2012 Independent Spirit Awards Predictions: ‘The Descendants,’ Michael Shannon and ?

Hollywood’s alternative to the Academy Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards, used to be the edgy, unexpected, fly by the seat of your pants awards show.  Over 25 years later, the Spirits have become much more established (shh, don’t tell anyone) even if the show still takes place in a large tent on a parking lot right next to the beach in Santa Monica, CA. As the meaning and distribution of independent film has changed over the past 15 years or so the show’s nominees have become more and more familiar to mainstream moviegoers. This past two year’s best feature nominees, for instance, all were wide release films at some point in their theatrical lives.

The Spirits will be handed out Saturday afternoon and then broadcast at 10 PM on IFC. Yes, a taped show isn’t ideal, but IFC insists it gets better ratings this way and the Spirits are happy with their relationship with the cable network and aren’t looking to move anywhere else just to go live (although the star power of the show would indicate they easily could). HitFix will have full coverage of this year’s show before it airs, but with only 24 hours till Seth Rogen’s inaugural turn as Spirit’s host its time to make some educated picks in all the categories (well except for that dicey someone to watch award).

The most important thing to know about the Spirits is that all the awards are voted on by the membership of Film Independent.  The non-profit, which also stages the increasingly notable LA Film Fest, is made of members of the filmmaking community, but mostly film fans from around the country.  Because anyone can join, the membership is in the thousands and while they are independent film fans, the larger an organization is the more mainstream its taste becomes. So, as sad as it sounds, the more popular a film was at the box office the more likely it will win a category.  Although their are obvious exceptions. With that in mind…

Best Feature

(Award given to the Producer)
“Take Shelter”
“The Artist”
“The Descendants”

Who should win: “Drive”
Who will win: “The Descendants”

Best Director
Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
Mike Mills, “Beginners”
Jeff Nichols, “Take Shelter”
Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”

Who should win: Nicolas Winding Refn, “Drive”
Who will win: Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”

Best First Feature
(Award given to the director and producer)
“Another Earth”
“In The Family”
“Margin Call”
“Martha Marcy May Marlene”
“Natural Selection”

Who should win: “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Who will win: Tough one. Likely “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” but “Margin Call” was likely seen by more voters.  I’m gonna go with “Martha,” but it could easily be “Margin.”

John Cassavetes Award
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
“Hello Lonseome”
“The Dynamiter”

Who should win: “Bellflower”
Who will win: “Pariah”

Best Screenplay
“The Descendants”
“The Artist”
“Win Win”

Who should win: “The Descendants”
Who will win: “The Descendants,” although Mike Mills and “Beginners” could surprise.

Best First Screenplay
“Another Earth”
“Cedar Rapids”
“Margin Call”

Who should win: J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”
Who will win: J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call”

Best Female Lead
Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn”
Rachael Harris, “Natural Selection”
Adepero Oduye, “Pariah”
Lauren Ambrose, “Think of Me”

Who should win: Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Who will win: Michelle Williams, “My Week with Marilyn” (it’s her sixth nomination, it’s about time)

Best Male Lead
Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter”
Woody Harrelson, “Rampart”
Ryan Golsing, “Drive”
Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
Demian Bichir, “A Better Life”

Who should win: Ryan Gosling, “Drive”
Who will win: Michael Shannon, “Take Shelter,” although if Jean Dujardin wins I may throw up in the audience. I mean he’s great, but…

Best Supporting Female
Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter”
Anjelica Huston, “50/50”
Janet McTeer, “Albert Nobbs”
Harmony Santana, “Gone Hill Road”
Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”

Who should win: Jessica Chastain, “Take Shelter” (much better performance than “The Help” by the way)
Who will win: Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants” (If Chastain wins its because they think they are voting for “The Help,” sad but true)

Best Supporting Male
Albert Brooks, “Drive”
John Hawkes, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”
Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”
John C. Reilly, “Cedar Rapids”

Who should win: Albert Brooks, “Drive”
Who will win: This is tough. I’m going with Christopher Plummer for “Beginners” because of all the hype and his SAG/Globe wins influencing the public, but “Brooks” could surprise.

Best Cinematography
“Midnight in Paris”
“The Artist”
“The Off-Hours”
“The Dynamiter”

Who should win: “Bellflower”
Who will win: “The Artist”

Best Documentary
(Award given to the director)
“An African Election”
“Bill Cunningham New York”
“The Interrupters”
“We Were Here”
“The Redemption of General Butt Naked”

Who should win: “Bill Cunningham New York”
Who will win: “We Were Here”

Best Foreign Film
(Award given to the director)
“A Separation”
“The Kid With a Bike”

Who should win: “Shame,” although it’s as foreign a film as “The Artist” is qualified as an American film…
Who will win: This is tough one. It’s either going to be “A Separation” or “Melancholia.” I’m going with “A Separation.”

Robert Altman Award
(Given to one film”s director, casting director and its ensemble cast)
“Margin Call”

Piaget Producers Award
Chad Burris (“Mosquito y Mari”)
Sophia Lynn (“Take Shelter”)
Josh Bond (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”)

Who should win: Sophia Lynn
Who won: Sophia Lin (“Take Shelter”) (this award was given out in January)

Someone to Watch Award
Simon Arthur (“Silver Tongues”)
Mark Jackson (“Without”)
Nicholas Ozeki (“Mamitas”)

Who won: Mark Jackson for “Without” (this award was given out in January)

Truer Than Fiction Award
“Where Soldiers Come From”
“Hell and Back Again”
“Bombay Beach”

Who should win: “Hell and Back Again”
Who won: “Where Soldiers Come From” (this award was given out in January)

Agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below.

Look for complete coverage of the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards Saturday on HitFix. Look for tweets directly from the show by following Gregory Ellwood on twitter @HitFixGregory.