Monday night kicked off what should be a busy couple of weeks in the never-ending awards season.  In New York, IFP held their classy Gotham Awards with such famous faces as Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Portman and Chris Rock in attendance.  The real news at the show, however, was the big wins by honoree Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" for best feature and best ensemble. 

The five competition winners of the night were:

Best Feature
"The Hurt Locker"

Best Documentary
"Food, Inc."
 
Breakthrough Director Award

Robert Siegel, writer and director, "Big Fan"

Breakthrough Actor Award
Catalina Saavedra, "The Maid"

Best Ensemble Performance Award
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse and Evangeline Lilly in "The Hurt Locker"

Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You

"You Won't Miss Me, by Ry Russo-Young, director, producer and co-writer

The event also featured previously announced tributes to Bigelow, Stanley Tucci, Portman and Working Title founders Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner. 

[Check out a gallery of all the stars at this year's Gotham Awards here.]

Summit Entertainment seems to be wavering on whether to go full bore with a strong Oscar campaign for "Locker," but here's hoping that the Gotham wins over "A Serious Man" in the main categories kick start their interest.  "Locker" will be on a slew of year-end top ten lists and has the potential to win best picture from a number of major critics groups including LA Film Critics.  With a big screener campaign and some creative marketing "Locker" could challenge the night's other big player as Oscar's consensus choice.  Which film would that be?  Ironically, only a few minutes after the Gotham's ended, Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" had its Los Angeles premiere completely across the country.

Awards Campaign was happy to attend the event at Westwood's Village theater which featured numerous Academy members and an eclectic guest list (to say the least).  The screening and follow up party at the Beverly Hilton found stars George Clooney, Vera Farminga, Anna Kendrick, Danny McBride, Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons mixing with Cindy Crawford, Aziz Ansari, John Cho, Craig Robinson, "Transformers" director Michael Bay, Reitman's father Ivan and Paramount Pictures Chairman Brad Grey. 

No one is popping champagne bottles yet, but as the days pass it's clear that "Air" is the frontrunner to become the consensus builder for Best Picture among Academy members.  It will receive stellar reviews when it opens Friday, features fantastic performances by Clooney and Kendrick in particular, is a mature leap for writer/director Reitman and best of all, it's inclusion of an economic downturn storyline makes it incredibly timely. 

And this week is nowhere near slowing down.  In just a few short hours the Independent Spirit Award nominations will be announced and the National Board of Review will reveal their always peculiar year-end picks this weekend. 

Never a dull moment.  Looking for continuing coverage of all things Oscar on Awards Campaign.

For constant updates on awards season and entertainment news follow Gregory Ellwood on Twitter at Twitter.com/HitFixGregory