Hollywood has officially begun its countdown to the 2019 Oscars with the announcement of the Independent Spirit Awards (ISA) nominations.
The Spirit Awards are often seen as a precursor to Academy Awards success – just last year, winners Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell went on to win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
So we thought we'd take a closer look at some of this year's most significant nods...
Is Glenn Close an Oscar favourite for The Wife?
The closest rival to Lady Gaga's Best Actress crown this year is looking increasingly like Glenn Close, who stuns as a long-suffering spouse in The Wife, and has now been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. The moving drama casts Close as the spouse of a somewhat pompous writer set to win a Nobel Prize, and she's won unanimous acclaim for her subtle, piercing performance.
Given Gaga's performance in A Star is Born has been shut out of the Independent Spirit nominations (on the basis it isn't an indie movie), Close's chance at an Oscar has just increased. In spite of her astonishing 35-year career she's never nabbed an Oscar before, so she may also emerge as a sentimental favourite in this year's race.
What about Hereditary star Toni Collette?
If we're talking about dark horse contenders for the Best Actress Oscar, let's not rule out Toni Collette. The versatile Australian star stunned critics and audiences with her disturbing, captivating performance as a damaged mother in supernatural horror Hereditary, which emerged as a major indie horror hit for distributor A24.
Collette's visceral performance, widely regarded as one of 2018's greatest, has been the subject of much conversation and buzz. Add to this her Independent Spirit Award nod and Collette suddenly jumped up the rankings.
Will Carey Mulligan emerge as an Oscar favourite for Wildlife?
Despite much critical acclaim for Paul Dano's directorial debut Wildlife, the awards conversation around the movie has so far failed to ignite. This is a real shame as the movie has a lot going for it – adapted from Richard Ford's novel about a disintegrating 1960s suburban family, it's beautifully designed and acted with real conviction.
The bulk of the acting fireworks reside with a career-best Carey Mulligan, superb as the isolated wife and mother compelled to question her status as a woman and matriarch. Given she's now been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, maybe Mulligan will emerge as a late bloomer in this year's Oscar competition.
Is If Beale Street Could Talk emerging as an Oscar favourite?
Director Barry Jenkins follows up the luminous, Best Picture-winning Moonlight with another tender, exquisitely observed love story in the form of If Beale Street Could Talk. This powerful drama is adapted from James Baldwin's 1974 novel about a young Harlem couple whose life is torn apart by the spectre of prison and racial injustice.
If Beale Street Could Talk (released in the UK on 8th February 2019) has swept the Independent Spirit Awards nominations, grabbing recognition for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Supporting Female (Regina King), which, coupled with Jenkins' Moonlight prestige, could well position him as an Oscar frontrunner come February.
Will Adam Driver be a surprise Best Supporting Actor candidate for BlacKkKlansman?
Spike Lee's fiercely impassioned BlacKkKlansman is nothing less than a state of the world address, utilising a humorous buddy cop structure and retro 70s setting to ask troubling questions about present day racial injustice.
As a film, it may be too controversial for the infamously conservative Oscar voters to handle, but the Independent Spirit Awards have seen fit to nominated Adam Driver for Best Supporting Male. The Star Wars actor is on scene-stealing form as the white police officer forced to go undercover in the Ku Klux Klan – it's the sort of sly, topical and impactful performance that may well translate into eventual Oscars success.
The Independent Spirit Awards get underway on 23rd February 2019 – the day before the Oscars. Who do you think could emerge as a surprise Oscar nominee this year? Tweet us your suggestions @Cineworld.