What do Indie Spirit Awards mean for Oscars?

What did the Independent Spirit Awards tell us about the Oscars?

(For the complete list of winners, click here.)

These kudos can’t influence tomorrow night’s Oscars because the academy’s deadline for ballots has passed. And, as in the past, the Indie Spirits went to the strongest Oscar contenders among their nominees. 

Granted, they nominated more Oscar frontrunners than usual this year, but that probably tells us more about the decreasing independence of the Indie Spirits than it does about the Oscars.

So, the Indie Spirits showed us what we already knew:

12 Years a Slave” is a top contender for Best Picture. It didn’t have to worry about “Gravity” or “American Hustle” here because they cost too much to qualify for these kudos.

Best Female Lead Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine“) and Best Supporting Male Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club“) are still virtual locks in their Oscar categories.

And Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years”) had pretty much a free ride in the Supporting Female race without Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”) in the mix.

RELATEDIndie Spirits preview Oscars: ’12 Years a Slave,’,McConaughey, Blanchett, Leto

If there was one major category whose result didn’t seem like a foregone conclusion, it was Best Male Lead, where Oscar frontrunner Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”) faced off against Oscar rivals Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years”) and Bruce Dern (“Nebraska“). Though there might have been some suspense there, McConaughey prevailed as expected, so there are no new insights to take away.

There is one Oscar category on which the Indie Spirits changed my mind: Best Documentary Feature. I’ve been wavering on the category for weeks now, and have finally joined the exodus of pundits who have switched from “The Act of Killing” to “20 Feet from Stardom.” The latter’s heavy campaigning combined with its feel-good story guarantees that more voters will watch it. And since voters only have to “attest” to watching all the films, it’s certainly possible some academy members will skip the dark “Act of Killing” and vote anyway. But switching that prediction is as much an act of emotional self-defense. I liked “20 Feet,” but I’m strongly rooting for “Act of Killing” or “The Square.” If I’m right my predictions get a boost. But if I’m wrong, I can celebrate a victory for one of my favorites. Win-win.

I do wish the Indie Spirit Awards would nominate smaller films — they’re more interesting when they single out truly under-the-radar films like “Keep the Lights On” last year — but that said it’s nice to see “12 Years a Slave” sweep an awards show for once. Director Steve McQueen has gotten lost in the shuffle, overshadowed by the undoubtedly deserving Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”), who wasn’t eligible at the Spirits.

Will “12 Years” repeat its Spirit Award win at the Oscars? Predict Best Picture below:

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