Considering how illegitimate this month's Hollywood Film Awards are, it's worth noting the first real event in the awards season race doesn't take place until the New York City-centric Gotham Independent Film Awards are held at the end of November.  Today, IFP announced the nominees for this year's annual extravaganza and Kathyrn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker" and the Coen Bros.' "A Serious Man" lead the list of potential Oscar contenders in the Best Feature and Best Ensemble categories. 

The biggest surprise found Patton Oswalt recognized for his performance in the underrated "Big Fan" and that Robert Siegel's dark comedy received Best Feature and Breakthrough Director nods as well.  On the other hand, considering the group's last three Best Feature winners, "Frozen River," "Into the Wild" and "Half Nelson" didn't make it into Oscar's final five it's hard to see how significant the Gothams really are.  With ten nominees this year, that could change (or not).  Here are a list of all the nominees and some quick thoughts on each.

Best Feature
 
"Amreeka"
Cherien Dabis, director; Christina Piovesan, Paul Barkin, producers (National Geographic Entertainment)
 
"Big Fan"
Robert Siegel, director; Jean Kouremetis, Elan Bogarin, producers (First Independent Pictures)
 
"The Hurt Locker"
Kathryn Bigelow, director; Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro, producers (Summit Entertainment)
 
"The Maid"
Sebastian Silva, director; Gregorio Gonzàles, producer (Elephant Eye Films)
 
"A Serious Man"
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors/producers (Focus Features)

Thoughts: Nice recognition for "Big Fan" which didn't get the marketing or distribution support it deserved. However, this race will come down to "Locker" vs. "Man" and either contender could really use this win to its advantage in the long run. Surprising that "Sugar" didn't make the cut after making ensemble below.
 
 
Best Documentary
 
"Food, Inc."
Robert Kenner, director; Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, producers (Magnolia Pictures)
 
"Good Hair"
Jeff Stilson, director; Chris Rock, Kevin O’Donnell, Nelson George Jenny Hunter, producers (Liddell Entertainment and Roadside Attractions in association with HBO Films)
 
"My Neighbor My Killer"
Anne Aghion, director/producer (Gacaca Productions)
 
"Paradise"
Michael Almereyda, director; Michael Almereyda, Laurie Butler, producers (Post Factory Films)
 
"Tyson"
James Toback, director; James Toback, Damon Bingham, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Thoughts: "Tyson"?  Really? O.K. then, must be the Tobak connection.
 
 
Best Ensemble Performance
 
"Adventureland"
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds (Miramax Films)
 
"Cold Souls"
Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, Katheryn Winnick, David Strathairn (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
 
"The Hurt Locker"
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly (Summit Entertainment)
 
"A Serious Man"
Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed (Focus Features)
 
"Sugar"
Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, Michael Gaston, Andre Holland, Ann Whitney, Richard Bull, Ellary Porterfield, Jaime Tirelli (Sony Pictures Classics)

Thoughts: Would be surprising if "A Serious Man" didn't win this one.  Some sweet recoginition (and vindication) for "Adventureland" and "Cold Souls" though. 
 
Breakthrough Director
 
Cruz Angeles for "Don’t Let Me Drown"
Frazer Bradshaw for "Everything Strange and New"
Noah Buschel for "The Missing Person" (Strand Releasing)
Derick Martini for "Lymelife" (Screen Media Films)
Robert Siegel for "Big Fan" (First Independent Pictures)
 
Thoughts: Considering how bad "Lymelife" was, here's hoping Siegel wins for "Big Fan."
 
Breakthrough Actor
 
Ben Foster in "The Messenger" (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Patton Oswalt in "Big Fan" (First Independent Pictures)
Jeremy Renner in "The Hurt Locker" (Summit Entertainment)
Catalina Saavedra in "The Maid" (Elephant Eye Films)
Soulémane Sy Savané in "Goodbye Solo" (Roadside Attractions)
 
Thoughts: how many breakthroughs is Foster going to have?  Isn't he on his fourth by now?  Happy to see Oswalt get some love, but hopefully Renner gets the win and kickstarts a journey to an unexpected Oscar nod.
 
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You

 
"Everything Strange and New"
Frazer Bradshaw, director; Laura Techera Francia, A.D. Liano, producers
 
"Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench"
Damien Chazelle, director; Jasmine McGlade, producer
 
"October Country"
Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, directors/producers
 
"You Won’t Miss Me"
Ry Russo-Young, director/producer
 
"Zero Bridge"
Tariq Tapa, director; Tariq Tapa, Josée Lajoie, Hilal Ahmed Langoo, producers

Thoughts: Not only are these films not playing at theaters, many of them haven't been screened at major festivals either.  'Nuff said.

The 19th Annual Gotham Awards will be held at Cipriani Wall St. in New York City on Nov. 30.