Sure enough, the first week of December brings the first formal slew of awards nominations, today's coming from Film Independent's Spirit Awards. The Hollywood Reporter bring us the list of nominees, with dramas Ballast, Frozen River and Rachel Getting Married each tied for the most nominations (six a piece, including Best Feature; the other two nominees there are Wendy and Lucy and The Wrestler).

Now, these awards aren't necessarily Oscar precursors or anything -- some of these films are just too small -- but it's difficult to deny that the likes of Milk, The Visitor, The Wrestler, Rachel, River and documentary contender Man on Wire are all looking at the first of many nominations in the coming weeks, most of which I can safely say are or will be deserving. I can't speak for Ballast, but it's been earning attention in the indie world for months and months, so do as I do and keep an eye out for it.

The greatest assurance can only be taken once the Spirit Awards are awarded on February 21. See the full list of nominees after the jump. u> Best feature
"Frozen River"
"Rachel Getting Married"
"Wendy and Lucy"
"The Wrestler"

Best director
Ramin Bahrani, "Chop Shop"
Jonathan Demme, "Rachel Getting Married"
Lance Hammer, "Ballast"
Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"
Tom McCarthy, "The Visitor"

Best first feature

"Medicine for Melancholy"
"Sangre De Mi Sangre"
"Sleep Dealer"
"Synecdoche, New York"

Best screenplay

Woody Allen, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, "Sugar"
Charlie Kaufman, "Synecdoche, New York"
Howard A. Rodman, "Savage Grace"
Christopher Zalla, "Sangre De Mi Sangre"

Best female lead

Summer Bishil, "Towelhead"
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Tarra Riggs, "Ballast"
Michelle Williams, "Wendy and Lucy"

Best male lead
Javier Bardem, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

Best supporting female

Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Rosemarie DeWitt, "Rachel Getting Married"
Rosie Perez, "The Take"
Misty Upham, "Frozen River"
Debra Winger, "Rachel Getting Married"

Best supporting male
James Franco, "Milk"
Anthony Mackie, "The Hurt Locker"
Charlie McDermott, "Frozen River"
JimMyron Ross, "Ballast"
Haaz Sleiman, "The Visitor"

Best cinematography

Maryse Alberti, "The Wrestler"
Lol Crawley, "Ballast"
James Laxton, "Medicine for Melancholy"
Harris Savides, "Milk"
Michael Simmonds, "Chop Shop"

Best documentary
"The Betrayal"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"Man on Wire"
"The Order of Myths"
"Up the Yangtze"

Best foreign film
"The Class" (France)
"Gomorra" (Italy)
"Hunger" (U.K./Ireland)
"Secret of the Grain" (France)
"Silent Light" (Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)

Robert Altman Award
"Synecdoche, New York"
categories Oscars, Awards, Cinematical