The 2017 Independent Spirit Awards are upon us and beyond the anticipation of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney hosting the 32nd annual indie film shindig, there is actual suspense over who will take home the top prizes.

Over the past decade or so, the casual chic Spirits have featured many of the nominated films battling for the glamorous Academy Awards just the next day. This year there is some obvious duplication with “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Hell or High Water” all earning key nods, but there is a lot more variation in the nominees than many would have expected. Still, there are two major rules to keep in mind when considering how the membership of Film Independent (an organization anyone can pay to join) will vote.

Historically, the nominee from the film with the highest box office gross almost always wins. In fact, in 31 years, a lower grossing picture has only won the Best Film award twice. The first time was in 2012 when “The Artist” ($44 million) beat “The Descendants” ($82 million) and the second time was two years ago when “Birdman” ($42 million) won over “Selma” ($52 million). And it’s generally the rule in the other categories as well.

Now, when voters come across a category where they don’t recognize a majority of the nominees (say Best Supporting Female this year) they will likely vote for the performance that has received the most buzz or awards attention. It’s extremely rare these days that a winner comes out of nowhere to take a Spirit.

Keeping all that in mind, here are some Spirit Award predictions for you to ponder.

BEST FEATURE

“American Honey”
Producers: Thomas Benski, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Lucas Ochoa, Pouya Shahbazian, Alice Weinberg

“Chronic”
Producers: Michel Franco, Gina Kwon, Gabriel Ripstein, Moisés Zonana

“Jackie”
Producers: Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin, Ari Handel, Juan de Dios Larraín, Mickey Liddell

Manchester by the Sea
Producers: Lauren Beck, Matt Damon, Chris Moore, Kimberly Steward,
Kevin J. Walsh

“Moonlight”
Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Adele Romanski

Who Will Win: “Moonlight”
Who Should Win: “Moonlight”
Upset: “Manchester by the Sea”
Ponder: In theory “Manchester” should win because its the highest grossing film among the nominees, but something tells us “Moonlight” will come through at the end.

BEST FIRST FEATURE
(Award given to the director and producer)

“The Childhood of a Leader”
Director: Brady Corbet Producers: Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, Chris Coen, Ron Curtis, Helena Danielsson, Mona Fastvold, István Major

“The Fits”
Director/Producer: Anna Rose Holmer
Producer: Lisa Kjerulff

“Other People”
Director: Chris Kelly Producers: Sam Bisbee, Adam Scott, Naomi Scott

“Swiss Army Man”
Directors: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Producers: Miranda Bailey, Lawrence Inglee, Lauren Mann, Amanda Marshall, Eyal Rimmon, Jonathan Wang

“The Witch”
Director: Robert Eggers
Producers: Daniel Bekerman, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Rodrigo Teixeira

Who Will Win: “The Witch”
Who Should Win: “The Fits”
Upset: “Other People” or “Swiss Army Man”
Ponder: Robert Eggers horror hit should take this prize, but you could argue beyond an expertly played opening weekend it didn’t play in theaters as well as some of the rest of the competition.  Still the most recognizable nominee for voters, though.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.

“Free In Deed”
Writer/Director: Jake Mmhaffy Producers: Mike Bowes, Mike S. Ryan, Brent Stiefel

“Hunter Gatherer”
Writer/Director: Josh Locy Producers: Michael Covino, April Lamb, Sara Murphy, Isaiah Smallman

“Lovesong”
Writer/Director: So Yong Kim Writer/Producer: Bradley Rust Gray Producers: David Hansen, Alex Lipschultz, Johnny Mac

“Nakom”
Writer/Director/Producer: TW Pittman Director/Producer: Kelly Daniela Norris Writer/Producer: Isaac Adakudugu Producer: Giovanni Ximénez

“Spa Night”
Writer/Director: Andrew Ahn Producers: David Ariniello, Giulia Caruso, Ki Jin Kim, Kelly Thomas

Who Will Win: “Spa Night”
Who Should Win: “Spa Night”
Upset: “Lovesong”
Ponder: None of these movies did well even at the art house box office, but “Spa Night’s” critical notoriety should give it the edge.  Maybe.

BEST DIRECTOR

Andrea Arnold, “American Honey”

Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight”

Pablo Larraín, “Jackie”

Jeff Nichols, “Loving”

Kelly Reichardt, “Certain Women”

Who Will Win: Barry Jenkins
Who Should Win: Barry Jenkins
Upset: Andrea Arnold
Ponder: Jenkins should win this although pretty much all the other nominees have a shot.

BEST SCREENPLAY

Barry Jenkins, Story By Tarell Alvin McCraney, “Moonlight”

Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea”

Mike Mills, “20th Century Women”

Ira Sachs & Mauricio Zacharias, “Little Men”

Taylor Sheridan, “Hell or High Water”

Who Will Win: Kenneth Longergan
Who Should Win: Taylor Sheridan or Mike Mills
Upset: Barry Jenkins
Ponder: Jenkins did beat Lonergan at the WGA Awards this past weekend, but something tells us the membership will want to reward “Manchester” beyond a Casey Affleck Male Lead win.  Sheridan or Mills winning here would be nice consolation to two writers who crafted superb screenplays and have nothing to show for it in terms of award season so far.

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Robert Eggers, “The Witch”

Chris Kelly, “Other People”

Adam Mansbach, “Barry”

Stella Meghie, “Jean of the Joneses”

Craig Shilowich, “Christine”

Who Will Win: Chris Kelly
Who Should Win: Kelly or Robert Eggers
Upset: Robert Eggers
Ponder: Again, way more members saw “The Witch” than “Other People.” It might not matter considering if there is enough passion behind the latter.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Ava Berkofsky, “Free In Deed”

Lol Crawley, “The Childhood of a Leader”

Zach Kuperstein, “The Eyes of My Mother”

James Laxton, “Moonlight”

Robbie Ryan, “American Honey”

Who Will Win: James Laxton
Who Should Win: James Laxton
Upset: Robbie Ryan
Ponder: This race is very, very close.  Ryan could win, but the Oscar nominated “Moonlight” should take it.

  • Pedro

    I don’t think Portman is better than Huppert or Stone.

    She is excellent in Jackie, but her acting brought no passion in me. A beautiful technical performance worthy of nominations, not wins in such a rich field.

  • Derrick

    Lonergan is NOT going to win Screenplay! This is Barry Jenkins name written on it!