<p>Natalie Portman accepts her best actress trophy at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.</p>

Natalie Portman accepts her best actress trophy at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

2011 Spirit Awards: The Great, the Good and the Ugly

'Black Swan' has its moment in the cold and thoughts on a new network for the show

Last year Film Independent, the parent organization of the annual Independent Spirit Awards, decided to celebrate the show's 25th year by moving the show to a prime time Friday slot and holding it downtown (well there was a lot more that went into it including a great offer from AEG and pressure from IFC to change the time of the show but that's the nuts and bolts of it)  Unfortunately, holding it downtown meant it still took place in a tent…on top of a parking garage at LA Live (not what many expected when they got their invites).  To make matters worse, the show's host, the incredibly talented Eddie Izzard , had a very off night with a majority of the in person audience.  It was obvious change was needed so the Spirits made a bold move and…went back to Santa Monica.

Like last year, however, there was some confusion about this year's event.  Many of the show's nominees and attendees were unaware that the show was actually going to be taped and not aired live. It embarrassingly came up again and again during conversation in the cocktail hour before the show (embarrassing for the dummies in attendance, not the Spirits).  Of course, it was right there in the letter that accompanied their ticket and IFC has been promoting the show's 10 PM airtime for over a month (so IFC's ratings have been growing, but obviously not enough).  This discomforting realization was just one reason why this year's Spirits were an off kilter mix of freezing temperatures (see below, pt. 1), big stars (click here), well known winners (a complete list) and a first time host who could be on to bigger and better things (see below, pt. 2).  But if anyone from Film Independent is listening out there, it's time to make a change. 

Really.

IFC Films and the IFC network are great supporters of the indie film community.   No one will dispute their contributions, but the Spirits have enough clout and starpower as an established cultural event that they should not become second fiddle to VH1's Critic's Choice Awards or TNT's SAG Awards in the mind of the American populace (you so don't want to compare ratings between the events).  Independent film is part of the lifeblood of Hollywood and our country's culture.  I could write 5,000 words on the influence of indie film on mainstream movies and television, but I'll spare you the gory details.  The point is, the Spirits need a bigger cable home to help it convey its message to a diverse media audience who have more options than ever to watch independent cinema.  If the Spirits are going to be a true showcase for films to be discovered, make a move that best serves that purpose.  IFC is great and McHale was a pleasant surprise, but it's time for a bigger budget, a bigger network and a better overall show.

End of rant.

As for today's event, here's a quick rundown of what I thought was great, good and not-so good about the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.

THE GREAT

"Black Swan" got its moment in the sun
With the Academy Awards an expected battle between "The King's Speech," "The Fighter" and "The Social Network," Fox Searchlight's little $200 million globe hit (and still counting) landed best picture, best director, best actress and best cinematography Spirits.  That's a nice way to end the season for a director and cast who have promoted the film since September.

The enthusiasm of youth
"Tiny Furniture's" Lena Dunham, a best first screenplay winner, and the trio who accepted "Daddy Longlegs" John Cassavettes Award were ecstatic in their wins.  You couldn't help but be happy for them.  They have at least another 5-7 years before they really become jaded in the industry.

Joel McHale has a third career path…if he wants it
Very few doubted McHale couldn't pull off hosting an award show like the spirits, but the "Community" star proved he could be spectacular with the right budget.  His monologue was expertly delivered and he showed charisma and spark that the broadcast of the Spirits had been sorely lacking the bast few years.  Can we suggest an Emmy gig in the near future?

Paul Rudd and Rosario Dawson should make a movie together
Won't spoil it, but the two actors had a well timed deadpan bit that should have made any execs in the audience go, "Hmmmm.  These two have great chemistry together and might make a great pair in a movie." (hint, hint, Mr. Rudd, make it happen)

Jennifer Lawrence
I mean, do we really have to say anything? Enjoy.

THE GOOD

"Exit Through the Gift Shop" wins best documentary
The critically acclaimed film got the spotlight it might not find on Oscar Sunday, but where was Banksy?  At the least we were expecting our cars to be graffitted on or something...

Ben Stiller presents…
Stiller had a nice bit about his honorary chair on the Spirits committee (which we think is the Film Independent board, but I digress…) and then threw the audience for a loop by mentioning Darren Aronofsky's name immediately before opening the envelope for best director. Aronofsky won, thankfully, but it was one of the best award show teases I can ever remember.  Not as funny as his great bit at last year's Spirits, but we'll take it.

James Franco win best actor
We're incredibly happy Franco's fantastic turn in "127 Hours" got recognized with a win, but we just wish his acceptance speech has been a tad more entertaining.  We're officially worried Anne Hathaway may have to carry tomorrow's Oscar show.


THE UGLY

Anybody got a space heater?
You might have heard or seen on twitter, but it was a week bit chilly at the beach this year. The Spirits wanted to return to the beach after a detour downtown for their 25th Anniversary in 2010.  The problem was the weather didn't necessarily cooperate with the show's return.  It could have been worst and been cold and rained, but instead, the windy beach combined with 50ish temps and no heaters had even presenters complaining.

2012 In Memoriam Segment
Whomever thought doing a comedy bit where you put the camera on members of the audience and then suggested how they might die in the last year is an idiot.  There's nothing wrong with being the irreverent and "out there" awards show, but that showed a complete and utter lack of taste and class (fine, we laughed at the Jesse Eisenberg being killed by Michael Cera bit, but still).

Mark Ruffalo will end award season winless
There is little chance "The Kids Are All Right" will win the best supporting actor Oscar tomorrow, so the Spirits were his last chance to bring something home this season.  No dice.

Wait, there are commercial breaks?
Considering how a majority of the Spirit audience has probably been to more awards shows than you've been to Disneyland (or Disney World), it was strange how unprepared the group was for the addition of commercial breaks to what traditional has been a straight through show.  McHale had to plead numerous time that the audience sit down and some presenters were trying to speak over loud crowd noise.  The show and whomever produces it needs to figure out a better way to handle it next year.

For more on this year's Spirit Awards, check out Dan Fienberg's live blog of the, um, taped show.

The entire HitFix crew will be back tomorrow with monitor to monitor coverage of the 83rd Academy Awards.  Aren't you excited?

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<p>Host Joel McHale ponders the meaning of the Independent Spirit Awards as they return to Santa Monica in a promo for IFC.</p>

Host Joel McHale ponders the meaning of the Independent Spirit Awards as they return to Santa Monica in a promo for IFC.

Credit: IFC

Independent Spirit Awards Preview: Predictions and a conversation with Dawn Hudson

Will 'Black Swan' or 'Winter's Bone' celebrate on the beach?

Most of the media is focusing on the Academy Awards on Sunday, but a majority of them will also be at the Santa Monica Pier Saturday as most of Hollywood turns out -- rain or shine -- for the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.  This pundit will be there in person and share my thoughts on the show via twitter (follow me at @HitFixGregory) ahd in this blog immediately after.  HitFix's own Dan Fienberg will be live blogging the "taped" show hosted by Joel McHale that will air at 10 PM ET/PT on IFC.  The always irreverent event actually occurs at 2 PM PT, but there are promises the taped version will not be edited (fingers crossed).

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<p>&quot;The King's Speech&quot; is expected to dominate Oscar.</p>

"The King's Speech" is expected to dominate Oscar.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Final predictions for the 83rd Academy Awards: A 'King' shall lead them

Winners and upsets in all 24 categories

After six months of film festivals, pseudo award shows, real award shows, cocktail parties, Q&A's, repetitive profile pieces, millions spent in for your consideration ads, special events and enough red carpets to cover the globe 100 times, the 2010-2011 awards season will finally come to a close with the 83rd Academy Awards this Sunday.

Having chronicled the ups and downs of this awards season ad nauseum it's somewhat of a relief that there should still be some surprises Sunday night.  Is best supporting actress really up for grabs?  Can "The King's Speech" win best picture without winning editing or director? Will Annette Bening spoil Natalie Portman's expected best actress win?  Frankly, none of those interesting scenarios may come to pass and the show may be a bore.  And yet, every year, there are always upsets that make you realize, "Of course!  How could we not have realized everyone in town thinks Jason Reitman is a douche?"  Er, um, perhaps that was just last year after "Precious" upset "Up in the Air" for adapted screenplay, but you get the point.

So, without further delay, here's a rundown of my final predictions for all 24 categories for this year's 83rd Academy Awards. 

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<p>Your contenders:&nbsp;Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Kidman and Annette Bening.</p>

Your contenders: Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Kidman and Annette Bening.

Credit: AMPAS

Oscar Predictions: Will a 'Black Swan' or Hollywood legend win best actress?

Is this an upset category or just a figment of the media's imagination?

2010 was actually a pretty impressive year for the leading ladies in the best actress category. Especially when you consider that acclaimed performances by Tilda Swinton, Leslie Manville, Carey Mulligan and Julianne Moore didn't make the cut.  Moreover, unlike best actor or best supporting actor, there is actually a chance for an upset.  Whether that possibility is being overinflated by the press remains to be seen, but it's certainly made the frontrunner's camp a tad nervous.  With that in mind, let's review this year's field shall we?

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<p>Your best actor nominees:&nbsp;Javier Bardem, James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges.</p>

Your best actor nominees: Javier Bardem, James Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges.

Credit: AMPAS

Oscar Predictions: A 'King' will be crowned best actor

The biggest slam dunk of the night

Every year there always seems to be one or two categories that is a foregone conclusion.  Now matter how some members of the media try to spin it, there is no drama, no suspense and even the other nominees know they aren't going to win the day the nominations were announced.  Those honorees are just dressing up and enjoying the show.  Welcome then, to the best actor race for the 83rd Academy Awards.  Before getting to the obvious winner, let's respect the other nominees and review the field, shall we?

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<p>Your nominees: Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Jacki Weaver, Hailee Steinfeld and Amy Adams.</p>

Your nominees: Helena Bonham Carter, Melissa Leo, Jacki Weaver, Hailee Steinfeld and Amy Adams.

Credit: AMPAS

Oscar Predictions: Get ready for a 'True' upset in best supporting actress

The most contentious category of them all

If you had asked any awards season consultant, publicist or pundit last month what the most competitive category was this year, very few would have said best supporting actress.  Two things changed all that and changed it quickly.  The first was Melissa Leo's increasingly odd behavior (more on that later) and the second was the growing praise for Hailee Steinfeld's performance in the unexpected blockbuster "True Grit."  Even Helen Bonham Cater started to be seen as potential benefactor of a potential "King's Speech" sweep.  So, in just a few weeks the race went from being a slamdunk for Leo to a wide open contest.  Yes, it's amazing how the tide turns in Oscar land.

Keeping that in mind, let's review this year's nominees, shall we?

You probably hadn't heard of her before the nominations were announced, but in Australia Jackie Weaver is an acting legend.  She counts famous Aussies such as Nicole Kidman, Toni Collette and Cate Blanchett as fans, but finally got her chance to shine for American moviegoers in the indie thriller "Animal Kingdom."  She won't win Oscar, but a consolation prize of finally appearing on Broadway -- a lifelong dream of Weaver's -- may be just around the corner.

It's been a long time between nominations for Helena Bonham Carter, but ditching all the makeup of Tim Burton's films and playing the Queen Mum in "The King's Speech" reminded Academy members just how talented she really is. This year - Carter is hoping to land her first Oscar by benefiting from a groundswell of support for Harvey Weinstein's Oscar friendly drama.

Most critic's felt newcomer Hailee Steinfeld stole the show from her more established co-stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in "True Grit."  Of course, many competing publicists would snark that the 14-year-old's performance should be in the best actress category.  That may be true, but Steinfeld is poised to join Tatum O'neal and Anna Paquin as underage Academy Award winners.

As for Amy Adams, is the third time the charm? Previously nominated for "Junebug" and "Doubt," Adams gave an inspired turn as Micky Ward's future wife in "The Fighter," but has mostly been overshadowed by her co-star, Melissa Leo.

Leo is returning to the big dance after having been nominated in the best actress category for "Frozen River."  She's been the presumed frontrunner after winning the Golden Globe and SAG Award in this category, but had something of a public relations disaster after taking the unconventional route of running her own, non-studio sanctioned campaign ads.  The problem was amplified by Leo continuing to discuss the ads in interviews instead of simply letting the story fade away. Have a few glamour shots ruined Leo's chances at Oscar glory?

Amazingly, yes.

Winner: Haille Steinfeld for "True Grit." Not only is the young star deserving, but Leo's odd behavior may have just been too much for some voters.

Upset Contender: If Steinfeld doesn't win, don't be surprised to see either Amy Adams or Helena Bonham Carter accepting their first Academy Awards.

We'll find out the results when the 83rd Academy Awards are announced this Sunday at 8 PM ET/ 5 PM PT on ABC.  Visit HitFix for full coverage including red carpet galleries, a live blog of the show, best and worst, analysis, red carpet rewind and more.

Other Awards Campaign predictions:

Best Supporting Actor

Predict the Oscars and you can win a brand new iPad.  Check your picks against other players and more. Play today.

Click here for to download a printable version of the Oscar ballot.

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<p>Halle Berry arrives at the 13th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.</p>

Halle Berry arrives at the 13th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

'Black Swan,' 'King's Speech' and 'Alice in Wonderland' wear Costume Designer Guild Awards well

'Glee,' 'Boardwalk Empire' and 'Temple Grandin' lead TV winners

The Academy Awards are only four days away, but one last guild award show had its moment in the spotlight Tuesday evening as the Costume Designers honored the best in their field in movies and television.  

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<p>The two top contenders to win the Oscar for best supporting actor:&nbsp;Geoffrey Rush and Christian Bale.</p>

The two top contenders to win the Oscar for best supporting actor: Geoffrey Rush and Christian Bale.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Oscar Predictions: A 'Dark Knight' rises for best supporting actor

Can an actor not campaign and still win?

The ballots for this year's Oscars are all in and being counted which means that after a long awards season its time to begin a rundown of final predictions.  First up is the best supporting actor category and a showdown that should bit "The Fighter's" Christian Bale versus "The King's Speech's" Geoffrey Rush.  That being said, let's take a quick look at all of this year's nominees, shall we?

[Note: You can also find watch a rundown of all the nominees with predictions and upsets in the video embedded at the top of this post.]

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<p>A shot taken outside the Kodak Theater as works prepare the red carpet for the 83rd Academy Awards.</p>

A shot taken outside the Kodak Theater as works prepare the red carpet for the 83rd Academy Awards.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

That's a wrap: Oscar voting is officially over

Now the real speculation begins

Aren't you glad that's over?  At 5 PM PT today, polls finally closed for the 83rd Academy Awards.  No more ads. No more Q&A's.  No more last minute calls to scrounge up votes.  The membership has cast their ballots with all to be revealed this Sunday night at the Kodak Theater. Now, publicists, nominees and the media can take a nice breather (well, not really) until the big show.

Perhaps it's just my perspective, but it feels like the drumbeat was growing louder than ever to move the whole process back a few weeks.  The Academy considered this over the past year but tabled it, partially waiting to see what happens with the NFL's hope of expanding their season by two games which might put the Super Bowl and Oscar on the same weekend.  Meanwhile, the process has just become too long for the aforementioned contenders, publicists and jouros who cover it on a daily basis.  The problem is, you can easily argue the two month January and February season is a boost at the box office (and arguably DVD and Blu-ray sales or earlier releases).

As of Monday, "The King's Speech" has grossed $104 million domestically and $235 million worldwide.  "Black Swan" has just hit $101 million and $199 million worldwide.  "The Fighter" is at $88 million and $105 million worldwide.  Even "Blue Valentine," in a story which is barely being reported, has hit $8.9 million in the U.S. (if you had predicted "Valentine" would gross $10 million after its Sundance premiere in 2010 people would have rolled their eyes at you).  No one would argue that these titles haven't benefited from being in the awards season game and their subsequent nominations.  As a quick example, on the day of the Oscar nominations, Jan. 25, "The King's Speech" had made just $59 million and had technically gone nationwide in over 1,500 theaters.  12 nominations later and it will have found another $50 million by Oscar Sunday.  And this isn't just the results this year.  Ever season finds at least three to five titles who benefit from playing the Oscar game.  So, if the NFL does move the Super Bowl close to Oscar's date and the Academy doesn't blink, remember, it's all about the Benjamins.

But, I digress…

With voting over we actually have some big questions to ponder before the big show (really).

Did Melissa Leo really blow her chances at a best supporting actress win?
Methinks yes.

Can Annette Bening make a last minute push to upset Natalie Portman for best actress?
Probably not, but it's not a reach.

Could Aaron Sorkin suffer Jason Reitman's fate last year and lose best adapted screenplay after winning every other prize?
No, he has enough friends in the building.

Will Banksy be in the building and accept best documentary if "Exit Through The Gift Shop" wins?
You can't convince us AMPAS and the producers have some weird deal in case he wins.  Perhaps he accepts by Skype or something.

Could "Inception" actually end the night with the most wins?
You betcha. Although, probably tied with "The King's Speech" though.

And most importantly…

Will James Franco sing?
After this recent rehearsal, let's hope not.

For some of my early predictions, check out HitFix's special Oscar promotion with Hulu here. I'll be going more indepth with predictions the major categories over the next few days.

T-minus five days and counting…

Predict the Oscars and you can win a brand new iPad.  Check your picks against other players and more. Play today.

Click here for to download a printable version of the Oscar ballot.

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<p>James Franco's official or current Twitter image.</p>

James Franco's official or current Twitter image.

Credit: James Franco

Oscar Watch: James Franco sings Cher's 'You Haven't Seen The Last of Me'

Find out why the song gets cut from Sunday's show

It's no secret that this year's Academy Awards show will have some sort of musical number. How could it not with Anne Hathaway co-hosting and Hugh Jackman the first presenter announced?  The big question was whether co-host James Franco would show off his singing voice on the big show.  Technically, that question still has to be answered, but Franco revealed on Twitter this evening that one potential number has been cut.

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