2014 Independent Spirit Awards predictions

It may be raining. It may be chilly. One thing is for sure, the drinks will be flowing and the giant tent that is the annual home for the Independent Spirit Awards will be buzzing.

This year's show will be hosted by comedian and actor Patton Oswalt. The star of “Big Fan” and “Young Adult” is no stranger to entertaining massive and difficult audiences. Oswalt ruled Comic-Con's Hall H a few years ago when he had the tough task of making Disney's slate at the time more exciting than it actually was. He's also following a fantastic hosting performance by Andy Samberg last year. Here's hoping the Spirits can actually deliver two great shows in a row (it tends to lean toward a good show every other year).

Like the Golden Globes, and the SAG Awards to an extent, the Spirits mostly focus on the awards presentations. Over the past decade the star power has increased and winning a Spirit is a more respected honor than ever before. It's not just a fun little brunch party the Saturday before the Academy Awards. 

The dirty little secret about the Spirits, however, is they are usually much easier to predict. The nominees are selected by committee, which is intended to make sure they truly reflect the independent film community. The winners, on the other hand, are voted on by the Film Independent membership, which is a much broader group. That means if there is any question who might win a category, all you need to know is that the more popular nominee (i.e., box office) or nominee from the more popular film will take it. The Spirit winners, in many ways, are about eyeballs, although there is always a surprise or two. John Hawkes (“The Sessions”) beating Bradley Cooper (“Silver Lining Playbook”) for Best Male Lead last year is an excellent example. And on the flip side, “Silver Linings” dominating the 2013 winners list, including an improbable win for director and film over “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” only proves box office dictates the Spirits' winners circle.

With that in mind, check out some predictions for the 2014 edition of the show.

John Cassavetes Award
“Computer Chess”
“Crystal Fairy”
“Museum Hours”
“Pit Stop”
“This is Martin Bonner”

Who should win: “Crystal Fairy”
Potential Upset: “Computer Chess”
Who will win: “Crystal Fairy”
Why: Honestly, this is a huge guess. The Michael Cera flick was a Sundance title that played a ton of festivals and barely made more than “Chess” at the box office (and we mean barely). It's a pick 'em, but we're going with Cera's, um, star power.

Best International Film
“Blue is the Warmest Color”
“The Great Beauty”
“The Hunt”
“A Touch of Sin”

Who should win: “The Great Beauty”
Potential Upset: “The Great Beauty”
Who will win: “Blue is the Warmest Color”
Why: No Cesars upset here. Most of the voters haven't seen “Great Beauty” and “Blue” has been in theaters since October. It was also a nice $2.1 million hit for IFC Films. Yes, people. It's that simple.

Best Documentary
“The Act of Killing”
“After Tiller”
“Gideon's Army”
“The Square”
“20 Feet from Stardom”

Who should win: “The Act of Killing”
Potential Upset: “The Square”
Who will win: “20 Feet from Stardom”
Why: This is a tough one. “20 Feet” was a huge hit for a documentary these days, but it's not a reach to suggest that Film Independent members probably over index as Netflix subscribers. That means the chances of them catching “The Square” in the comfort of their homes is more likely than not. In theory, “20 Feet” should win, but don't be surprised if “The Square” takes it.

Best Editing
“Frances Ha”
“Museum Hours”
“Short Term 12”
“Una Noche”
“Upstream Color”

Who should win: “Upstream Color”
Potential Upset: “Frances Ha”
Who will win: “Upstream Color”
Why: Yeah, don't ask why “12 Years A Slave,” “Nebraska” or “Inside Llewyn Davis” aren't here.  Head scratcher. “Frances Ha” could take this one, but “Upstream Color” succeeds in its craft and the editing of the film was an integral part of Shane Carruth's vision.  

Best Cinematography
“All is Lost”
“Computer Chess”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Spring Breakers”
“12 Years a Slave”

Who should win: “Spring Breakers”
Potential Upset: “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Who will win: “12 Years A Slave”
Why: “Spring Breakers” has a chance, but “12 Years” should take this one.

Best Supporting Male
Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”
Will Forte, “Nebraska”
James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Keith Stanfield, “Short Term 12”

Who should win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Potential Upset: James Gandolfini, “Enough Said”
Who will win: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Why: Gandolfini is the sentimental vote, Fassbender has the star power, but Leto should walk away with this honor. Just like with the Globe, the SAG Award and likely the Oscar on Sunday.

Best Supporting Female
Melonie Diaz, “Fruitvale Station”
Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”
Lupita Nyong'o, “12 Years a Slave”
Yolonda Ross, “Go For Sisters”
June Squibb, “Nebraska”

Who should win: Lupita Nyong'o, “12 Years A Slave”
Potential Upset: June Squibb, “Nebraska”
Who will win: Lupita Nyong'o, “12 Years A Slave”
Why: Squibb may be experiencing late buzz because of her appeal to members of the Academy, but Nyong'o is the winner here. And she's no doubt thrilled she doesn't have to worry about Jennifer Lawrence as a possible upset candidate.

Best Male Lead
Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”
Oscar Isaac, “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Michael B. Jordan, “Fruitvale Station”
Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Robert Redford, “All is Lost”
Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”

Who should win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Potential Upset: Robert Redford, “All is Lost”
Who will win: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
Why: This is arguably more competitive than the Oscars' Best Actor field. McConaughey won a supporting male Spirit for “Magic Mike” last year, his first major award ever. You'd want to believe Ejiofor has a real shot here, but he couldn't even beat Forest Whitaker (“Lee Daniel's The Butler”) for the NAACP Image Award in the equivalent category. Redford is an indie film icon because of his baby, the Sundance Film Festival. Could he pull off an upset?

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Julie Delpy, “Before Midnight”
Gaby Hoffman, “Crystal Fairy”
Brie Larson, “Short Term 12”
Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now”

Who should win: Shailene Woodley, “The Spectacular Now”
Potential Upset: Brie Larson, “Short Term 12”
Who will win: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
Why: Besides the fact that Blanchett has taken every possible honor for her role in Woody Allen's dramedy, there is always the stark realization that “Blue Jasmine” made more than five times at the box office than the second highest grossing competitor in this category (“The Spectacular Now”). There is a minuscule chance that Brie Larson could upset (and we mean minuscule). The indie film community most likely wants to reward the little indie that could, “Short Term 12,” and if not here, then where?

Best First Screenplay
“Afternoon Delight”
“Don Jon”
“In a World”
“The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete”

Who should win: “In A World”
Potential Upset: “Don Jon”
Who will win: “Nebraska”
Why: “Don Jon” has the notoriety, “In A World” has the LA-based buzz, but “Nebraska” is the most widely seen and critically acclaimed nominee. “Don Jon” was a much bigger hit, but it would honestly be a shock if it pulled off the upset.

Best Screenplay
“Before Midnight”
“Blue Jasmine”
“Enough Said”    
“The Spectacular Now”
“12 Years a Slave”

Who should win: “Before Midnight”
Potential Upset: “Before Midnight”
Who will win: “12 Years A Slave”
Why: This category is almost as competitive as Best Male Lead.  Holofcener's “Enough Said” has its champions, “Spectacular Now” is a deserving winner and this is the seventh nod without a win for “Before Midnight's” Richard Linklater (that's no good). John Ridley should win this one for “12 Years,” but it wouldn't be a surprise if “Midnight” took it instead.

Best First Feature
“Blue Caprice”
“Fruitvale Station”
“Una Noche”

Who should win: “Concussion”
Potential Upset: None
Who will win: “Fruitvale Station”
Why: This one goes to “Fruitvale Station” all the way. The summer indie hit has strangely (or not so strangely depending on your opinion of the movie) been absent for most of awards season. That will end Saturday afternoon.

Best Director
J.C. Chandor, “All is Lost”
Jeff Nichols, “Mud”
Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”
Shane Carruth, “Upstream Color”

Who should win: Shane Carruth, “Upstream Color”
Potential Upset: Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”
Who will win: Steve McQueen, “12 Years A Slave”
Why: While the four other nominees are great filmmakers in their own right, it would be an embarrassment for Film Independent if McQueen didn't take home this honor.

Best Feature
“All is Lost”
“Frances Ha”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“12 Years a Slave”

Who should win: “12 Years A Slave”
Potential Upset: “Inside Llewyn Davis” (slightly)
Who will win: “12 Years A Slave”
Why: There will not be an upset here. “12 Years” may not take home the Oscar (or it may), but it will absolutely triumph at the Spirits. Brad Pitt, Spirits Award winner. Who would have guessed?

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts below.

Look for complete coverage of the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards from the red carpet to the press room to the show itself all day Saturday on HitFix and In Contention.