The 2016 Independent Spirit Awards: Preview and Predictions

·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
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The 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards — or Oscar’s more casual cousin, as they’ve long been known — will go down Saturday afternoon in a massive tent set up on the shores of Santa Monica.

The 31st edition features a few awards heavyweights like Spotlight, Carol, Room, and Anomalisa. But the Spirit Awards’ bread and butter are those indies that got overshadowed by big-budget spectacles like Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian: acclaimed movies like Tangerine, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, The End of the Tour, and Beasts of No Nation.

Here’s a look at who’s nominated — and who we think will win one of those majestic trophies with a bird perched on top — at this year’s Independent Spirit Awards, which will be broadcast live on IFC Saturday at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT.

Related: 2016 Oscar Predictions: Our Picks in Every Category

BEST FEATURE

Nominees:
Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight
Tangerine

Prediction: The day’s top prize will most likely go to the spellbinding journalism thriller Spotlight, even if the film looks like it has lost some footing in the Oscar race. The beloved lesbian romance Carol could play spoiler, but if voters really wanted to make a statement, they’d give Best Feature to the micro-budgeted Tangerine, which director Sean Baker shot on iPhones with non-actors plucked from the streets of Los Angeles. It re-energized independent filmmaking in 2015.

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BEST DIRECTOR

Nominees:
Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
Sean Baker, Tangerine

Prediction: Three-time Spirit Award winner Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor) will likely pick up another bird for his bookshelf. But as in Best Feature, don’t count out Todd Haynes for Carol or the longshot Tangerine helmer Sean Baker.

BEST MALE LEAD

Nominees:
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Christopher Abbot, James White
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind

Prediction: There’s nary an Oscar nominee in sight in this contest. And it will be an extra-fun affair if the awards goes to Ghanian-born first-timer Attah, who is an absolute revelation as a playful kid forced into warfare in Beasts of No Nation.

Related: Ben Mendelsohn Talks About ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ and Looks Back on His Awesome 2015

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Nominees:
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Brie Larson, Room
Kitana “Kiki” Rodriguez, Tangerine

Prediction: Rooney Mara joins her Carol co-star Cate Blanchett in the lead race where she belongs (Oscar politics have her competing in Best Supporting Actress). But this one’s going to heavy favorite Brie Larson, who gives an astonishing performance as the abducted “Ma” in Room and will have one more chance to prep for that inevitable Oscar speech.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Nominees:
Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation
Richard Jenkins, Bone Tomahawk
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Kevin Corrigan, Results
Michael Shannon, 99 Homes

Prediction: It could be a very good day for the males of Beasts of No Nation. Idris Elba, who was the most inexplicable victim of that unfortunate #OscarsSoWhite kerfuffle, should collect another statue one month after picking up the SAG Award for his terrifying African general. (Where’s Jacob Tremblay for Room, though?)

Related: Paul Dano on ‘Love & Mercy,’ the Year’s Other Great Unconventional Biopic

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Nominees:
Jennifer Jason Leigh, Anomalisa
Marin Ireland, Glass Chin
Robin Bartlett, H.
Cynthia Nixon, James White
Mya Taylor, Tangerine

Prediction: Jennifer Jason Leigh is considered the favorite for her transcendent voicework in Anomalisa (and it doesn’t hurt that she’s also an Oscar nom for The Hateful Eight). But this should be Tangerine’s time to shine. While lead Kiki Rodriguez is the film’s razzle-dazzle, Mya Taylor is its quietly potent heart and soul.

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BEST SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
Anomalisa
Bone Tomahawk
Carol
The End of the Tour
Spotlight

Prediction: Spotlight and Carol, which will compete in the Best Adapted Screenplay race at the Oscars, go head-to-head once again. Odds say it will be Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer’s never-a-dull-moment work on Spotlight, but there’s also the threat of former Best First Screenplay winner Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich), who’s up for the clever animated drama-comedy Anomalisa with Duke Johnson.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Nominees:
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos sucias
Mediterranea
Songs My Brothers Taught Me


Prediction: Marielle Heller’s bold Sundance breakout The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a coming-of-age tale set in 1970s San Francisco and featuring soulful lead Bel Powley, made the biggest impact on the arthouse circuit and should win handily here.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Nominees:
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Mediterranea
The Mend
Room


Prediction: It’s hard not seeing this one go to Oscar nominee Emma Donoghue, who adapted her own best-selling novel Room into a searing thriller and overcame what many thought would be the screen version’s biggest challenge: the fact that the story is narrated by a 6-year-old boy.

BEST EDITING

Nominees:
Beasts of No Nation
Heaven Knows What
It Follows
Room
Spotlight

Prediction: Spotlight editor Tom McArdle (as opposed to Liev Schreiber, who plays the editor in Spotlight) is unlikely to win the Oscar but he is likely to further the film’s Spirit Award domination.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nominees:
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
It Follows
Meadowland
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Prediction: I’d love to see this award go to writer-director-cinematographer Cary Fukunaga — who had to step in and shoot the breathtaking Beasts of No Nation after his DP pulled a hamstring on the first day. But it’s likelier that the Spirit Awards will go to Oscar contender Edward Lachman for his richly textured beauty of 1950s New York in Carol.

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BEST DOCUMENTARY

Nominees:
Best of Enemies
Heart of a Dog
The Look of Silence
Meru
The Russian Woodpecker
(T)ERROR

Prediction: This race’s sole Oscar contender is Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to his 2012 documentary The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence. (Both take a gut-punching look at the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66.) Killing was left off the Spirit Awards’ ballot in 2013, which is all the more reason it will likely win here.

Related: Conspiracy or Insanity? 'The Russian Woodpecker’ Dives Into the Radioactive Heart of the Soviet Union

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Nominees:
Embrace of the Serpent
Girlhood
Mustang
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Son of Saul

Prediction: The Hungarian Holocaust drama Son of Saul has dominated the foreign-language category all through awards season, and an Oscar win is very, very likely. But I’m thinking upset and going with the artful and powerful Turkish coming-of-age drama Mustang, which has a fervent fan base in the indie community.

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JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

Nominees:
Advantageous
Christmas, Again
Heaven Knows What
Krisha
Out of My Hand

Prediction: The Cannes favorite Krisha — a dramedy about a woman’s uncomfortable return to her Texas family for the first time in 10 years — has the biggest buzz factor and will likely earn this award recognizing films made for less than $500,000. But in case of an upset, watch for Takeshi Fukunaga’s L.A. Film Fest-winning Out of My Hand.