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by Peter Knegt
October 24, 2013 10:00 AM
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'12 Years a Slave' Leads Eclectic 2013 Gotham Award Nominations

Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" led the 23rd Gotham Independent Film Award nominations, it was announced this morning. The film picked up three nods, including best feature, best actor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and best breakthrough actor (Lupita Nyong'o).

It was -- as always -- a rather surprising batch of nominations that in large part went their own way (as is the case when small nominating committees are behind them). The Gothams nominated David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," Joel and Ethan Coen's "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" alongside "12 Years" in the best feature category.  Certainly a worthy quintet, but absent as a result were Alexander Payne's "Nebraska," Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha," Jeff Nichols' "Mud," Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said," Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," Destin Daniel Cretton's "Short Term 12," Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" and JC Chandor's "All Is Lost."

Of those films, "Nebraska," "Frances Ha," "Enough Said" and "Mud" failed to receive a single nod, thought the rest all did well in other categories, including the first ever "best actor" and "best actress" races at the Gothams (which collectively replaced the "best ensemble" category).  

Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmine") and Brie Larson ("Short Term 12") were in the mix for best actress, joining Amy Seimetz ("Upstream Color," and also a nominee for best breakthrough director for "Sun Don't Shine" -- the first time a person has gotten an acting nod and a breakthrough directing nod at the Gothams for two different movies), Shailene Woodley ("The Spectacular Now") and Scarlett Johansson ("Don Jon"). The latter three were all something of surprises, given they were included over the more expected likes of Julie Delpy ("Before Midnight"), Greta Gerwig ("Frances Ha"), June Squibb ("Nebraska") and Julia Louis-Dreyfus ("Enough Said"). 

The best actress nominees certainly didn't pander to Oscar either, with Blanchett the only likely crossover nominee, and the Oscar-hungry casts of eligible films "August: Osage County" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" overlooked in all the acting categories altogether (not surprising really given these are not critical favorites and the nominating committees are made up largely of film critics and festival programmers).

The best actor nominees did feature three men likely to make the Oscar race -- Chiwetel Ejiofor ("12 Years"), Matthew McConaughey ("Dallas Buyers Club") and Robert Redford ("All Is Lost") -- alongside Oscar Issac ("Inside Llewyn Davis") and Isaiah Washington ("Blue Caprice"). Not present? Bruce Dern ("Nebraska"), James Franco ("Spring Breakers"), Ethan Hawke ("Before Midnight") and James Gandolfini ("Enough Said").

"Fruitvale Station" breakout Michael B. Jordan also missed the best actor cut, but he did end up getting a nomination in the somewhat confusing best breakthrough actor category. He was joined by Dane DeHaan ("Kill Your Darlings"), Kathryn Hahn ("Afternoon Delight"), Lupita Nyong'o ("12 Years a Slave") and Robin Weigert ("Concussion").  All deserving nominees, though Hahn and Weigert have had considerable careers before these arguable breakthroughs, while Brie Larson and Oscar Isaac perhaps had more definitively "breakthrough" performances but were nominated in the general acting categories.

Either way, though, these nominations are overall eclectic and interesting batch that work well to represent what has very much been an eclectic and interesting year in independent film. And this notion extends to the as-yet-unmentioned Best Documentary and Bingham Ray Breakthrough DIrector Award categories, which included the likes of "The Act of Killing," "The Crash Reel," "First Cousin Once Removed," "Let The Fire Burn" and "Our Nixon" in the former, and Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station"), Adam Leon ("Gimme The Loot"), Alexandre Moors ("Blue Caprice"), Stacie Passon ("Concussion") and Amy Seimetz ("Sun Don't Shine") in the latter.

The winners will be announced on December 2, 2013 in New York City. Full list of nominations on the next page.


  • Alex | October 24, 2013 3:48 PMReply

    Go Dane DeHaan and Ain't Them Bodies Saints!

  • hal | October 24, 2013 12:54 PMReply

    I think it is weird that two documentaries in the Best Documentary category are films where the filmmakers didn't shoot anything at all. Both "My Nixon" and "Let the Fire Burn" are great films made by the editors who had amazing archives to work with and the editors should win lots of awards. But what about filmmaking being about actually creating film? Archival films are fine to recut but you'd think the documentary committee could value the great films this year that were shot by filmmakers and then edited. Strange.

  • Brett | October 24, 2013 4:49 PM

    Um Rachael, do you think archival footage just magically appears all in one place? Completely cleared and ready to edit? If you had read anything about the films you would know they took years to make. In LET THE FIRE BURN's case 10 years. And a quick glace at the press notes would reveal the director DID indeed shoot modern-day interviews which he then abandoned as he didn't want the footage marred by how the subjects feel now versus then. Finally, I believe awards are given on the basis of the final product, not effort involved in the production. As final films, I can say, in my opinion, both My Nixon and Let the Fire Burn are among the best films released this year. BTW this wasn't meant to be personal but I HAVE spent years of my life out in the field, following a story, making decisions about locations, scenes, and characters and deciding how I are would capture events as they unfold, frequently with many twists and turns - thank you very much.

  • Rachael | October 24, 2013 4:36 PM

    Brett - You obviously haven't spent years of your life out in the field following a story, making decisions about locations, scenes, and characters and deciding how you are going to capture events as they unfold, frequently with many twists and turns. There's a huge difference between that level of effort and sitting in the editing room with an editor with only an archive putting a film together.

  • Brett | October 24, 2013 1:40 PM

    I think it's strange that you insinuate that filming original footage somehow constitutes a a more deserving film for a "Best Documentary" award. A documentary can be anything from 100% found footage to 100% new footage. In my mind creating a film of just found footage frees the audience up for a more objective experience, something that is VERY hard to achieve. Really now, what's the big difference in editing 100s of hours of archival footage from many different sources or 100s of hours of new footage? You still have to find the compelling story. I assure you neither film was "made" by the editor.

  • jimbo | October 24, 2013 10:17 AMReply

    yes this is a total joke. upstream color for best feature before mud and all is lost? and short term 12?

  • shelly | October 24, 2013 10:09 AMReply

    The breakthrough director category is a mess just like last year. By not including Destin Cretton they basically wrote it off as picking their personal favorites. Him and Ryan Coogler are the only true breakthroughs this year.

  • p | October 24, 2013 10:08 AMReply

    Seriously, Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon? I like her but don't think that performance is worthy of getting nominations. The best performance in that film was from Julianne Moore but even so, I wouldn't nominate her. Like, come on! Where's Greta Gerwig or Julia-Louis Dreyfus?!