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.