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Gotham Awards: The Tree of Marcy May's Sheltered Descendants

The Gotham Award nominees were announced today. Though they're not affiliated I like to think of them as the East Coast Spirit Awards on account of the similar types of films they tend to honor (independent and lower budgeted films) and the slightly confusing windows of eligibility. The ceremony will be held on November 28th, 2011 here in NYC which is the same day that the New York Film Critics Circle have just announced as the date on which they'll name their winners. So mark those calendars. Awards Season begins in earnest on Monday November 28th, 2011. So the season will be almost exactly three months long this year what with the Oscars arriving on Sunday February 26th, 2012.

Best Feature:

  • Beginners (Mike Mills)
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
  • Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt
  • Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols
  • The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)

'One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same.' The black sheep of this shortlist family is The Descendants which is decidedly more mainstream than the other contenders: big movie star, crowd-pleasing rather than crowd-risky, obviously on its way to Oscar nods.

Several categories and few opinions after the jump.

Best Documentary

  • Better This World (Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega)
  • Bill Cunningham New York (Richard Press
  • Hell and Back Again (Danfung Dennis
  • The Interrupters (Steve James
  • The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis)

Best Ensemble Performance: 

  • Beginners
  • The Descendants
  • Margin Call
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Take Shelter

Clooney & Daughters in "The Descendants"

The Descendants may shape up to be my least favorite of the Movies Everyone Else Loves this year. (Michael, who reviewed it, likes it more than me but I'm willing to give it a second chance as Alexander Payne is one of America's best.) Clooney & Woodley are both strong in it and as more of you see it we'll discuss other things to like and not like about it that be spoilers for now. But as ensemble acting goes I personally found it quite uneven, especially in its very very stiff first half hour. It takes awhile for the actors to stop being actors and just be. But Take Shelter is the oddest choice for "ensemble" since it's very much The Michael Shannon Show™ featuring Jessica Chastain.

All that said, it has come to my attention that I am the web's most persnickety pundit when it comes to "ensemble" prizes. I just don't understand why everyone wants it to mean "Best Picture By Another Name" and not think about what ensemble acting means and why we should honor that and not the movie again.

Breakthrough Director:

  • Mike Cahill, Another Earth
  • Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground
  • Evan Glodell, Bellflower
  • Dee Rees, Pariah

We'd have to consider Sean Durkin the frontrunner here for M④.

If that film's fortunes continue, critically speaking, we could be looking at Original Screenplay traction. Good on Farmiga (see previous interview) for placing here as well. Higher Ground shows some of its "first timer" issues (particularly the sometimes shapelessness from too many subplots) but it's good. If I may quote my friend Nick -- I already quoted him once today so why not? -- he wrote. 

U.S. drama of faith minus cheap shots or Crazy Zealots, where a good woman's unsure about her family? Is it 1974??

So true. It's like Vera Farmiga never got the memo that religious people are supposed to be easily "type"d and that intimate character studies are supposed to be the sole property of ambitious television shows now.

Breakthrough Actor:

  • Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
  • Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
  • Jacob Wysocki, Terri

What's this? A breakthrough category without people who have been famous for decades? Hallelujah!

Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks SameBest Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:

  • Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same (Madeleine Olnek)
  • Green (Sophia Takal
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked (Eric Strauss
  • Scenes of a Crime (Blue Hadaegh & Grover Babcock
  • Without (Mark Jackson)

I am sad to have missed Codependent Lesbian Space Alien which I had the opportunity to see but the opportunity came at an inopportune moment. Alas.

Actress Charlize Theron, Actor Gary Oldman, Director David Cronenberg, CEO Tom Rothman. 

In an article at IFC they mention Drive (which we love) and Win Win as the biggest shut-outs. But since it's difficult to know exactly which films were eligible for this prize, who knows?

What do you make of this year's nominees... ?
Any surprises for you?

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Reader Comments (16)

I would give "Margin Call" the best ensemble award, even though the film as a whole is the weakest. Is "Albert Nobbs" not eligible for Gotham? I was surprised by how wonderful the entire cast was.

October 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

And i just realized that Jessica Chastain is not even nominated as "Breakthrough Actor", so weird.

October 20, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjoy

"Beginners" is mainstream, right? Just not Oscar-stream.

October 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarsha Mason

I have Codependent Lesbian Space Alien. You can totes borrow it. It's so good!

October 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKurtis O

^ I don't think so? Idk.

October 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

philip -= you dont think codependent is good? what is the i dont think so for?

October 20, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

He probably doesn't think Beginners is mainstream but this is fun - someone respond to my comment please and so on :p

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

So happy for Meek's Cutoff!

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterferdi

I would have liked to see Midnight in Paris and Drive get in if they were eligible of course.

Snubs for me seem to be no Martha for Best Feature and no Brit Marling for Another Earth in Breakthrough performance and, as someone mentioned, no Jessica Chastian for either Tree of Life (my pick) or Take Shelter is pretty crazy.

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterZach

I was going to say that perhaps "Drive" doesn't qualify for their definiton of "independent film" but as we all know that term means pretty much nothing anymore. It's a genre label more than a comment on the process of a film's production.

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff C

I agree with you Nate on The Descendants. It was good but I didn't flat-out love it. And like you will watch it again when it opens in December. I think it will be nominated the whole pre-cursor season though. Agree on your comments about ensemble too. Of these nominees I'd probably give it to MMMM. You have Olsen and Hawkes. But then Paulson and Dancy plus all the other actors in the cult.

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpopcornpopsblog

Zach -- maybe Chastain missed because they couldn't decide what to honor her for?

October 21, 2011 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yeah, I was talking about Beginners being mainstream, haha.

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