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Predicting the 2015 Gotham Awards Nominations

Predicting the 2015 Gotham Awards Nominations

On Thursday, the nominations for the 25th Annual Gotham Independent
Film Awards will act as the first major moment of the 2015-16 awards
season. What should we expect?

The nominations could give us some insight
into the road ahead. 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, we saw “Birdman,” “Boyhood” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” all do just that, with “Birdman” becoming the first film since “The Hurt Locker” to win the top prizes at both the Gothams and the Oscars.

This will notably be the third year where the Gothams feature categories for best actor and best actress. Last year, four eventual Oscar nominees landed nods at the Gothams first: Michael Keaton (“Birdman”), Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette (both “Boyhood”).  Will that be the case again this time around?

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. The same situation applies to 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 or password protected viewing link by
the deadline or made available for screening by the nominating

Theatrical release.

The release can be through a theatrical releasing entity or by direct or
self-distribution by filmmakers, either in an exclusively theatrical
release or day and date with digital platforms or VOD release. The film
must be screened for paid admission in a commercial motion picture
theater in New York City and/or Los Angeles County and 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 for independent films. The film
can be publicly exhibited in film or digital formats, delivered to the
screen by an image and sound file format suitable for exhibition in
existing commercial cinema sites.

-Digital Platform/Pay TV.

Films that are not released theatrically but have played qualifying
festivals and then are released exclusively via a digital platform or
PayTV/Cable VOD in 2015 may qualify for consideration in all relevant
categories, with the stipulation that the films first screened in 2015
at one of the following qualifying festivals: Berlin, Cannes,
Los Angeles Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto
International Film Festival, or Tribeca Film Festival. The digital platform release can be via VOD, streaming, DTO, or DTR.

Now place these rules against “Room” (Canadian and Irish produced, and directed by Irish Lenny Abrahamson), “Sicario” (American produced, but with a Canadian filmmaker in Denis Villeneuve), “The Danish Girl” (directed by a Brit), and “Brooklyn” (another Irish-Canadian co-pro directed by an Irishman, except this time the UK was on board, too).

Do they even qualify? Maybe. But some, like full-on British productions “45 Years” and “Ex-Machina,” Italy’s “Youth,” France’s “Clouds of Sils Maria,” as well as studio
releases like “Steve Jobs,” “Bridge of Spies” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” are all unqualified.

Then there’s the “breakthrough” categories (actor and filmmaker),
which have led to confusing results in the past: Melanie Lynskey was considered a
“breakthrough performance” for “Hello I Must Be Going” two years ago, despite being well known in
the independent film world since 1993’s “Heavenly Creatures.” Similar things happened with Greta Gerwig, Kathryn Hahn and Ben Foster in the last few years. That suggests actors such as Christopher Abbott (“James White”) and Sarah Silverman (“I Smile Back”) might end up in the breakthrough category rather straightforward performance categories. But it’s not a guarantee either way.

Overall, there’s no shortage of possibilities this year in any
category. The best feature race could boil down
to any of the following films, baring any of them don’t end up
qualifying (which surely a few of them won’t):


“Beasts of No Nation”
“The Danish Girl”
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“The End of the Tour”
“Fort Tilden”
“I Smile Back”
“I’ll See You In My Dreams”
“It Follows”
“James White”
“Love & Mercy”
“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
“Mississippi Grind”
“Mistress America”
“Nasty Baby”
“The Stanford Prison Experiment”
“Time Out of Mind”
“While We’re Young”

It’s important to remember that some of these films should resurface among the Independent Spirit Award nominees as well. It’s been a fantastic year for American independent film and perhaps another fairly Oscar-friendly one as well.

Of the 30 noted, a few have significant chances at a best picture
nomination come Oscar time. “Brooklyn,” “Carol” “The Danish Girl,” “Room” and “Spotlight”  all seem like pretty safe bets for at least one or two major Oscar nods. Other favorites like “James White,” “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” “Nasty Baby,” “Tangerine”  might prove a little too
independently minded for Academy tastes (especially given the multitude
of heavyweight studio options not being mentioned here), but that’s why
awards like the Gothams and Spirits remain valuable. 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.

Indiewire took a stab at predicting Thursday’s
nominations. You can find them on
the next page. Check back with us Thursday morning for the actual

Best Feature
Predicted five:


But watch out for:
“Beasts of No Nation”

Best Documentary
Predicted five:
“Cartel Land”
“The Hunting Ground”
“Stray Dog”
“The Wolfpack”

But watch out for:

Best Actress
Predicted five:
Cate Blanchett, “Carol”
Brie Larson, “Room”
Rooney Mara, “Carol”
Saorise Ronan, “Brooklyn”

Lily Tomlin, “Grandma”

But watch out for:
Sarah Silverman, “I Smile Back”

Best Actor
Predicted five:
Christopher Abbott, “James White”
Paul Dano, “Love & Mercy”
Idris Elba, “Beasts of No Nation”

Mark Ruffalo, “Spotlight”

Jason Segel, “The End of the Tour”

But watch out for:
Peter Sarsgaard, “Experimenter”

Best Breakthrough Director (Bingham Ray Award)
The predicted five:
Brett Haley, “I’ll See You In My Dreams”
Marielle Heller, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Josh Mond, “James White”
Reed Morano, “Meadowland”
James Vanderbilt, “Truth”

But watch out for:   
Justin Kelly, “I Am Michael”

Best Breakthrough Performance
The predicted five:
Abraham Attah, “Beasts of No Nation”
Thomas Mann, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”
Bel Powley, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”

Mya Taylor, “Tangerine”
Jacob Tremblay, “Room”

But watch out for:
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, “Tangerine”

Peter Knegt is Indiewire’s Contributing Editor and awards columnist. Follow him on Twitter.

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

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