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Preview: Who Will and Should Win at Tonight’s Gotham Awards

Preview: Who Will and Should Win at Tonight's Gotham Awards

The 22nd annual Gotham Independent Film Awards go down tonight at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, the first competitive awards show of the season. Indiewire will be on the scene offering minute-by-minute (ish) coverage, but in the meantime we figured why not offer a preview of how things might play out.

Note first that the Gothams can be incredibly unpredictable. Last year, “Beginners” and “The Tree of Life” tied for best feature, beating out arguable favorite “The Descendants.” In 2010, Ronald Bronstein won best breakthrough actor (for “Daddy Longlegs”) over eventual Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence (for “Winter’s Bone”). The same thing happened the year before, when Catalina Saavedra’s performance in “The Maid” won over Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker” in the same category. So despite what’s suggested below, it’s likely we’ll be in for a few or more surprises.

READ MORE: Gotham Awards Announce 2012 Nominations

With that in mind, here’s our take on 5 of the 6 juried categories (excluding “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” because I’ve only seen one of the five nominees… though check out this article by my colleague Eric Kohn for an extensive take on the films shortlisted there).

Best Feature
The nominees: “Bernie,” “The Loneliest Planet,” “The Master,” “Middle of Nowhere” and “Moonrise Kingdom”
What will win: One would think it’s a two way race between “The Master” and “Moonrise Kindgom,” though given the Gothams’ history, nothing’s certain. And while its divisive  reception might be a challenge, Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest seems to have enough passionate fans to have the edge. This could give it a small but much-needed boost going into the rest of awards season, which has grown increasingly heated since “The Master” opened back in September. But who knows, maybe there’ll be another tie.
What should win: “The Master.” While each of the other nominees are great in their own ways, Anderson’s film stands on a whole other level of greatness.

Best Ensemble Performance
The nominees: “Bernie,” “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Safety Not Guaranteed,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Your Sister’s Sister”
What will win: If it loses best feature, a deserved consolation prize for “Moonrise Kingdom” could come in this category. Its impressive cast (including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis) certainly makes up one of the year’s best ensembles. But it might not stand a chance against the folks from “Silver Linings Playbook,” who definitely have the most buzz going into tonight. That would also finally give Jennifer Lawrence the Gotham Award she lost out on two years back.
What should win: Either “Moonrise” or “Silver Linings” winning would be fine by me, but there’s too much of a soft spot in my heart for the incredible trio from “Your Sister’s Sister.” Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt and Mark Duplass are remarkable in the largely improvised film, and given that they are unlikely to get too many nominations elsewhere in awards season, it’d be nice for the Gothams to give it up for them.

Best Breakthrough Actor/Actress
The nominees: Mike Birbiglia (“Sleepwalk With Me”), Emayatzy Corinealdi (“Middle of Nowhere”), Melanie Lynskey (“Hello I Must Be Going”), Thure Lindhardt (“Keep The Lights On”) and Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild).
Who will win: Tough call, especially with the odd wrench of Melanie Lynskey (who really “broke through” as an actress two decades ago with “Heavenly Creatures”) thrown in the mix. Pretty much any of the nominees are feasible winners, including the host of the ceremony himself, Mike Birbiglia. But one would think it would be too hard to resist the  tour-de-force performance of Quvenzhane Wallis, even if the fact that she’s only 8 years old might turn a few voters off. And it’ll definitely make for a highlight of the ceremony if the adorable and charismatic young actress takes the stage.
Who should win: Quvenzhane Wallis. Everyone nominated in this category is excellent, but Wallis’s work in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is truly revelatory.

Best Breakthrough Director:
The nominees: Zal Batmanglij (“Sound of My Voice”), Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky (“Francine”), Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin (“Now, Forager”), Antonio Mendez Esparza (“Aqui y Alla”) and Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
Who will win: They snubbed the film in the best feature category, but it seems highly unlikely the Gothams will not make up for it by giving the best breakthrough director award to Behn Zeitlin for “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
Who should win: Beyond Zeitlin, this is a category full of directors from vastly underseen films. Other than “Beasts,” I’ve seen only “Sound of My Voice” and “Francine,” both of which are incredibly interesting films from cinematic voices you should watch out for. I’d be happy with any of the three winning, and the exposure might be more important for the likes of Batmanglij and Cassidy and Shatzky than Zeitlin.

Best Documentary
The nominees: “Detropia,” “How To Survive a Plague,” “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present,” “Room 237” and “The Waiting Room”
What will win: Last year Kelly Duane and Katie Galloway’s “Better This World” surprised over more high profile nominees like “The Interrupters” and “Hell and Back Again,” so perhaps were in for a similar surprise again this year. And while truly any nominee would make a worthy winner, it seems like the New York-centric and extraordinarily powerful AIDS actvism doc “How To Survive a Plague” makes the most sense to take this prize. Though watch out for “Detropia” and “Room 237.”
What should win: Having not seen “The Waiting Room” its not an entirely fair decision, but “How To Survive a Plague” has resonated with me strongly some ten months after I saw it at Sundance.

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