While The Emmys hazmat suits are tucked away for now, the next, and first film award show of the season to look forward to is the Gotham Awards. These honors celebrate independent cinema and many deserving films that are overlooked by the larger award ceremonies. Yet, it is possible for an early Gotham win to trigger a stronger awards campaign and greater potential for a later award season win.
Only a few nominees crossover with the Golden Globes or Oscars each year, but in 2016, four Gotham winners also won the corresponding Academy Award: “Moonlight” for Picture and Screenplay, Casey Affleck for Actor, and “O.J.: Made in America” for Documentary. Unique criteria and categories such as Audience Award and Breakthrough Actor, Series, and Director allow for a wider range of independent films and performances to be recognized. Eligible feature films, with a budget under $35 million, must be American-made (except for Best International Feature), released between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021, and made accessible either via a theatrical release and/or by digital platform or VOD.
After the submission deadline (October 1), committees will review the films and announce the nominations on November 12. Then, a jury of filmmakers will determine the winners for all categories except the Audience Award, which is voted on by all IFP members. The ceremony has shifted from its traditional December slot and is slated now for January 11, 2021.
With the release calendar constantly changing, the submission list may provide us with some security for films that haven’t yet premiered at festivals or have wavered between a 2020 or delayed 2021 release date. Expect to see “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Nomadland,” and multiple Gotham-nominee Kelly Reichardt with her newest film, “First Cow” amongst the nominees.
There have been quite a few directorial debuts this year as well, including: Natalie Erika James‘ “Relic,” Radha Blank’s “The 40-Year Old Version,” Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth,” Alan Yang’s “Tigertail,” Max Barbakow’s “Palm Springs,” and Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.”
Based on early festival awards and praise, look out for some other shoo-in nominees: “Crip Camp” and “Boys State” for Best Documentary, Jasmine Batchelor for Breakthrough Actor in “The Surrogate,” Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari,” and Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman” after her Best Actress win at the Venice Film Festival. Julia Garner may also have a chance at following up her recent Emmy win with a nod to her performance in “The Assistant.”
This is the first year for the Best International Feature category and could include nominations for “The Father” and the international “French Exit.” The delayed release of 2019’s Cannes-winning “Bacurau” in the United States due to COVID-19 could lead to a nomination here.
Costly awards hopefuls won’t be eligible here due to the budget criteria. Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods” is in the $35-45 million range (so says Vulture), Aaron Sorkin’s “The Trial of the Chicago 7” might have narrowly missed with a $35 million budget (THR), and David Fincher’s period piece “Mank” will likely be well over that mark, too.
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