2020 Precursor Predictions: Spirit Awards

The last precursor of the year has moved its awards up from Friday to Thursday, so we’re posting a day earlier than expected. As such, we’re looking at the Spirit Awards, which has, in recent years, become a hotbed for Oscar contenders to show their strength. Several categories have three nominees at the Oscars on their slate, so it should be rather interesting.


Best Feature

First Cow
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Minari (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Nomadland (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: With two of the Best Picture nominees on this list, we could expect this to turn out almost exactly like the Oscars. Nomadland is such a quintessential Spirit Awards kind of pick that I’d be surprised if it lost, but losing to fellow Oscar nominee Minari is possible.
Peter J. Patrick: This should mirror Oscar with Nomadland winning over Minari.
Tripp Burton: The general rule of the Spirit Awards is to go for the biggest Oscar contender of the bunch — our frontrunner Nomadland should easily win here.
Thomas LaTourette: Nomadland has been dominant everywhere else, so I imagine it will win here too.

Best First Feature

The Forty-Year-Old Version (RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)
I Carry You With Me
Miss Juneteenth (RU:Thomas)
Nine Days (RU:Peter)
Sound of Metal (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: Sound of Metal is the only Oscar Best Picture nominee on this list and Spirit voters do often like to go for the Oscar nominee, but not 100% of the time. That’s why The Forty-Year-Old Version could surprise.
Peter J. Patrick: It should be Sound of Metal, but the Spirits can get quirky with this one, so I wouldn’t bet the house on it. Nine Days is as likely as any of the other potential upset winners.
Tripp Burton: Sound of Metal is the highest profile film here and probably a shoo-in.
Thomas LaTourette: Sound of Metal was incredibly well made and affecting and deserves to win.

John Cassavetes Award

John Cassavetes Award

The Killing of Two Lovers (Wesley, RU:Peter)
La Leyenda Negra (RU:Thomas)
Lingua Franca (Tripp)
Residue (RU:Tripp)
Saint Frances (Peter, Thomas, RU:Wesley)

Wesley Lovell: This category is always one of the most difficult to predict and I cannot say I’m tuned in on what Spirit voters are going to be thinking.
Peter J. Patrick: The movie-on-a-shoestring award. Probably Saint Frances, but could be anything – The Killing Two Lovers for runner-up.
Tripp Burton: This is a list of wonderful, important features, but the timely and much heralded Lingua Franca should bring home a prize.
Thomas LaTourette: Saint Frances is the best reviewed of the bunch, so it seems the most likely to win, with perhaps La Leyenda or Residue possibly upsetting.

Best Director

Lee Isaac Chung – Minari (RU:Peter)
Emerald Fennell – Promising Young Woman (RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Eliza Hittman – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Kelly Reichardt – First Cow
Chloé Zhao – Nomadland (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: A surprising three Oscar nominees are on this list and I wouldn’t expect it to go to anyone but these. Once again, Chloé Zhao and her film are just the epitome of the kind of film Spirit voters would go for. I’d be shocked if she lost when she’s already won at the DGA.
Peter J. Patrick: Chloé Zhao will take this easily with Lee Isaac Chung and Emerald Fennell in contention for runner-up.
Tripp Burton: Chloé Zhao should continue her televised sweep here.
Thomas LaTourette: Zhao has been so dominant when it comes to winning best director, that I cannot imagine her not winning this.

Best Female Lead

Nicole Beharie – Miss Juneteenth
Viola Davis – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Sidney Flanigan – Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Julia Garner – The Assistant
Frances McDormand – Nomadland
Carey Mulligan – Promising Young Woman (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: Another three Oscar nominees have shown up here. This is probably the tightest race this year everywhere with all three Oscar nominees in contention. While I have my pick as Carey Mulligan with a Viola Davis chaser, Frances McDormand is such a foundational part of the indie community that I could see her winning on historical merit alone.
Peter J. Patrick: This is Carey Mulligan’s to lose with Viola Davis ready to make her acceptance speech if she should miss.
Tripp Burton: Like most awards show this year, this is the toughest race of the year. The edgier Mulligan will probably prevail here.
Thomas LaTourette: Hopefully Mulligan will win this and have a spot open for the Oscar a few days later. But both McDormand and Davis will be giving her a strong fight for the win.

Best Male Lead

Riz Ahmed – Sound of Metal (Thomas, RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp)
Chadwick Boseman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger
Rob Morgan – Bull
Steven Yeun – Minari

Wesley Lovell: It would be rather surprising if Chadwick Boseman didn’t win this award when he’s virtually cleaned up everywhere else. Fellow Oscar nominees Riz Ahmed and Steven Yeun are probably his biggest competition.
Peter J. Patrick: Like most of the other Oscar precursors, Chadwick Boseman should prevail. Riz Ahmed is the only one with a chance of upsetting him.
Tripp Burton: Chadwick Boseman is a powerhouse, and this chance to honor him won’t be passed up.
Thomas LaTourette: Even though Boseman has been collecting awards posthumously, this is one place I wonder if it might go differently, which could give Ahmed a win for Sound of Metal.

Best Supporting Female

Alexis Chikaeze – Miss Juneteenth
Yeri Han – Minari
Valerie Mahaffey – French Exit
Talia Ryder – Never Rarely Sometimes Always (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Youn Yuh-jung – Minari (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: Only one Oscar nominee is on this list, which makes the prediction of it easier unless Spirit voters choose this one category to buck tradition in. Still, it’s unlikely that Yuh-jung Youn will lose.
Peter J. Patrick: Youn has no competition here. Talia Ryder will be a distant runner-up.
Tripp Burton: Crowd favorite Youn Yuh-jung should prevail here as the only Oscar nominee.
Thomas LaTourette: Yuh-jung Youn has collected the most precursors lately for Minari and that trend should continue with this award.

Best Supporting Male

Colman Domingo – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (RU:Thomas)
Orion Lee – First Cow
Paul Raci – Sound of Metal (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
Glynn Turman – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp)
Benedict Wong – Nine Days

Wesley Lovell: Only one Oscar nominee here as well and Paul Raci has done tremendously well this Oscar season even if he’s not destined to win the Oscar. At least he’ll have this high profile award to add to his collection. with the two actors from Ma Rainey’s his stiffest competition, though a split between them could allow Orion Lee to sneak through, but that requires an awful lot of unlikely splitting.
Peter J. Patrick: Paul Raci should take this one, with one of the actors from Ma Rainey, probably Glynn Turman, his closest competition.
Tripp Burton: Paul Raci is the only Oscar nominee here, so he should win handily here.
Thomas LaTourette: Raci was the empathetic heart of Sound of Metal and deserves to win. If not then probably one of the musicians from Ma Rainey will win.

Best Screenplay

Bad Education
The Half of It
Minari (RU:Peter, RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (RU:Wesley)
Promising Young Woman (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: Two Oscar contenders here with Promising Young Woman the clear frontrunner. Strangely, I think indie darling Never Rarely Sometimes Always has a decent shot of sneaking in for this category.
Peter J. Patrick: This will likely go to Promising Young Woman with Minari its likeliest challenger.
Tripp Burton: The clever and edgy Promising Young Woman script seems like a Spirit Award voter favorite.
Thomas LaTourette: Promising Young Woman should win this, unless the more personal Minari triumphs.

Best First Screenplay

The Assistant
Miss Juneteenth (Thomas, RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Tripp)
Palm Springs (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Straight Up

Wesley Lovell: While none of these titles score an Oscar nomination, Palm Springs probably came closest, so I expect it will win, though I wouldn’t necessarily bet against The Assistant or Miss Juneteenth either.
Peter J. Patrick: I’m guessing the popularity of Palm Springs will win out here over its closest rival, Miss Juneteenth.
Tripp Burton: Palm Springs is a screenplay forward film that got a lot of attention this year, which should lead it to win here.
Thomas LaTourette: I’ve heard good things about Miss Juneteenth, so I will go with it to win.

Best Editing

I Carry You With Me
The Invisible Man (Wesley, RU:Thomas)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (RU:Peter, RU:Tripp)
Nomadland (Peter, Tripp, Thomas, RU:Wesley)

Wesley Lovell: Here we have a single Oscar nominee, Nomadland, running against a hefty slate of potential winners, including The Invisible Man, which relied heavily on its editing for success. While I’m not 100% sold on it beating out Best Picture frontrunner Nomadland, I can definitely see voters going a different direction this time out.
Peter J. Patrick: Nomadland with Never Rarely Sometimes Always a long shot runner-up.
Tripp Burton: Oscar nominee Nomadland should be another easy winner here.
Thomas LaTourette: Nomadland has collected a number of editing precursors, so it should be the favorite here. The Invisible Man feels like the only competition it faces.

Best Cinematography

The Assistant (RU:Tripp)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter, RU:Thomas)
Nomadland (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)
She Dies Tomorrow

Wesley Lovell: Nomadland is the Oscar frontrunner, so I expect it to win here as well. None of the other films really feel like the kind of pictures voters would recognize in its place.
Peter J. Patrick: This should be another easy win for Nomadland with Never Rarely Sometimes Always its only real competition.
Tripp Burton: The gorgeous terrains of Nomadland should win easily here.
Thomas LaTourette: Nomadland easily wins this award.

Best International Film

Bacurau (RU:Wesley, RU:Peter)
The Disciple
Night of the Kings (RU:Tripp, RU:Thomas)
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Wesley, Peter, Tripp, Thomas)

Wesley Lovell: Quo Vadis, Aida? is the only Oscar nominee here and since there’s some rumbling of an upset at the Oscars, I’m sure it has a better leg up here.
Peter J. Patrick: With no competition from Another Round, this should be an easy win for Quo Vadis, Aida? Bacurau for the runner-up.
Tripp Burton: This category is a chance for some under-rewarded film to pick up a prize, and my guess is that it will be the harrowing Bosnia drama Quo Vadis, Aida?
Thomas LaTourette: Quo Vadis, Aida? has the best reputation of these films and might even surprise on Oscar night. It seems the likely winner.

Best Documentary

Collective (Peter, Thomas, RU:Wesley, RU:Tripp)
Crip Camp (RU:Thomas)
Dick Johnson Is Dead (RU:Peter)
The Mole Agent
Time (Wesley, Tripp)

Wesley Lovell: In a rare occurrence, the only Oscar nominee not to make the above list is My Octopus Teacher, the Oscar frontrunner. That makes this race incredibly difficult to predict. While I might say Collective or non-Oscar nominee Dick Johnson Is Dead have solid chances at a win, Time is a bit more timely and I think it has a great chance to win.
Peter J. Patrick: I’m anticipating an easy win for Collective with Dick Johnson Is Dead a possible spoiler.
Tripp Burton: I have no idea how this might turn out, but the moving and timely Time could play well to this voting body.
Thomas LaTourette: Collective was the most vital of these docs and would be my choice to win. Crip Camp and Time both have their supporters and could sneak in for the win.

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