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This week has seen the release of the Independent Spirit Awards, and the first official screenings of the two last big dogs in the Oscar race: American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street.

As for the ISAs, for those looking for Oscar tells, that’s not really how it works. The top five nominees are 12 Years a Slave, All Is Lost, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska. It’s possible that two or three of these will also get best picture nods, but Frances Ha is a no, and All is Lost seems a no (unless screeners change voters minds, which they could). Llewyn could because the academy has loved the Coens before, but this may be outside their wheelhouse, while Nebraska is still gaining momentum.

As a huge Short Term 12 booster, the few nominations that picture got are heartening, and it’s possible that Brie Larson could get an Oscar nomination if the company behind it puts a lot of money into it. They’ll need screeners, and parties and getting Larson out there because that’s how the game works for the big show, and it’s possible they can’t/won’t be to afford that. The sad truth of award season is that Warner Brothers can send everyone in the guilds copies of their films, while for many the decision to press for awards may lead to more exposure, but it could also cut into profitability, and if the film has already left theaters, there’s not much of a win to getting that attention. Alas.

American Hustle screened and reactions have been all over the place. Often it seems that the people who get to see these films this early get too wrapped up in the award stuff to see the relative quality as there’s a sense they’re judging it’s Oscar possibilities over relative quality. It’s not fair to judge people’s biases, etc. But without consensus, it often leads to cagier responses. Reticence to stick flags. Wolf also screened, but it seems just in New York, as the film is just about finished. But right now it’s impossible to tell if it’s a real player.

Right now, with a little over a month to go before the end of the year, it’s fair to say that Gravity and 12 Years are as close to locks as humanly possible.   After that it’s hard to say. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty seems a bust, though it could be an audience favorite, Lone Survivor could sneak in there, but it’s been getting some strong pans, and so the playing field keeps getting smaller, which is good news for Nebraska. But there’s no sense if Hustle or Wolf are alpha dogs, or just good enough. And that’s where it gets interesting. But the field is narrowing by the day, as it must.

What surprise nomination would you like to see?