It’s easy to write off the Gotham Awards as an early bird ceremony that is decided by a jury of five industry players. It’s too small and niche to signal much of anything, right? Well, yes and no. Like any awards show, the Gothams are an opportunity for the performers and filmmakers who are gaming out a seemingly endless awards season to gain favor with Oscar voters.
To that end, the campaigns of several of the Gothams’ tribute award recipients — Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”), Adam Sandler (“Hustle”) and director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Woman King”) — all got high-profile boosts. Each artist used their moment on stage to share important parts of their talent and personal stories with an audience of industry heavyweights. They were alternately hilarious and reflective, passionate and self-deprecating, delivering gripping stories spun by master storytellers.
Williams talked about her journey from teen soap opera actress to indie movie queen while offering a heartfelt shoutout to her “Dawson’s Creek” co-star Mary Beth Peil, who played her grandmother on the classic teen drama. Plus, her career tribute, showing key moments from such past triumphs as “Manchester by the Sea” and “Blue Valentine,” served as an important reminder: This actor is overdue for an Oscar.
Prince-Bythewood’s “The Woman King” has been one of the few awards season movies to also resonate at the box office. Introduced by Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win the directing Oscar for “The Hurt Locker” (2009), Prince-Bythewood also received a career highlight reel that included moments from her most exuberant features like “Love and Basketball” (2000) and “Beyond the Lights” (2014). It was a powerful reminder, as if one is needed, that she’s one of the best in the game. The veteran filmmaker then gave a moving speech in which she spoke about finding her birth mother, which was an emotional highpoint. Add the star power of Viola Davis and the fact that no Black woman has been nominated for best director, and you could have a winning formula for success.
Sandler brought down the house when accepting his honor from directing duo Josh and Benny Safdie. We’ve been here before with Sandler when he has delivered performances that garnered critical acclaim such as “Punch Drunk Love” (2002) and “Uncut Gems” (2019), with voters ultimately opting for other choices. But Netflix is giving its all to Sandler’s campaign, reminding industry professionals of their respect for a guy who everybody seems to love. It’s all amplifying a simple yet effective message: It’s time to nominate Sandler.
All three artists left me convinced that if they keep doing what they did at the Gothams, they’re getting invited to the Oscars — and it’s about time.
See the latest film predictions, in all 23 categories in one place on Variety’s Oscars Collective.