Spirit Awards nominations: What to look for on Tuesday

This year's Oscar best picture race continues to be defined as a clash between fall festival favorites "12 Years a Slave" and "Gravity."

"Gravity" has made headlines in recent weeks for its eye-popping box-office numbers with receipts now exceeding $575 million worldwide. But on Tuesday, it will be "12 Years'" turn to stand in the spotlight when Film Independent announces its list of nominations for its annual Spirit Awards.

It's a safe bet that the acclaimed historical drama will steamroll through the Spirits, securing nominations for film, director Steve McQueen, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o and writer John Ridley. The attention, likely to be duplicated in the coming weeks when critics groups announce their year-end awards and Golden Globe nominees are revealed, should help "12 Years" remain in moviegoers' thoughts during a crowded holiday season at the multiplex.

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Other things to anticipate when Spirit Award nominations are announced at 10 a.m. PST Tuesday:

Actor overlap: This year's Oscar lead actor front-runners can be found, for the most part, in independent films. In addition to "12 Years'" Ejiofor, you have the two 77-year-old legends — Robert Redford ("All Is Lost") and Bruce Dern ("Nebraska") — and Matthew McConaughey in "Dallas Buyers Club." All four could make it in or Spirit voters could take the opportunity to recognize two actors equally deserving: "Fruitvale Station's" Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Isaac from the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." (Maybe he'd bring his guitar to the show?)

And though voters have veered toward mainstream choices when handing out the trophies in recent years ("Silver Linings Playbook" dominated last year), the nominees usually sport a left-field choice or two, which could mean recognition for Isaiah Washington ("Blue Caprice") or young "Mud" lead Tye Sheridan.

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Speaking of "Mud" ... : It's one of a handful of great movies that might really find a boost from some Spirit love. "Mud" premiered earlier this year, as did Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," and academy members could use a reminder that these are movies worth finding or revisiting. And as Oscar voters' stack of DVD screeners grows perilously high, current films like "Nebraska," "Dallas Buyers Club" and, especially, J.C. Chandor's brilliant survival tale "All Is Lost," might immediately be shuffled to the top of the pile with some Spirit headlines.

Spirit Award specials: The beautifully layered drama "Short Term 12" and the soulfully honest "The Spectacular Now" should be Spirit powerhouses, and we'd expect their stars, Brie Larson and Shailene Woodley, to be among Tuesday's nominees. And voters will remember Shane Carruth's self-financed sci-fi drama "Upstream Color," right? Movies don't come more independent or transcendent than Carruth's extraordinary follow-up to "Primer."


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