‘Spotlight’ ruled but who else won and lost at the 2015 Gotham Awards?

First 'real' awards show of the season has its say

The 2015 Gotham Awards were handed out Monday night in New York City and once again helped put the, um, spotlight on American independent cinema.  And, that was the night’s big winner.  Tom McCarthy’s drama took home a juried Ensemble Award, Screenplay and Best Feature.  Considering “Birdman” won the latter honor and then the Oscar for Best Picture it’s quite telling if you believe the Gotham’s voting committees are reflective of the industry as a whole.

The ceremony, which was live streamed online, was quite entertaining.  Tribute honorees Robert Redford and Todd Haynes went a bit long with their speechs, but Helen Mirren effectively dropped the mic with a saucy anecdote about her role in “The Queen” and her sex life (hopefully someone will throw it up on YouTube soon).

It’s worth noting the Gothams also introduced a Breakthrough Long Form Series honor this year (increasing that sponsorship pool IFP?).  USA Networks’ “Mr. Robot” beat “Transparent,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “UNReal” for the honor.  How it trumped “Transparent” has every TV and culture critic in the nation scratching their heads until you realize it was made up of a committee of just five voters.  Or, perhaps that Amazon show is just too…LA?

In any event, here’s a rundown of who won, who actually needed the win and what to remember about each category in the context of the broader awards season game.

Best Feature

Todd Haynes, director; Elizabeth Karlsen, Tessa Ross, Christine Vachon, Stephen Woolley, producers (The Weinstein Company)

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Marielle Heller, director; Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck, Madeline Samit, Miranda Bailey, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

“Heaven Knows What”
Josh and Benny Safdie, directors; Oscar Boyson, Sebastian Bear-McClard, producers (RADiUS)

Tom McCarthy, director; Michael Sugar, Steve Golin, Nicole Rocklin, Blye Pagan Faust, producers (Open Road Films)

Sean Baker, director; Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou, Marcus Cox & Karrie Cox, producers (Magnolia Pictures)

Who won: “Spotlight”
Who needed it: Maybe “Tangerine”?  Might have helped the indie grab attention in the Cinematography and Screenplay races.
What to remember: “Birdman” won the Oscar last year, but 2013’s winner, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” wasn’t even nominated. That won’t happen to “Spotlight,” just some perspective.

Best Documentary

“Approaching the Elephant”
Amanda Rose Wilder, director; Jay Craven, Robert Greene, Amanda Rose Wilder, producers (Kingdom County Productions)

“Cartel Land”
Matthew Heineman, director; Matthew Heineman, Tom Yellin, producers (The Orchard and A&E IndieFilms

“Heart of a Dog”
Laurie Anderson, director; Dan Janvey, Laurie Anderson, producers (Abramorama and HBO Documentary Films)

“Listen to Me Marlon”
Stevan Riley, director; John Battsek, RJ Cutler, George Chignell, producers (Showtime Documentary Films)

“The Look of Silence”
Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge Sørensen, producer (Drafthouse Films)

Who won: “The Look of Silence”
Who needed it: “Heart of a Dog” which would have been a nice PR win as it battles for an Oscar nod.
What to remember: If not “Amy” then is “Silence” the Oscar frontrunner?

Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award

Desiree Akhavan for “Appropriate Behavior” (Gravitas Ventures)
Jonas Carpigano for “Mediterranea” (Sundance Selects)
Marielle Heller for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Pictures Classics)
John Magary for “The Mend” (Cinelicious Pics)
Josh Mond for “James White” (The Film Arcade)

Who won: Jonas Carpigano for “Mediterranea”
Who needed it: Marielle Heller for “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (because she deserved it)
What to remember: These are very New York indie film world nominees.

Best Screenplay

“Carol,” Phyllis Nagy (The Weinstein Company)
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” Marielle Heller (Sony Pictures Classics)
“Love & Mercy,” Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
“Spotlight,” Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (Open Road Films)
“While We’re Young,” Noah Baumbach (A24)

Who won: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for “Carol”
Who needed it: Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner who are fighting for an Oscar nod for “Love & Mercy.”
What to remember: Original Screenplay is so weak “While We’re Young” could actually surprise with an Oscar nod.

Best Actor

Christopher Abbott in “James White” (The Film Arcade)
Kevin Corrigan in “Results” (Magnolia Pictures)
Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy” (Roadside Attractions, Lionsgate, and River Road Entertainment)
Peter Sarsgaard in “Experimenter” (Magnolia Pictures)
Michael Shannon in “99 Homes” (Broad Green Pictures)

Who won: Paul Dano in “Love & Mercy”
Who needed it: Dano or Michael Shannon
What to remember: This is a nice win for Dano who, like Shannon, is fighting for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in “Carol” (The Weinstein Company)
Blythe Danner in “I’ll See You in My Dreams” (Bleecker Street)
Brie Larson in “Room” (A24 Films)
Bel Powley in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Lily Tomlin in “Grandma” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Kristen Wiig in “Welcome to Me” (Alchemy)

Who won: Bel Powley in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
Who needed it: Brie Larson in “Room” or Lily Tomlin in “Grandma”
What to remember: This is a big upset. This award was there for Brie Larson on a silver platter and a committee of five decided otherwise. Of course, “Diary” is a movie that’s so up committee member John Waters’ alley so…maybe it’s not that much of one? In either case, Larson taking NBR tomorrow or NYFCC or LAFCA will be a very big deal.

Breakthrough Actor

Rory Culkin in “Gabriel” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Arielle Holmes in “Heaven Knows What” (RADiUS)
Lola Kirke in “Mistress America” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez in “Tangerine” (Magnolia Pictures)
Mya Taylor in “Tangerine” (Magnolia Pictures)

Who won: Mya Taylor in “Tangerine”
Who needed it: Either “Tangerine” actress.
What to remember: Culkin qualified for this category despite starring in “You Can Count On Me,” “Signs” and “Igby Goes Down” over 10 years ago.  Think about that for a minute.

What did you think of this year’s Gotham Awards winners? Share your thoughts below.


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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios, has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times and co-founded HitFix, Inc. serving as its first Editor-in-Chief and President. Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.

Awards Campaign provides commentary and insight on the movie industry. It's also the current online home of Gregory Ellwood, an industry veteran who has covered the movie business and Oscar campaigns for over a decade. For more information including partnerships and advertising opportunities please E-mail info@awardscampaign.com.