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For Your Consideration: Predicting This Week's Gotham Award Nominations

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire October 22, 2013 at 10:04AM

On Thursday, the nominations for the 23rd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards will act as the first major moment of the 2013-14 awards season, with nominations being announced for nine competitive categories (including wholly new ones for both best actor and best actress).
"Short Term 12"
Cinedigm Brie Larson in "Short Term 12."

On Thursday, the nominations for the 23rd Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards will act as the first major moment of the 2013-14 awards season, with nominations being announced for seven competitive categories (including wholly new ones for both best actor and best actress).

What should we expect? Well, the nominations could give us some insight into what lies ahead -- but don't expect to too much Oscar crossover. On average, a couple of films that are nominated for Gotham's top prize -- best feature -- also end up getting a best picture nomination. Last year, none of the films did (though two films nominated in other categories -- "Silver Linings Playbook" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" -- did). The year before, though, we had two do so in "The Descendants" and "The Tree of Life."

Keep in mind that the nominations are produced by a handful of small committees, a process that encourages quirky and unexpected additions and makes predicting the nominations next to impossible. Ditto Gotham's rather vague submission criteria, which notes the following:

-Filmmaking with a point of view.
Each  Gotham Independent Film Award™ will be given to individual films or performers in films where the vision of an individual director, producer, writer or writer/director is abundantly evident, and where the film cannot be classically defined as a “work for hire.”

-Feature-length (defined as over 70 minutes).

-Films made with an economy of means.

-Films must be American.
The film must be directed and/or produced by a US born or based filmmaker.

-Screening availability by the Nominating Committee.
The film must be submitted on DVD by the deadline or made available for screening by nominating committee. (Not applicable to the Festival Genius Audience Award)

-Independent Distribution.
Films must be scheduled for a theatrical or digital platform or Pay TV release during calendar year 2012 (Midnight January 1 – 11:59 pm December 31). See special criteria for cable and digital platforms below.

-Theatrical release.
The release can be through a specialty division of a studio, an independent distributor, or via self-distribution. The film must be screened for paid admission in a commercial motion picture theatre in New York City and/or Los Angeles County. It must run for at least seven consecutive days. The film must be advertised and marketed during the New York and/or Los Angeles County run in a manner considered normal and customary to the industry. The film must be publicly exhibited by means of 16mm, 35mm or 70mm film, or in a digital format, delivered to the screen by an image and sound file format suitable for exhibition in existing commercial cinema sites.

Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
Oprah Winfrey in "Lee Daniels' The Butler"

Now place these rules against "Lee Daniels' The Butler" (too expensive at $30 million? Though, mind you, last year the $35 million budgeted "The Master" made the cut), "12 Years a Slave"" (American co-produced and set, it's directed by Brit Steve McQueen), "Dallas Buyers Club" (same situation, with a Canadian filmmaker this time)

Do they even qualify? Maybe. Probably, even. But some, like full-on British production "Philomena," France's "Blue is the Warmest Color" and "The Past," as well as studio releases like "Labor Day," "Her" and "American Hustle," we can probably count out for sure.

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"
Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

And then there's the "breakthrough" categories (actor and filmmaker), which has been confusing in the past: Melanie Lynskey was considered a "breakthrough performance" for "Hello I Must Be Going," despite being well known in the independent film world since 1993's "Heavenly Creatures." Similar things happened with Greta Gerwig and Ben Foster in the last few years. Though the additions of the "best actor" and "best actress" categories this year should probably go quite a ways in solving that problem (those categories should be very interesting to watch, especially given so many major Oscar contenders are eligible).

That said, there's no shortage of possibilities this year in any category. Roughly, it seems like the best feature race could boil down to any of the following films, baring any of them don't end up qualifying:

  • "12 Years a Slave"
  • "Afternoon Delight"
  • "Ain't Them Bodies Saints"
  • "All Is Lost"
  • "August: Osage County"
  • "Before Midnight"
  • "Blue Jasmine"
  • "Computer Chess"
  • "Concussion"
  • "Dallas Buyers Club"
  • "Don Jon"
  • "The East"
  • "Enough Said"
  • "Escape From Tomorrow"
  • "Frances Ha"
  • "Fruitvale Station"
  • "Gimme The Loot"
  • "In a World"
  • "Inside Llewyn Davis"
  • "Kill Your Darlings"
  • "Lee Daniels' The Butler"
  • "Mother of George"
  • "Mud"
  • "Nebraska"
  • "The Place Beyond The Pines"
  • "Prince Avalanche"
  • "Short Term 12"
  • "The Spectacular Now"
  • "Spring Breakers"
  • "To The Wonder"
  • "Upstream Color"
  • "The Way, Way Back"

Also, remember these films come Independent Spirit Award time, as they should also make up the bulk of nominees there (save "Lee Daniels' The Butler" which definitely has a budget that exceeds Spirit Award rules, while "12 Years a Slave" and "August: Osage County" seem to just make the cut at $20 million).

It's been a fantastic year for American independent film -- and perhaps a fairly Oscar friendly one as well.

12 Years A Slave

Of the 20 noted, a few have significant chances at a best picture nomination come Oscar time "12 Years a Slave" for sure, and perhaps "Nebraska," "Inside Llewyn Davis," "Dallas Buyers Club," "Blue Jasmine," "August: Osage County," and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" as well. Other favorites like "Frances Ha," "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," "Fruitvale Station" and "Short Term 12" might prove a little too independently minded for Academy tastes (especially given the multitude of heavyweight studio options not being mentioned here), but that is why awards like the Gothams and Spirits are important. And the Gothams in particular tend to go their own way, with a snub for a likely best picture Oscar nominee not just out of the question but often times the norm.

Just for fun, Indiewire took a stab at predicting Thursday's nominations. You can find those predictions on the next page. Check back with us Thursday morning for the actual nominees.

"Fruitvale Station."
TWC "Fruitvale Station."

Best Feature
Predicted five:
12 Years a Slave
Before Midnight
Frances Ha
Inside Llewyn Davis
Short Term 12

But watch out for:
All is Lost
Blue Jasmine
Fruitvale Station
Spring Breakers

Best Documentary
Predicted five:
20 Feet From Stardom
The Act of Killing
After Tiller
God Loves Uganda
The Square

Blue Jasmine
But watch out for:
America Promise
Cutie and the Boxer
Inequality For All
Tim's Vermeer
The Unknown Known

Best Actress
Predicted five:
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Julie Delpy, Before Midnight
Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha
Brie Larson, Short Term 12 (or will she just be in for "breakthrough" -- not sure of rule here)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Enough Said

But watch out for:
Lake Bell, In a World
Rooney Mara, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Meryl Streep, August: Osage County
Robin Weigert, Concussion
Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler
Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now

Best Actor
Predicted five:
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Chiwetel Ejiofer, 12 Years a Slave
James Franco, Spring Breakers
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
(same sitiuation as Brie Larson)
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyer's Club Matthew McConaughey

But watch out for:
Casey Affleck, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
James Gandolfini, Enough Said
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Robert Redford, All Is Lost

Best Breakthrough Director (Bingham Ray Award)
The predicted five:
Lake Bell, In a World
Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station
Destin Daniel Cretton, Short Term 12

David Lowery, Ain't Them Bodies Saints
Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight

But watch out for:   
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon
John Krokidas, Kill Your Darlings
Adam Leon, Gimme The Loot
Randy Moore, Escape From Tomorrow
Stacie Passon, Concussion
Amy Seimetz, Sun Don't Shine

Best Breakthrough Performance
The predicted five:
Dane DeHaan, Kill Your Darlings
Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station
Brie Larson, Short Term 12
Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

But watch out for:
Kaitlyn Dever, Short Term 12
Jonathan Groff, C.O.G.
Danai Gurira, Mother of George
Waad Mohammed, Wadjda
Patrick Riester, Computer Chess
Mickey Sumner, Frances Ha

Peter Knegt is Indiewire's Senior Writer and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

Check out Indiewire's latest chart of Oscar predictions here.

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This article is related to: Gotham Awards, Awards, Short Term 12, Frances Ha, 12 Years a Slave, Spring Breakers, Fruitvale Station, All Is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club, Gotham Awards, For Your Consideration