The IFP Gotham Independent Film Award nominations will be announced tomorrow. Those of us who cover the Oscars are like starving seagulls waiting for someone to throw out a breadcrumb so they (we) will pounce on these awards like they REALLY MEAN EVERYTHING. They don’t mean NOTHING but they don’t mean everything. It will be one of those times when everyone must stand back, take a breath and remember Twitter isn’t the Oscar race.
Last year was a cluster*ck for women directors. The only one who had even a remote shot was Marielle Heller for Can You Ever Forgive Me? but for whatever reason critics seemed to take offense to this notion and decide that no, here are a bunch of other women who SHOULD win – the first of these was Chloe Zhao who made the film The Rider, which won Gotham’s Best Film last year. It was up against the only film of the five nominees that would ultimately go on to be nominated for Best Picture, The Favourite. Later, other women would be brought forward as an option to satisfy particular tastes, like Lynne Ramsay but in the end, none of them would get in because there wasn’t any way of building a consensus. So if there is a hope that any woman will make it in, that consensus has to start early and not be countered, as they all were last year.
The year before, two films nominated got through, including the winner, Call Me By Your Name, which beat Get Out. Prior to that, Moonlight was the only Oscar nominee and Gotham winner for Best Film, ditto for the year before with Spotlight. The year before that both Birdman and Boyhood were nominated. I guess you could say that one proved that if it was down to those two movies, when even the independent people picked Birdman that was probably a pretty good sign of how that race was going to go down.
Since they’ve been giving out Best Actor (since 2013), only twice has the winner gone on to win the Oscar – that’s Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club and Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea. In Best Actress, only went on to win once, Julianne Moore for Still Alice. The voters for the Gothams are a very small committee – I think it’s literally like five people per category and they tend to be members of the major film critics groups, like New York or LA. It’s hard with this group, as it is with any group now, to parse what they think is the “best” versus what kind of social wrong they’re trying to CORRECT. Are they trying to boost women? Women of color? Or do they genuinely believe this film is the best film? They’ll never say what motivates them beyond that they believe it to be the best but in general, these are always factors to consider. They don’t want a shitstorm on their hands, because no one does, so I’m going to guess that there is a little more activism in these choices than there otherwise would be. Not that it’s a bad thing but just FYI.
This is the criteria for Best Film:
There will be eight (8) competitive awards in 2019 – Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Actor, Best Actress, Breakthrough Actor, Best Screenplay, the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award, and the IFP Gotham Audience Award. All eligible submissions must meet the following basic criteria for competitive awards:
- Filmmaking with a point of view.
Each IFP Gotham 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.”
- Films must be American.
The film must be directed and/or produced by (a credited lead producer [“produced by”] a U.S. citizen or U.S.-based filmmaker.
- Feature-length (defined as over 70 minutes). Series or multi-part works can only be submitted in the Breakthrough Series categories.
- Films made with an economy of means.
Budget level and sources of financing are taken into consideration during criteria review.
- Screening availability by the Nominating Committees.
The film must be submitted by password-protected viewing link (direct link or third party “screening room”) or on DVD by the deadline or otherwise made available for screening by nominating committee. (Not applicable to the Gotham Audience Award)
- Theatrical, Day and Date, or Digital Platform 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.
We’ll be finding out tomorrow what the movies will be. I can’t speak for the ones they’ll choose that WON’T get into the Oscar race but I’d be very surprised if some of these films didn’t figure in somewhere – either for acting or for Best Film:
Last Black Man in San Francisco
Peanut Butter Falcon
What to really watch for are the “Oscar movies” that might show up there – I don’t know, like maybe Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Dolemite is My Name, Marriage Story, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood or Jojo Rabbit or Little Women or anything that feels like a slam dunk or close to one for Oscar’s Best Picture.