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Back and Forth: Breaking Down the Gotham Award Nods

Back and Forth: Breaking Down the Gotham Award Nods

Awards season is officially underway with the announcement earlier today of the 2009 Gotham Independent Film Award nominations. indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez and Peter Knegt chatted via instant messenger about the nominations and what they mean heading into awards season.

Eugene Hernandez: So, here we are again.

Last year we chatted shortly after the Gotham Award nominations were announced and like it or not. Now we’re back again to kick-off the seasons. The Gotham nominations offers a sort of soft launch for nominations announcements.

First off, I have to say Tony Scott’s rather ill-timed joke got things off to a weird start: “I had nothing to do with this,” he said, “I am only reading the nominations. Chances are I probably hate most of the movies that are nominated.” You’re in London, but here in the iW office, we laughed out loud.

Peter Knegt: I awkwardly chuckled to myself here as well. And after seeing this generally strange batch of nominations, I’m wondering whether it was a joke or not.

EH: Well, I guess it depends how he feels about “Precious.” That was a surprise exclusion from the nominating committee (that included Raj Roy, from MoMA; Lisa Schwarzbaum from EW; Dana Stevens, from Slate.com; and Kenny Turan, from the LA Times).

Other surprises?

PK: “Goodbye Solo”‘s snub in the best feature category in favor of well-liked but certainly not superior films like “Amreeka” and “Big Fan.” “Sin Nombre”‘s complete shut out, particularly in the breakthrough director category…and “Humpday”! I would have loved to see that get some love here.

I mean, it’s generally a worthy batch of films, and I was kidding about questioning Scott’s intent. But there’s definitely some big omissions. Though perhaps they weren’t submitted for consideration; you never know.

EH: I’d assume that most films from most bigger companies were submitted, because these distributors are looking for any awards season leg up they can get.

PK: I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t submit? It’s just quite shocking “Precious” wouldn’t at least nab an ensemble nod or a breakthrough actor nod for Gabby Sidibe.

EH: Agreed. That seemed like the safest bet from that movie. I’m a fan of “Precious” but even those who might not be have to acknowledge that its an amazing performance for a newcomer. The definition of “breakthrough.”

PK: Maybe the nominating committees figured between its slew of festival awards, Oprah and Tyler Perry, “Precious” didn’t need any more support.

EH: But “The Hurt Locker” and “A Serious Man” did?

PK: True.

EH: It raises a bigger question about eligibility, that at the very least deserves clarification. Tony Scott said, at the top of the announcement, that one of the criteria is independent distribution, which is not exactly accurate. The nominations are open to films from indie companies, but also the specialty divisions of the studios (Focus, Sony Classics, Miramax, etc).

It is nice to see independently distributed movies recognized, like “The Maid,” which had a great opening weekend recently.

PK: Totally. That’s the type of film that could actually benefit from these nominations. For “The Hurt Locker” and “A Serious Man,” it’s likely just one accolade that will soon sit at the bottom of a very big pile.

On another note… the documentary category strikes me as perhaps the most surprising here. “Food, Inc.” was the only one I predicted, and I’m particularly surprised there’s no “The Cove” or “We Live In Public.”

EH: I also thought that “Anvil” or “The September Issue” might show up in that category as well.

PK: Or “Every Little Step.”

EH: And, speaking of docs, great to see “October Country” get a spot in the “Not Playing at a Theater Near You” category, which gives it a showcase screening at MoMA next month, along with the other nominees. That doc has been doing quite well on the fest circuit lately.

PK: Though its not likely to help it financially, I’m also glad to see a little love for “Adventureland” in the ensemble category. That came and went too quickly.

EH: A little love for Miramax at a time when they need some warm wishes…

PK: Hahaha. Something tells me this might not be enough to really comfort anyone over there.

So, since we’re already at this… Care to wager a bet on the winners?

EH: Well, in general I’d expect “Hurt Locker” to do quite well. It just seems to be the one to watch for awards season. But, remind me, who is picking the winners?

PK: According to the website, it’s different than the nominating committees… “A final jury of distinguished filmmakers will determine the winners in each category.”

So who knows. But I agree, “Hurt Locker” seems like the safest bet. Though I’d love to see “Goodbye Solo”‘s Soulemane Sy Savane surprise for breakthrough actor.

EH: Agreed. And it would be great to see the actors from “Sugar” get some attention in the ensemble category. But, I guess we’ll save our final predictions for the eve of the Gothams.

PK: I look forward to it.

The 2009 Gotham Independent Film Award ceremony will take place Monday, November 30.

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