Just as Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, the Gotham Film Awards mark the true beginning of awards season. It’s the starting pistol that sounds off between the major festivals and the end-of-year critic group blitz. As Oscar-watching has grown ever more popular, the Gotham Awards have received more attention in recent years (they even got a shout-out on the latest season of “American Horror Story”), so naturally, there was quite a bit of excitement when the Gotham nominees were announced yesterday. It’s worth unpacking what ramifications this year’s nominations might have – if any – in the future for this year’s awards season.
It’s (Mostly) Not About the Money
Gotham’s position on the calendar, as well as its stated commitment to independent cinema, has made it a handy way for under-the-radar films and performances to pick up steam early in the awards season. For a recent example, consider Troy Kotsur, whose win for Best Supporting Performance at Gotham for “CODA” foreshadowed eventual Oscar glory for him and that film at a time when many people were underestimating it. In that context, this year’s decision to do away with the awards’ budget limit for eligibility raised some eyebrows. Dozens of fantastic independent films get overlooked in theaters each year, obtaining a couple of showings at the cinema before being shunted to VOD. Were they really about to do away with one of the few opportunities to give indie movies a spotlight for the sake of a few Barbenheimer headlines?
Thankfully, at least for now, the worst fears didn’t come to fruition. Many of the season’s biggest names, such as “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon,” didn’t even submit for the Gotham Awards despite being newly eligible. And while “Barbie” did submit, it only received an Outstanding Supporting Performance nomination for Ryan Gosling, leaving plenty of oxygen for films like “BlackBerry,” “Showing Up,” and “A Thousand and One.” Still, even though the effect was negligible this year, it was a bad idea to get rid of the budget limit; there will be plenty of opportunities for other films like “Barbie” going forward, and we don’t need yet another awards show to become an exercise in predicting the Oscars.
“Past Lives” May Get Its Moment To Shine Afterall
When “Past Lives,” Celine Song’s heartbreaking debut feature, premiered to rapturous acclaim at Sundance, it was immediately marked as an Oscar contender. But as the year went on, one big name after another picked up awards buzz, and some feared that an understated indie drama like “Past Lives” could get lost in the shuffle, much like “First Cow” or “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” in 2020. The idea of “momentum” during awards season may be questionable, but a film that comes out earlier in the year runs the risk of being taken for granted or passed up for shinier toys. Could that happen here?
Thankfully, “Past Lives” will likely get a nice boost from the Gotham Awards. It racked up nominations for Best Feature, Best Breakthrough Director, and Outstanding Lead Performance for Greta Lee, and it’ll be a favorite to win all three of these potentially. The other major Oscar contenders either didn’t get nominated for Best Feature, like “American Fiction” and “Priscilla,” or are competing in Best International Feature, like “All Of Us Strangers” and “The Zone of Interest.” While Gotham has been known to surprise (as when Chloe Zhao’s under-the-radar “The Rider” beat “The Favourite” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” in 2018), things are looking up for “Past Lives” – a boost here could enable it to emotionally obliterate voters deep into Oscar season.
Many Welcome Faces But No Clear Winners In The Acting Races
Did you find yourself clenching your fist and muttering, “I swear to God if they don’t nominate so-and-so” leading up to the Gotham nominations? If you did, there’s a good chance you walked away happy. The acting categories this year are filled with the kind of understated performances and early-in-the-year dark horses that often get overlooked come Oscar season. In the Supporting category, two underdog favorites – Glenn Howerton’s ferocious turn in “BlackBerry” and Rachel McAdams’ warm portrait of motherhood in “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” – got some well-deserved recognition alongside possible contenders like Charles Melton in “May December” and Da’Vine Joy Randolph in “The Holdovers.” In the lead category, flashier names were mainly set aside in favor of shouting out great performances by Teyana Taylor (“A Thousand and One“) and Andrew Scott (“All Of Us Strangers“).
If you view every award slate through the prism of the Oscars, this year’s Gotham nominations might give you a headache. They nominated “Poor Things” for Best International Feature, but not Emma Stone for Outstanding Lead Performance?! Sandra Hüller got nominated for “The Zone of Interest” but not “Anatomy of a Fall?” Is “All Of Us Strangers” set to overperform this awards season? Is “The Holdovers” set to underperform? Should we start hyping up Juliette Binoche now for Best Supporting Actress for “The Taste Of Things?” And so on.
But reading tea leaves, while fun, is often an exercise in futility; it’s not especially clear who will win the Gotham acting categories, let alone the Oscars. If I had to guess, I would say Andrew Scott for Lead and Da’Vine Joy Randolph for Supporting as of today, but I’m just throwing darts. Whatever happens next, it’s sure to be interesting.
What did you think of the Gotham Award nominations yesterday? Do you have any predicted winners yet? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account and check out their latest Oscar predictions here.
You can follow Joe and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars & Film on Twitter at @HoeffnerJoe