In the immediate wake of the announcement of the Film Independent Spirit Awards nominations, the first headscratcher (which a colleague pointed out before I noticed it myself) was “why no Best Director nomination for Manchester By The Sea‘s Kenneth Lonergan?” Manchester is the Big Kahuna of nominees across the board (Best Feature, Screenplay, Editing, Actor, Supporting Actor) with Moonlight the runner-up, so Lonergan’s direction not being singled out seems strange.
The second surprise is the absence of Moonlight‘s Mahershala Ali among Best Supporting Actor contenders. Ali has been the overwhelming Best Supporting Actor pick among the Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby-ites for many weeks now, and keep in mind that the Spirits are totally in the tank for Moonlight this year. (Altman Award actor recipients can’t be nominated, but directors or writers can?) This doesn’t mean Ali won’t snag an Oscar nomination, but an element of doubt has obviously been introduced. Incidentally: A few weeks ago a colleague told me he thinks Hell or High Water‘s Jeff Bridges might have the best shot at a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Except the Spirits have now selected Bridges’ costar, Ben Foster, as their nominee in this category.
Here are my spitball projections of likely winners:
BEST FEATURE: American Honey, Chronic, Jackie, Manchester by the Sea, Moonlight. Likely winner: Manchester By The Sea, especially with Moonlight‘s director-writer Barry Jenkins and the Moonlight cast already tagged as recipients of the Robert Altman award.
BEST FIRST FEATURE: The Childhood of a Leader, The Fits, Other People, Swiss Army Man, The Witch. Likely winner: The Witch because its’ easily the best of the five, although I could see Swiss Army Man sneaking out a win.
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD: Free In Deed, Hunter Gatherer, Lovesong, Nakom, Spa Night. Likely Winner: Hunter Gatherer.
BEST DIRECTOR: Andrea Arnold (American Honey), Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), Pablo Larraín (Jackie), Jeff Nichols (Loving), Kelly Reichardt (Certain Women). Likely Winner: Andrea Arnold or Barry Jenkins, but probably Jenkins at the end of the day. HE preference: Arnold.