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For the last three award seasons, the Gotham Independent Film Awards’ top prize, best feature, has been awarded to the same film that went on to win the best picture Oscar — Birdman, Spotlight and Moonlight. That is a particularly impressive stat in light of the fact that the latter two films were considered surprise best picture Oscar winners, and a best picture win for Birdman was far from assured, as well. So it’s understandable that those associated with Call Me by Your Name, Luca Guadagnino‘s film about young gay lovers played by Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, which was awarded best feature (and best breakthrough actor, for Chalamet) at Monday night’s 27th edition of the Gotham Awards, are feeling extra buoyant today about their Oscar prospects, just as they were a week ago when the film scored a field-leading six Independent Spirit Award nominations.
But beware of indie illusions.
The Gothams, I like to tell people, are to the Oscars what the Iowa caucuses are to a presidential election: They’re the first “results” to come in, so they get a lot of attention, but the reality is there’s actually no reason to believe they tell us anything about what’s to come. Call Me by Your Name may still win the best picture Oscar — and, in my opinion, it would be a worthy choice — but predicting an Oscar victory for it because of a Gotham nod relies on false logic.
That’s because the winner in each of the Gotham categories is chosen by a different jury comprised of only four or five more or less random people from the film industry — some more associated with indies (e.g. Josh Mond) than others (e.g. Tiffany Haddish) — whereas Oscar winners are determined by thousands of voters. Needless to say, the handful of Gotham voters is miles away from being a scientific sample-size for the large pool of Academy voters.
Where the Gothams can be helpful, though, is in highlighting, for people both inside and outside of the ceremony itself, smaller films that might otherwise get overlooked in the clutter of screenings and screeners. Call Me by Your Name and Monday night’s other big winner, Jordan Peele‘s Get Out — which won just as many competitive awards (best screenplay and best breakthrough director, both for Peele), the audience award (which is determined by members of the public) and which received further recognition in the form of a tribute to producer Jason Blum — both had pretty sizable profiles even before the ceremony. So did Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird (for which Saoirse Ronan was awarded best actress) and Dee Rees‘ Mudbound (its ensemble was awarded a special jury prize, and one of its stars, Mary J. Blige, got acceptance-speech shout-outs from the likes of Chalamet and Made in New York honoree Michael Kenneth Williams).
But certain other honorees, like James Franco‘s eccentric The Disaster Artist, for which Franco was awarded best actor, had largely existed within a small bubble of industry insiders until Monday night. The same is true of Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected), which Dustin Hoffman talked about while accepting a career tribute, and Sofia Coppola‘s The Beguiled, which got attention in the forms of tributes to Coppola and star Nicole Kidman. Now, because of what happened at the Gothams and the surrounding press it received, these films are, to a much greater extent than before, likely to register on the radars of Oscar voters.
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