Indie Spirit Award predictions: Indie darlings Tom McCarthy (‘Spotlight’) & Todd Haynes (‘Carol’) battle for Best Director

tom mccarthy todd haynes spotlight carol independent spirit awards

The Independent Spirit Award for Best Director has gone to an Oscar nominee for Best Director for the last six years. The last disconnect was in 2008, when there was no overlap between the Spirit and Oscar lineups (incidentially, that award went to “The Visitor” helmer Tom McCarthy, a nominee again this year for “Spotlight“). Actually, in years when there has been an Oscar-nominated director in contention, they always win at the Spirit Awards.

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That should be good news for McCarthy this year. He’s the only Spirit nominee for Best Director who has a corresponding Oscar bid. Indeed, he is the frontrunner to win this award according our combined predictions.

We polled Expert film journalists, Editors who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, the Top 24 Users who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Spirit winners and more than 1,000 total Users who make up our largest and often savviest bloc of predictors.

Ten out of 12 experts making their predictions are betting on McCarthy, giving him 1/3 odds: Matt Atchity (Rotten Tomatoes), Edward Douglas (Weekend Warrior), Tariq Khan (Fox News), Jack Mathews (Gold Derby), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Keith Simanton (IMDB), Anne Thompson (Thompson on Hollywood), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Adnan Virk (ESPN) and Susan Wloszczyna (

The last two experts, Joyce Eng (TV Guide) and Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), are betting on Todd Haynes for “Carol,” giving him 4/1 odds. Could they be right?

This award is tricky to forecast because both McCarthy and Haynes are both Spirit Awards darlings. In addition to his victory for “The Visitor,” McCarthy has already won the Robert Altman Award along with the ensemble cast of “Spotlight.” He also won the John Cassavetes Award and Best First Screenplay for “The Station Agent” (2003) and earned another writing bid for “Win Win” (2011).

Haynes, meanwhile, has won Best Director for “Far From Heaven” (2002) as well as the Robert Altman Award for “I’m Not There” (2007). His directing bid for “Carol” is his sixth in this category, so if anyone can overcome this category’s bias towards Oscar contenders, it’s Haynes. It doesn’t hurt that “Carol” has more nominations (six) than any other film at the Spirit Awards.

Our editors are also split between these two directors. Four out of six of us are betting on McCarthy: Chris Beachum, Marcus Dixon, O’Neil and myself. Rob Licuria and Sheehan say it will be Haynes.

Sixteen of our Top 24 Users are also backing McCarthy, compared to six for Haynes and two going out on a limb for Cary Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation“).

None of our experts, editors or top users are predicting the remaining three nominees: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson (“Anomalisa“), Sean Baker (“Tangerine“) or David Robert Mitchell (“It Follows“).

Experts’ Oscar predictions: ‘The Revenant’ for Best Picture, Director, Actor

Who do you think will win?

Make your Spirit Award predictions beginning with Best Director to the right or below. Just log into your Gold Derby account (or you can register for a free account via Facebook, Twitter or Google) and then start casting your votes.

You’ll compete to win a $100 Amazon gift certificate as well as a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Spirit winners). Be sure to read our contest rules.

Gold Derby readers just like YOU often turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, so it’s important that you give us your predictions. You can continue to update and change your forecasts, just click “Save Predictions” when you’ve settled on your choice.

Photo credits: Tom McCarthy by Variety/REX; Todd Haynes and Cate Blanchett by Weinstein Company

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