BEST FEATURE (tie)
The Tree of Life and Beginners
A two-fer for the IFP Gotham Awards, the first organization to announce prizes for the 2011 film season as Terrence Malick's slice of American life circa 1950s\meditation of the origins of it all Tree of Life shares top honors with Mike Mills' quirky autobiographical dramedy. Last years top honors went to Winter's Bone and the year before went to The Hurt Locker, both of which went on to become eventual Best Picture nominees. The Gothams are a small organization set in New York and honor their favorite in American independent cinema. Overall, the group may appear to have little impact over Oscars, and that's likely true, but being the first out of the gate, and more importantly, the first American critics society to announce end of year kudos publicly, it raises awareness on films that may have been slightly forgotten, or in need of a press hike-- both Tree of Life and Beginners came out into theaters back in the summer, and both need kind end of the year critics reaction to stay afloat.
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Better This World
BEST ENSEMBLE: Beginners
BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
BREAKTHROUGH FILMMAKER: Dee Rees, Pariah
AUDIENCE AWARD: Girlfriend
BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU: Scenes of a Crime
Best choice is by far the Ensemble Prize for Beginners, which is an Oscar hopeful for Christopher Plummer's wonderful performance as a man coming out of the closet in his declining years. The film also deserves credit for it's imaginative Original Screenplay and for Ewan McGregor's breath of fresh air role as Plummer's taciturn son. Yet the film has such a warm and rich ensemble...hopefully this will keep this small film in the conversation as the crazy months begin. Hehe!
Also slight good news for Jones, whose Like Crazy is likely not awards bait, and I write this despite my reservations for the film-- she's fine in the sappy role, and the last out of the gates film of 2011, Pariah, a coming of age tale about a young urban girl struggling with her sexuality, as both films gets a slight profile boost.