Will 2019 Independent Spirit Award winners be the top Oscar contenders yet again?

The Film Independent Spirit Awards have seen their choices reflected heavily on the Oscars in recent years, and this upcoming award season may be no exception. This very decade we saw the winner of Best Feature at the Indie Spirits be crowned Best Picture at the Oscars (“12 Years a Slave,” “Birdman,” “Spotlight,” “Moonlight”), on top of many of the same acting winners like, most recently, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney. Even if the eventual Oscar winner isn’t nominated at the Spirit Awards due to eligibility, we’ve often seen the nominee with the most Oscar heat win at the Spirits. This year’s Spirit Awards nominations look more independent than ever, but will the pattern of voters being drawn to the biggest Oscar players continue nonetheless?

The Independent Spirit Award noms for Best Feature are “Eighth Grade,” “First Reformed,” “If Beale Street Could Talk,” “Leave No Trace” and “You Were Never Really Here.” Of those, only “If Beale Street Could Talk” has heat for Best Picture and numerous other categories according to Oscar experts. “First Reformed” is right behind, but only as an acting and screenplay possibility. Should “If Beale Street Could Talk” go on to earn that Best Picture nomination and other major nods, it is probably the top contender for the Best Feature prize, especially since it will likely be the most seen and recognized by Spirit Award voters. Last year we saw the Best Feature award go to “Get Out,” which, despite not going on to win Best Picture, was the most in the hunt to do so, even over fellow indie-friendly nominees like “Call Me by Your Name” and “Lady Bird.”

Looking at the acting nominees, there is a clear top Oscar contender in each category at the upcoming Spirit Awards: Ethan Hawke (“First Reformed”) in Best Male Lead, Glenn Close (“The Wife”) in Best Female Lead, Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”) in Best Supporting Male and Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”) in Best Supporting Female. Close, Grant and King are solidly in their respective categories at the Oscars according to Gold Derby odds, while Hawke is in sixth for the Best Actor category but decidedly ahead of his other competition at the Indie Spirits. It’s likely that these four could win their respective categories, especially if some of them go on a run of televised awards during Spirit Award voting, giving them further attention. Spirit Award acting nominees who are also nominated at the Oscars have won over non-Oscar nominees in every acting category over the past five years, with the one exception being Ben Foster (“Hell or High Water”), who won Best Supporting Male over Oscar nominee Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”) at the 2017 ceremony.

The boom of independent film being widely accepted by the Oscars over the past few decades has led to the Independent Spirit Awards feeling more and more like a precursor with each passing year. Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, an Academy vice president, even noted while discussing the controversial “Best Popular Film” Oscar that, “at a certain point, the Oscars were drifting into becoming the Independent Spirit Awards.”

While the Oscar nominations announcement is a few months away, this year’s Spirit Award nominees certainly drift from what people are expecting from the Academy. At least one major Oscar contender is present in each major category at the Indie Spirits, but considering King is the only one being predicted by experts to win the Oscar of those contenders, we could at least see some difference in winners this time around.

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