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George Clooney? Meryl Streep? ‘The Artist’? Oscar Weekend Brings Moment of Truth

After a long, grueling season, it all comes to an end with the Spirit Awards on Saturday and the Oscars on Sunday

George Clooney or Jean Dujardin? Meryl Streep or Viola Davis? "The Artist" or "Hugo?"

Or how about this: Dujardin or Michael Shannon?  Michelle Williams or Elizabeth Olsen? "The Artist" or "The Descendants" or "Take Shelter?"

Those questions will be answered this weekend, not only at the Oscars but also at the Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Together, the two shows will mark the end of a very long and intense awards season — one that has seemingly been marked by more parties and events than ever before, and one in which an unlikely contender slowly assumed the air of an inevitable winner.

It was an awards season that in a sense kicked off last May at the Cannes Film Festival, when Oscar Best Picture nominees "The Artist," "The Tree of Life" and "Midnight in Paris" all premiered.

Also read: 2012 Oscars: Complete List of Nominees

Since then, both the Academy and Film Independent have worked to stage their big shows under new leadership, with the Academy hiring away Film Independent's executive director and FIND promoting from within.

The Oscars hired two producers (Brett Ratner and Don Mischer) and a host (Eddie Murphy), lost one of the producers and the host, and found stability with Brian Grazer and Billy Crystal.

The Spirit Awards stuck with tradition (Saturday afternoon on the beach) and booked a host, Seth Rogen, who means much more at the box office these days than Crystal.

Meanwhile, "The Artist," a black-and-white silent movie made by a French director in Hollywood, slowly moved from being a charming novelty to an awards contender to the odds-on favorite at not one but both awards shows.

Also read: Academy Won't Stop Sacha Baron Cohen's Oscar Stunt — But They'd Rather He Didn't Do It

Unlike 2011, when four of the five nominees for the Spirit Awards' Best Feature were also up for Best Picture at the Oscars, and all five of the Academy's Best Actress nominees were also in the running for the Spirit Awards, the disconnect reaches all categories this year.

Only two Oscar Best Picture nominees, "The Artist" and "The Descendants," are up for Best Feature at the Spirit Awards, where to qualify films must be made for less than $20 million.

Also read: Steve Pond's Oscar Picks: 'The Artist' Will Win, but Should It?

The overlap is similar in the directing category (Michel Hazanavicius and Alexander Payne) and in lead actor (Jean Dujardin and Demian Bichir), while the lead actress and two supporting categories each have a single common nominee: Michelle Williams for actress, Christopher Plummer for supporting actor, Janet McTeer for supporting actress.

(Jessica Chastain was nominated by both groups in that last category, but for different films.)

The old Spirit Awards/Oscar adage "win on Saturday, lose on Sunday" may hold true this year as well – but the weekend could also turn into a two-day triumph for "The Artist," for Dujardin and for Plummer.

If "The Artist" wins at both shows, it will be only the second film to take home the top prize from both the Oscars and the Spirit Awards. The only other film to do so was Oliver Stone's "Platoon" in 1986, the second year of the Spirit Awards' existence.

In seven of the last eight years, the Spirit Awards winner has been an Oscar Best Picture nominee, but has never won. Those films have included "Lost in Translation," "Sideways," "Brokeback Mountain," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Juno," "Precious" and last year's Spirit winner, "Black Swan."

Also making things easier this year: Not one of the 25 announced Oscar presenters is nominated for a Spirit Award. Oscar presenters typically rehearse on Saturday, a difficult schedule for those also attending the Spirit Awards.

One thing the weekend won't feature, unlike past years, is the in-between shot of awfulness provided by the Golden Raspberry Awards, which traditionally saluted the worst of the year in a Saturday night show between the Spirit Awards and the Oscars.

This year the Razzies have moved to April Fool's Day.

The facts on the shows that remain:

Film Independent Spirit Awards
: Saturday, Feb. 25
Time: 1:30 p.m.
Location: A tent on the beach in Santa Monica
Host: Seth Rogen
Top nominees: "Take Shelter," "The Artist" (5 each)
Best Feature nominees: "The Artist," "Beginners," "The Descendants," "Drive," "50/50," "Take Shelter"
Television: IFC, 10 p.m.

Academy Awards
: Sunday, February 26
Time: 5:30 p.m.
Location: Hollywood & Highland Center
Host: Billy Crystal
Top nominees: "Hugo" (11), "The Artist" (10)
Best Picture nominees: "The Artist," "The Descendants," "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Hugo," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life," "War Horse"
Television: ABC, live

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