Singular Choices as Always From Gotham Awards Committees

The Gotham Awards nominations announcement is a good annual reminder that smaller voting bodies will always yield more interesting selections than broader groups like the Academy.

While many often complain that the Oscar nominations lack excitement year in and year out, they fail to register the fact that across a massive group of 7,000 people, things can get boiled down pretty simply. But with something like the Gotham Awards, which presents just a handful of categories decided by separate small committees, you can easily break out of the circuit status quo.

The surprising omission throughout is Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” which has probably taken on too large an Oscar profile to be hip enough for the Gotham deciders. But in its place the best feature category found room for films like Kelly Reichardt’s “Certain Women,” Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” and Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson.”

Sticking with simple best actor and best actress performance categories, rather than breaking out supporting separately, allows for interesting picks as well. In recent years, supporting performances like Michael Shannon’s in “99 Homes” and (arguably) Paul Dano’s in “Love & Mercy” have picked up nominations.

This year, Jeff Bridges’ stand-out work in “Hell or High Water” was recognized, which will be a nice feather in the cap of his supporting actor Oscar campaign. “Morris from America’s” Craig Robinson also got a notice.

The actress side of things was dominated by definitive leads: Kate Beckinsale in “Love & Friendship,” Annette Bening in “20th Century Women,” Isabelle Huppert in “Elle,” Ruth Negga in “Loving” and Natalie Portman in “Jackie.” All find themselves in the thick of a highly competitive Oscar hunt.

With the majority of the love going to “Manchester by the Sea,” which picked up four nominations this morning, the Gothams have solidified Kenneth Lonergan’s film as the early indie powerhouse of the season. And when Film Independent’s Spirit Award nominations land next month, don’t expect “La La Land” to come back with a vengeance to challenge that status — surprisingly enough, it’s not eligible due to exceeding the budget requirement.

One final honor of note: Distributor A24 was no doubt already delighted with the fact that six of the company’s films landed nominations. But Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” was also selected for a special Jury Award for ensemble performance. Last year’s winner of that prize? “Spotlight,” which went on to claim the best picture trophy on Oscar night.

Check out the full list of Gotham nominees here.

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