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Having attended the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Britannia Awards, the Critic's Choice Awards and, god help me, the Hollywood Film Awards (just once I say, just once!), it felt like a big adventure crossing the country to the Spirit's little New York, um, sister, the Gotham Awards.
In its 21st year, the IFP event has turned into the first real legitimate awards show of the year until of course NYFCC move their dinner to October in 2012 next season (seriously, don't put it past them). It's hardly a major precursor of how the Academy will vote, but it has championed eventual contenders such as "The Hurt Locker," "Winter's Bone," "Frozen River," "Into the Wild" and "Juno," among others. This year's event promised a showdown -- or so it seemed -- between Fox Searchlight titles "The Descendants" and "Martha Marcy May Marlene" in most of the major categories. Instead, both films went home without any trophies and Searchlight's other contender, "The Tree of Life," tied with "Beginners" for best film. That Mike Mills' wonder also surprised by winning best ensemble. Considering I was sitting at one of the "Descendants" tables with stars Beau Bridges, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer and Robert Forester it made for quite an interesting night (of course, that crew may have much more to smile about Tuesday when the NYFCC year end awards and Spirit Award nominations are announced).
Taking that into account, here are ten things this prognosticator learned upon his inaugural visit to the Gothams.
New York awards crowd can be a bit rude
Frankly, the best thing about the Gotham Awards dinner was the food. Having sat through some bland meals at numerous awards events and premieres it was refreshing to actually have a meal you wanted to eat during the show. Unfortunately, I've never experienced a crowd so rude to the hosts and presenters by talking during said show. Ever. Basically, hosts Eddie Falco and Oliver Platt were doing an opening monologue for everyone watching the live stream on line because the audience acted like they weren't even there. The crowd's reaction was puzzling and embarrassing. New Yorkers can rag on LA for some things, but at least we know how to sit through an awards show - politely.
Boy, Paramount is taking a Charlize Theron best actress candidacy very seriously
Watching Theron's clip reel it felt way early to be providing her a tribute. However, the Gothams no doubt wanted some sexy star power and the former Oscar winner was a suitable candidate. Mostly a play for "Young Adult," Theron had the extra incentive of being introduced by her co-star, Patton Oswalt, and director Jason Reitman was in attendance. All for her "tribute" at the Gothams. It screamed that Paramount wants to make sure Theron makes it into the best actress race for a very polarizing film.
Focus might just be able to turn 'Beginners' into more than just a Christopher Plummer play
Of course, the shockers of the night were "Beginners" winning best ensemble and tying for best picture with "The Tree of Life." Even director Mike Mills couldn't believe it. But when you have a jury of previous Oscar winners such as Natalie Portman and Nicole Kidman insisting on selecting your indie over "The Descendants" and "Take Shelter" and justifying the need to "tie" it with Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life"? Well, that's saying something. Sure, Christopher Plummer has been in play for a best supporting actor nomination since the film debuted at Toronto in 2010, but could recognition in best original screenplay and - dare I type it - best picture be in play? This pundit is under the increasing suspicion there will be up to two major nomination surprises in the best picture category because of the new 5% first place vote rule. "Drive" is one likely candidate to shock here. Could "Beginners" be the other?
Is 'The Descendants' a West Coast movie?
It's just anecdotal, but arriving in the New York film social scene, I immediately meet a number of people who are actually lukewarm on Alexander Payne's critically acclaimed dramedy. There was genuine surprise at the Searchlight tables that the box office hit came away losing all three awards it was up for, but could it be the picture just isn't resonating with east coast viewers? Expect the picture to have a lot more success with the LA crowd at the Independent Spirit Awards and even the SAG and Golden Globe Awards.
The love for Gary Oldman is very real
Oldman was the only tribute recipient to find himself with a standing ovation when he was called to the stage. This award was conveniently timed by Focus for the upcoming release of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" which should find Oldman landing only his (jaw-dropping) first Academy Award nomination. The way things are shaping up he might be George Clooney's biggest competition for the win.
The film world turnout was pretty good for...New York
Ang Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Alec Baldwin, Tilda Swinton (granted, promoting "We Need To Talk About Kevin"), Bennett Miller, Patton Oswalt, Stanley Tucci, Melissa Leo and even Peter "I'm continually joking about 'Twilight' almost being over' Facinelli trekked down to either present or attend the proceedings. Honestly, that would be a good lineup for an LA awards show. More importantly? Not a C-lister to be seen.
Surprise: Felicity Jones keeps winning
Competing awards season publicists keep trying to discredit Jones and "Like Crazy," but for the second time this year the Brit beat Elizabeth Olsen's turn in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" for a major award. Turning back "The Descendants'" Shailene Woodley is no easy feat either. Could Jones be a legitimate contender for a best actress nomination? (Not that we're rooting or anything…)
Tom Rothman's indie cred is more legitimate than you'd think
20th Century Fox Co-Chairman Tom Rothman has a lot of haters out there. Genre fans, especially, will justifiably complain about his studio's butchering of superhero movies such as "Daredevil," the first "Fantastic Four" series and "X-Men: The Last Stand" (granted he also just gave them "X-Men: First Class"). What they may not realize is that Rothman's beginnings were as a producer of Jim Jarmusch's 1986 indie "Down by Law " and he actually life long friends with the indie filmmaking legend. When Rothman went to The Samuel Goldwyn Company in the early 1990's he shepherded the company's acquisition of Ang Lee's "The Wedding Banquet" and Lee's follow up "Eat Drink Man Woman" -- two films that put the cinematic master on the map. He then brought Lee to the fledgling Fox Searchlight where he made "The Ice Storm," one of the best films of the 1990's (If you haven't seen it, rent it). And should we go down the long list of modern classics made under his and Co-Chairman James Gianopulos watch at both big Fox and Searchlight? As this award reaffirmed, sometimes you just have to give a man his due. Unfortunately, he still needs to find someone else to write his acceptance speeches.
Tilda Swinton gave the best quote of the night
Presenting best picture, Swinton stylishly walked onto the stage and ad-libbed "My favorite moment was the handing out of the check. It's the way to go for award shows." And considering how hard it has been for her to help produce acclaimed pictures such as "I Am Love" and "We Need To Talk About Kevin" you can't blame her for running with the suggestion.
David Cronenberg gave the second best quote of the night
Accepting his tribute award, the "A Dangerous Method" and "The Fly" helmer noted, "I have failed to sell out. I have tried very hard." It got a huge laugh mostly because he seemed to be quite serious about it.
And, of course, awards season continues at full steam with a very busy week ahead of us. Tuesday will provide the NYFCC year end awards and Independent Spirit nominations. Wednesday is the Britannia's and Thursday is the National Board of Review. Are you ready for a wild ride?
Make sure to follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter for all the latest awards season news and entertainment commentary.
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