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Birdman's Michael Keaton and Alejandro González Iñárritu at the 2014 New York Film Festival | Paula Schwartz Photo
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The Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced their nominees for the Gotham Awards the other day and Richard Linklater’s masterpiece, “Boyhood,” led with four nominations. The honors were for best film, and for the stars, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Ellar Coltrane.

As a harbinger of what’s ahead for awards season, the IFP got that right. Even with many of the heavy hitter movies up for Oscar consideration not released yet, “Boyhood” will be the frontrunner during the awards season. The movie chronicles the life of an ordinary family, portrayed by Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, and Linklater’s real-life daughter Lorelei, over a dozen years. In an achievement never attempted before in a feature film, the actors, like their characters, age in real time. The film was shot for several weeks every year, so the effect as you watch the actors age slowly but perceptibly is like watching time-lapse photography as the family drama unfolds over more than a decade. In addition, Linklater, who is considered a Gotham darling even though he is from Texas, was honored last year with a special Gotham award for career achievement. All this makes him the one to beat come Oscar season.

The Gotham Awards, which honors the best in independent filmmaking, kicks off the awards season race. It’s also one of the best parties in town. Presenters and winners also often get a little soused by the time the winners are announced, which makes for hilarious speeches, and Oscar prognosticators play close attention to the winner list which often dovetails with the Academy’s choices, both for nominees and winners. Still, because home town nominees often have the edge when it comes to the Gothams, it is not a lock. For example, last year the Coen brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis” – my personal favorite – won the Gotham for best feature film but come Oscar time the film did not even rate a best feature film nomination. “12 Years a Slave” won the Oscar.

The other Gotham nominees for best film this year are Wes Anderson’s terrific movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Ira Sachs’ “Love Is Strange” and Jonathan Glazer’s “Under the Skin.” The final in this category, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance” will give “Boyhood” some serious competition during the awards season.

Last year for the first time, the Gothams added the best actress and actor category. In the highly competitive field of best actor, in addition to Hawke, the nominees include Bill Hader (“The Skeleton Twins”), Oscar Isaac (“A Most Violent Year,” which has not been released yet), Miles Teller (“Whiplash”) and Michael Keaton (“Birdman”). Teller and Keaton have already gotten Oscar buzz and they would seem to be frontrunners.

Best actress nominees, in addition to Arquette, include Gugu Mbatha-Raw in “Beyond the Lights”; Julianne Moore in the heartbreaking “Still Alice”; Scarlett Johansson in “Under the Skin”; and Mia Wasikowska in “Tracks.” In another example of how the Gothams do not equal Oscars, last year Brie Larson, who was terrific in “Short Term 12,” beat favorite Cate Blanchett, who ultimately received the little gold man for “Blue Jasmine.”

The best documentary field is also one which Oscar watchers will keep a close watch on. The nominees are “Actress,” “Citizenfour,” “Life Itself,” “Manakamana” and “Point and Shoot.” Laura Poitras’s “Citizenfour,” the controversial and admiring look at NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, has engendered lots of buzz and curiosity since its premiere at the New York Film Festival October 10 and will be a favored contender in the documentary awards race all season. It is also scoring big where it counts, at the box office.

For 2014, the three other competitive awards include Breakthrough Actor, the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director award, and the Gotham Audience Award. Gotham Award Tributes will also be given to actor Tilda Swinton, director Bennett Miller and Industry Tribute recipient, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos.

Twenty-four films received nominations this year. In addition, the nominating committee for the Best Actor category voted to award a Special Jury Award jointly to the three leading actors in “Foxcatcher” – Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum – for their ensemble work.

There were a few curveballs in the nominations. Mbagtha-Raw was a revelation in her breakout role in Amma Asante’s period drama “Belle,” which focused on slavery in Britain, but the young actress’s nomination is for “Beyond the Lights,” in which she stars as a rock superstar in duress and which few people in New York have seen yet. Why was she nominated for the later film instead of “Belle”? And why isn’t she in the breakthrough actor field?

Another head scratcher is the special jury award to the three leads of “Foxcatcher.” The film didn’t receive a single Gotham. Director, Bennet Miller will receive a special career tribute, so the exceptional film deserves recognition.

The biggest surprise in the Gotham nominations is the omission for “Whiplash” in the best feature category. The film was a New York Film Festival favorite and Sundance winner. At least Teller’s performance received a best actor nod.

From the Gotham Independent Film Awards press release: “Each year the Gotham Awards honor the best work from our independent storytellers and help new audiences discover their work.  We congratulate this year’s nominees, from the master film artists to the talented newcomers, a true representation of the rich and diverse range of today’s independent filmmaking,” said Joana Vicente, Executive Director of IFP and the Made in NY Media Center. “We are grateful to our nominating committees of film critics, journalists, programmers and film curators for their dedication to selecting the nominees from so many worthy submissions.”

According to the IFP, committees of film critics, journalists, festival programmers and film curators select nominees. Separate juries of writers, directors, actors, producers, editors and others directly involved in making films will determine the final Gotham Award recipients.

The Gotham Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, December 1, 2014, at Cipriani Wall Street.

The 2014 Gotham Independent Film Award nominations are:

Best Feature

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Alejandro G. Iñárritu, director; Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Boyhood

Richard Linklater, director; Richard Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, producers (IFC Films)

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson, director; Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson, producers (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Love Is Strange

Ira Sachs, director; Lucas Joaquin, Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

Under the Skin

Jonathan Glazer, director; Nick Wechsler, James Wilson, producers (A24 Films)

Best Documentary

Actress

Robert Greene, director; Douglas Tirola, Susan Bedusa, Robert Greene, producers (The Cinema Guild)

CITIZENFOUR

Laura Poitras, director; Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky, producers (RADiUS, Participant Media, and HBO Documentary Films)

Life Itself

Steve James, director; Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch, producers (Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films)

Manakamana

Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez, directors; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel, producers (The Cinema Guild)

Point and Shoot

Marshall Curry, director; Marshall Curry, Elizabeth Martin, Matthew Van Dyke, producers (The Orchard and American Documentary / POV)

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Ana Lily Amirpour for A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Kino Lorber)

James Ward Byrkit for Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

Eliza Hittman for It Felt Like Love (Variance Films)

Justin Simien for Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Best Actor*

Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood (IFC Films)

Oscar Isaac in A Most Violent Year (A24 Films)

Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Miles Teller in Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics)

* The 2014 Best Actor nominating panel also voted to award a special Gotham Jury Award jointly to Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, and Channing Tatum for their ensemble performance in Foxcatcher (Sony Pictures Classics).

Best Actress

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood (IFC Films)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Beyond the Lights (Relativity Media)

Julianne Moore in Still Alice (Sony Pictures Classics)

Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin (A24 Films)

Mia Wasikowska in Tracks (The Weinstein Company)

Breakthrough Actor

Riz Ahmed in Nightcrawler (Open Road Films)

Macon Blair in Blue Ruin (RADiUS)

Ellar Coltrane in Boyhood (IFC Films)

Joey King in Wish I Was Here (Focus Features)

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child (A24 Films)

Tessa Thompson in Dear White People (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)

Twenty writers, critics and programmers participated in the nomination process, considering 199 eligible submissions. The Nominating Committees for the 2014 Gotham Independent Film Awards were:

Nominating Committee for Best Feature and Breakthrough Director:

Justin Chang, Senior Film Critic, Variety

Eric Kohn, Lead Film Critic, Indiewire

Christy Lemire, Film Critic, ChristyLemire.com and co-host, What the Flick?!

Andrew O’Hehir, Film Critic, Salon.com

Joshua Rothkopf, Film Editor, Time Out New York

Nominating Committee for Best Documentary:

Charlotte Cook, Director of ProgrammingHot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival

Bilge Ebiri, Film Critic, New York Magazine and Vulture

Cynthia Fuchs, Film-TV Editor, PopMatters

Tom Hall, Executive Director, Montclair Film Festival

Sky Sitney, Visiting Artist, Georgetown University Film and Media Studies Department

Nominating Committee for Best Actor and Best Actress:

Mark Harris, Editor-at-Large, Entertainment Weekly and columnist, Grantland

Ann Hornaday, Film Critic, The Washington Post

Glenn Kenny, Critic, RogerEbert.com; author, Anatomy of an Actor: Robert De Niro

David Rooney, Film & Theater Critic, The Hollywood Reporter

Elizabeth Weitzman, Film Critic, New York Daily News

Nominating Committee for Breakthrough Actor:

Sam Adams, Editor of Criticwire, Indiewire

A.A. Dowd, Film Editor, The A. V. Club

Sheila O’Malley, Film Critic, RogerEbert.com

Ronnie Scheib, Film Critic, Variety

Stephen Whitty, Film Critic, Newark Star-Ledger

Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ Grant

For the fourth consecutive year, IFP is proud to present the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant, a $25,000 cash award for an alumna of IFP’s Independent Filmmaker Labs. This grant aims to further the careers of emerging women directors by supporting the completion, distribution and audience engagement strategies of their first feature film.

The nominees are:

Garrett Bradley, director, Below Dreams

Claire Carré, director, Embers

Chloé Zhao, director, Songs My Brothers Taught Me

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