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.