and was snubbed by the Academy. That reason alone is why I think it will ultimately triumph as a consolation prize. That said, any of the Oscar nominees could win as well and I wouldn’t be surprised.
Peter J. Patrick: Should be between BAFTA winner For Sama and fellow Oscar nominee Honeyland with For Sama narrowly winning.
Tripp Burton: Apollo 11 is the most popular film here, but For Sama could sneak out a win.
Thomas LaTourette: I imagine either American Factory, the Oscar front runner, or Apollo 11, which should have been nominated, will win.

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