Gotham Noms Add Fuel to ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Carol’ Oscar Campaigns

Also: Boosts for 'Love & Mercy' and Blythe Danner could thrust them further into the fray.

Gotham Award Nominations Boost 'Spotlight,' 'Carol' Oscar Campaigns
Courtesy of Open Road

Today nominations were revealed for the first (real) awards show of the season: the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Films like “Carol” (three nominations) and particularly “Spotlight” (two plus a Jury Award for the cast) built some more momentum on the way to Academy attention. But as ever, the various committees who vote turned the spotlight on smaller movies that could penetrate here and there in weaker races at the Oscars, but are in general likely to remain more prominent fixtures at shows like this one and Film Independent’s Spirit Awards in Los Angeles.

However, I looked at the best actress list and it suddenly occurred to me that we could see three of those leading ladies translate for the Academy as well. Brie Larson is locked in for “Room” and the frontrunner to win at this point. (Though, intriguingly, the film did not land a best feature nod.) Cate Blanchett — who might have had a better Oscar shot with “Truth,” had the film not withered in limited release last weekend — was nominated for “Carol.” That will probably be the performance that resonates in the end, particularly as critics groups are certain to push the issue on that film throughout December. The third?

I personally see a bit of a revolving door on the last spot in that race as of late. It could be Charlotte Rampling, who is brilliant and dominant in “45 Years.” It could be Carey Mulligan, finally out and about to promote “Suffragette” after having her first baby in recent weeks. Or it could be Emily Blunt, central to Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” (though admittedly a bit passive throughout). But I’m thinking the acting branch rallies behind Blythe Danner, who got a wonderful opportunity in Brett Haley’s “I’ll See You In My Dreams” and picked up a nomination this morning as well.

Marielle Heller’s “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” was the nominations leader with four, and it’s the kind of film that dominates independent-focused awards scenarios. Bel Powley’s lead performance is nuanced and complex, so she could bubble up in the lead actress conversation, but I’m not sure this critically acclaimed summer release will penetrate for Oscar voters. Ditto Sundance break-out “Tangerine,” though a nomination today for Mya Taylor in the breakthrough field (cited alongside co-star Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) will embolden the first ever Oscar campaign for a transgender actress.

Speaking of which, Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl,” about transgender pioneer Lili Elbe, was eligible today, but it picked up zero nominations. Ever since the film bowed at Venice the heat has died down a bit on that one. The Academy will get a look next month closer to release, of course, but no notices for stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander this morning is a bit of a speed bump — even if I’m not at all shocked that this film wouldn’t be these committees’ cup of tea.

(John Crowley’s “Brooklyn” was not eligible, which helps explain its absence. Ditto Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina.”)

“Love & Mercy” got some added exposure with a couple of nods, one of them for Paul Dano in the best actor department. That adds some mojo to his supporting actor hopes in the Oscar race. (You could say the same for “99 Homes” star Michael Shannon.) I also loved the screenplay mention for the film as well; the writers branch of the Academy may well respond to this deft handling of the biopic format as well.

I’m a little bummed to see that “Anomalisa,” which was eligible, missed out completely. A screenplay nomination at the least would have been more than warranted. I think it will make a giant splash with the critics groups down the stretch, though, so its time will come.

The biggest Oscar heavy to land nominations was Thomas McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” for best screenplay and best feature. None of the actors were cited in the competitive categories, but the Gothams only recognize (ostensibly, anyway) leads, and the entire “Spotlight” cast is truly supporting across the board. However, the nominating panel saw fit to honor the entire ensemble with a special Jury Award, so they had their cake and ate it, too.

“Spotlight” will compete against “Carol,” “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” “Heaven Knows What” and “Tangerine” in the top field at the 25th annual IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards, which will be held on Nov. 30 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Check out the full list of nominees here.