Gotham Awards: Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing (Analysis)

The night's big winners -- including "Inside Llewyn Davis," Matthew McConaughey, Brie Larson, Michael B. Jordan, Ryan Coogler and "The Act of Killing" -- each were chosen by different committees consisting of just five people.
"Inside Llewyn Davis"

NEW YORK – The IFP's 23rd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards took place Monday night at the New York restaurant Cipriani Wall Street. Many of the indie film scene's biggest names were in attendance, including Steve Buscemi, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Oscar Isaac, Jared Leto, Richard Linklater, Lupita Nyong'o and Shailene Woodley, among others. And while plenty of attention will and should be paid to the lovely event and the night's big winners -- Inside Llewyn Davis over 12 Years a Slave for best feature, Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) over Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Robert Redford (All Is Lost) for best actor, Brie Larson (Short Term 12) over Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) for best actress, Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) over Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) for best breakthrough actor, Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) for best breakthrough director and The Act of Killing for best documentary -- the harsh reality is that these results tell us absolutely nothing about their future awards prospects.

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Why, you ask?

Because each category winner was determined by a different jury consisting of just five individuals -- all noted members of the indie film community, we should note, but not all of whom even necessarily participate in the decision-making process, based on what I've been told by past jurors. That is obviously not a sample size representative of anything beyond the tastes of the sample itself, and to try to extrapolate meaning from its conclusion would be ill-advised.

The thankless job of hosting the festivities was carried out with good cheer by The League's Nick Kroll, who, like many hosts before him, struggled to retain the attention of much of the audience in the huge room with high ceilings, even though he was pretty funny. While Kroll never chided the loud talkers, actor Leto, while accepting on behalf of his Dallas Buyers Club costar McConaughey (who was on a movie set but listening in via Leto's cell phone), and director Lee Daniels, while presenting to his Lee Daniels' The Butler lead actor Forest Whitaker, both told them directly to "Shut the f--- up."

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Between the handing out of the competitive awards, pre-announced career tributes were presented. Outgoing New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg presented to Katherine Oliver, the commissioner of the New York City Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting since 2002. Actor Steve Buscemi announced the award to Enough Said's late supporting actor James Gandolfini, whose widow and son accepted on his behalf (Buscemi choked back tears as he said, "I cherished working with him and I’ll miss him forever"). Writers-actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy presented to Richard Linklater, the indie icon and their co-writer and director on the three Before… movies of the past 20 years ("We might do a fourth one, maybe, one day," Delpy said to warm applause). And Daniels introduced his Lee Daniels' The Butler lead actor Whitaker, who received the night's sole standing ovation from more than just his own table.

Meanwhile, the audience award, which was determined by online voting, was presented to the documentary Life on Four Strings over 12 Years a Slave and Fruitvale Station -- even though no one in the room with whom I spoke had even heard of it, much less seen it.  (I guess we'll have to get on that!)

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg