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The 21st annual Gotham Independent Film Awards took place Monday night at New York’s historic Cipriani Wall Street restaurant. As I cautioned when the Independent Filmmaker Project announced this year’s nominees, there is little reason to believe that the results at the Gothams have any direct impact on the Oscar race — sometimes both organizations happen to arrive at the same choice (see: The Hurt Locker), but the reality is that Gotham nods and wins are really a reflection of nothing more than the tastes of the five-person “committees” that are arbitrarily selected and assigned to the various categories by the IFP (some members of which have never worked on a film), whereas Oscar nods and wins are determined by thousands of people (virtually all of whom are filmmakers). Still, studios and talent whose work was recognized Monday night were unanimously exuberant, if only because it can’t hurt to get a moment in the spotlight in front of a crowd packed with colleagues and journalists, to say nothing of the free print and online publicity that is afforded to the winners in the form of news coverage.
That being stipulated, what/who was perceived to have gotten a bounce last night? And what/who was perceived to have taken a hit? Here’s my take…
- Focus Features is justifiably feeling over the moon about their night. They went 3-for-3 in competitive categories, none of which they were expected to win: Beginners, which has been regarded as a long-shot contender for best picture and best original screenplay Oscar nods, beat The Descendants, among other high-profile films, to win both of the top two categories, best feature (it tied with The Tree of Life) and best ensemble, and Pariah filmmaker Dee Rees topped several bigger names to win best breakthrough director. Moreover, they got a cherry on their cake, as Gary Oldman, who is on the bubble in the best actor race for his understated performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, was the subject of a glowing tribute from Alec Baldwin, a great montage of his life’s work and the night’s only standing ovation afforded to an individual.
- Paramount is pretty happy right now, as well. They have been campaigning aggressively on behalf of Charlize Theron (Young Adult) and Felicity Jones (Like Crazy), both of whom they’d like to sneak into the competitive best actress race, and their efforts got a big boost last night thanks to Theron’s tribute (during which she and her co-star/best supporting actor hopeful Patton Oswalt stole the show) and Jones’ somewhat surprising win over two other young women who have been seen as likelier bets for Oscar nods, including one of whom is competing in the same category: Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene). Could Jones, the beautiful ingenue whose chances have been discounted by most people, surge past Theron, the beautiful veteran, and/or fellow youngsters Olsen, Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method) and snag an Oscar nod? That somehow seems more feasible after last night than it did before.
- Fox Searchlight likely has mixed emotions. The Descendants and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which led the entire field with three nods each, both went home empty-handed. However, their night was somewhat salvaged when The Tree of Life, their tough-sell best picture Oscar hopeful, won best feature (it tied with Beginners).
- Roadside Attractions has to feel a little disappointed with the way things turned out for their films. IFP first denied Albert Nobbs any nominations, and then denied Margin Call — a red-hot film at the moment — a win in the one category in which it was nominated and really fit the bill: best ensemble. As great a film as the category’s winner Beginners is, it’s primarily a four-person flick (Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, Christopher Plummer and Goran Visnjic), whereas its hard to even keep count of all of the impressive moving pieces in Margin Call (Zachary Quinto, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Penn Badgley, Mary McDonnell and the list goes on).
- Sony Pictures Classics can’t be thrilled about its showing. While David Cronenberg, who directed its film A Dangerous Method, was the subject of a nice tribute, Take Shelter, its stronger Oscar contender — which is thought to be on-the-bubble for best actor (Michael Shannon) and best original screenplay (Jeff Nichols) — was shut out after scoring nods in the top two categories, best feature and best ensemble.
- Oscilloscope is a small and young enough studio that it was probably happy just to have a ticket to the party. The fact that Meek’s Cutoff came up short for best feature and Evan Glodell (Bellflower) didn’t win best breakthrough director can’t have knocked anyone’s socks off.
- The Weinstein Co. had its Gotham hopes dashed long before Monday night — oddly enough, its films weren’t rewarded with so much as a single nomination!
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