Three of the Oscar acting frontrunners, Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards”) and Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), are up for Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, and all but Janney are predicted to win in our combined odds. But those who are looking for an upset by Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) in Best Supporting Actress might want to reconsider, because the Independent Spirit Awards have progressively become less independent in choosing their acting winners.
Needless to say, there isn’t a perfect overlap in nominees between the Spirit Awards and the Oscars, and only 23 Spirit winners across all four categories have gone on to win the Oscar the next day. But a majority of those winners have occurred since 2000. Here they are by category:
2005: Philip Seymour Hoffman, “Capote”
2009: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
2011: Jean Dujardin, “The Artist”
2013: Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
2016: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea”
1985: Geraldine Page, “The Trip to Bountiful”
1996: Frances McDormand, “Fargo”
1999: Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”
2003: Charlize Theron, “Monster”
2010: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
2012: Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
2013: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”
2014: Julianne Moore, “Still Alice”
2015: Brie Larson, “Room”
Best Supporting Actor
2006: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
2011: Christopher Plummer, “Beginners”
2013: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”
2014: J.K. Simmons, “Whiplash”
Best Supporting Actress
1994: Dianne Wiest, “Bullets Over Broadway”
2008: Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
2009: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
2013: Lupita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave”
2014: Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood”
2013 was the first year all four winners matched between the Spirits and the Oscars. 2014 produced three of four, with Best Actor Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”) AWOL at the Spirits, which awarded his chief rival Michael Keaton (“Birdman”). This year will probably go three-for-four as well, with the ineligible Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) taking the Oscar over predicted Spirit winner Timothee Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”).
The eventual Oscar winners didn’t always win when eligible and nominated at the Spirits. Sean Penn (“Dead Man Walking”) beat Oscar winner Nicolas Cage (“Leaving Las Vegas”) for Best Actor 22 years ago. The reverse happened to him 13 years later when Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler”) edged Penn (“Milk”) in one of the closest Best Actor races in recent memory. Penn is the last Oscar nominee to lose the Spirit to another Oscar nominee, but go on to win the Oscar.
Oscar winners James Coburn (1998’s “Affliction”) and Marcia Gay Harden (2000’s “Pollock”) lost the Spirit Awards to non-Oscar nominees Bill Murray (“Rushmore”) and Zhang Ziyi (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), respectively, though neither Coburn nor Harden were runaway Oscar favorites. The Spirits also gave Best Supporting Actor to Benicio del Toro for “The Usual Suspects” (1995) and didn’t even nominate his co-star Kevin Spacey, who won the Oscar. And there have been many years in the ‘90s where there wasn’t an Oscar nominee in sight in an acting category.
What happened to that independent way of thinking? The changing industry and Oscar tastes — big studio movies don’t dominate the Oscars like they used to — are major factors, but it also feels like Spirit Awards, like many precursors, are content to move in lockstep with one another and just want to go with the frontrunners. While Spirit Awards nominations are determined by committee — leading to weird snubs like no Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) in Best Director and “The Shape of Water” MIA completely — the entire membership votes for the winners, which is more likely to generate rubber-stamping.
The Spirit Awards will make another non-Oscar-predictive pick one day — maybe it is Metcalf — but it’s clear that ol’ saying “Win on Saturday, lose on Sunday” doesn’t really apply anymore.
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions so that Hollywood insiders can see how their films and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on March 4. And join in the fierce debate over the 2018 Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our movie forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.