We have a sudden shoo-in for one of the 10 Best Picture Oscar slots: Debra Granik's 'Winter's Bone' was named Best Feature at the 20th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards Monday night, a prize that was expected to go to certain Oscar contender 'Black Swan.'
The Gothams, which were hosted this year by 'Easy A' parents Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, are considered the first major kudos ceremony of the season, and they're quickly becoming an Oscar-watcher's event. 'Winter's Bone' (already out on DVD, so rent it!) also picked up a very deserving trophy for Best Ensemble Performance, indicating that it is still a strong force nearly a year after its double win at Sundance last January.
The film failed to go for a triple this time around. Despite being the favorite to win Best Breakthrough Actor/Actress, 'Winter's Bone' star Jennifer Lawrence lost in a huge upset to filmmaker-turned-actor Ronald Bronstein, who gave a brilliant debut performance as a negligent father in the Safdie brothers' 'Daddy Longlegs' (let's start the dark horse Oscar campaign ...). Also a surprise was the winner for Breakthrough Director, with Kevin Asch ('Holy Rollers') beating Lena Dunham ('Tiny Furniture'). Awards also went to Oscar snub 'The Oath' for Best Documentary, and the still-undistributed 'Littlerock' for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. Hot topic doc 'Waiting for Superman' received the Festival Genius Audience Award.
Last year 'The Hurt Locker' won the same two Gotham Awards that 'Winter's Bone' won Monday evening, and it went on to win the top honor at the Academy Awards. While this isn't a guarantee of a repeat in that regard -- and Granik probably won't be a quick second female Best Director -- until now the excellent character-driven "country noir" has been in the backseat as far as its candidacy for Best Picture. Most attention has been paid toward Lawrence, who will likely still get a Best Actress nod in spite of her loss here. Perhaps the ensemble award could also help get some of her terrific supporting cast (John Hawkes and Dale Dickey in particular) recognized by Academy voters as well.
The Gothams also paid tribute to Robert Duvall, Hilary Swank, James Schamus and 'Black Swan' director Darren Aronofsky throughout the star-studded event.