“Moonlight” was the big winner Monday night at the Gotham Independent Film Awards bestowed by the Gotham Filmmaker Project based in New York. Barry Jenkins‘ coming-of-age tale claimed both Best Picture and Best Screenplay (Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney) plus an honorary prize for its cast and the Audience Award. In bestowing the ensemble award, the jury noted “actors at all levels of experience give outstanding performances that speak eloquently to one another both within and across each chapter of the story.” The awarded cast members are Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, Andre Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monae, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes and Ashton Sanders.
The wins bolster the position of “Moonlight” as an Oscar frontrunner. For the last two years running, the top winner at these kudos has gone on to claim Best Picture at the Oscars (“Spotlight,” 2015; “Birdman,” 2014). However, the top prize is not always an Oscar crystal ball as eventual Best Picture champ “12 Years a Slave” learned three years ago when it lost the Gotham equivalent to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which wasn’t even nominated by the academy.
As expected, Casey Affleck was named Best Actor for his performance in “Manchester by the Sea,” which had led going into the night with four nominations. However, over in Best Actress, Gallic import Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) pulled off an upset over Oscar frontrunners Annette Bening (“2oth Century Women”), Ruth Negga (“Loving”) and Natalie Portman (“Jackie”).
Nominees were chosen by committees of film critics and journalists, festival programmers and film curators. Winners were determined by juries of filmmaking professionals including writers, directors, actors and producers.
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