Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey wrote in an in-depth examination into the nature (and economics) of how pre-Oscar speculation overshadows other kinds of film writing, with people writing about movies and performances being “Oscar-worthy” before anyone’s even seen them, instead of actually engaging with the films on a thematic level. So, without saying what it will or won’t mean and will or won’t foreshadow for the annual ceremony that has earned unfortunate deity status as as a cinematic qualifier, another smaller ceremony — last night’s Gotham Independent Film Awards (from The Independent Filmmaker Project) — was noteworthy in part for the pure fact that a truly spectacular film (and one that’s been out long enough for people to know how spectacular it is without trophies dictating its quality) was given thorough recognition.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the film that earned the top awards — Best Feature, the Audience Award, the Special Jury Award For Ensemble Performance and the Screenplay Award — was the Barry Jenkins-written/directed Moonlight. The Best Feature award was given to Jenkins and the film’s producers, while the screenplay award went to Jenkins, and Tarrell Alvin McCraney, the playwright who wrote the story on which it was based, taking from his own experiences growing up as a gay, black teen in Miami’s Liberty City housing projects — where Jenkins also happens to have grown up. The Ensemble award recognized Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, André Holland, Alex Hibbert, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, and Ashton Sanders.
According to the LA Times, Jenkins had so many opportunities to thank people that ultimately even his third grade teacher got a mention.
Other awards also, excitingly, went to films (and series) that are far better than your standard awards-season fare. Notably, Rachel Bloom’s big-hearted, absurd suburban L.A. rom-com musical Crazy Ex Girlfriend won the Breakthrough Series Award (also nominated were The Girlfriend Experience, Horace and Pete, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and Master of None). Meanwhile, the taut, immersive 17th century horror parable The Witch was recognized for its outstanding performance by Anya Taylor-Joy, in the Breakthrough Actor award category. And, in the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award category, Trey Edward Shults took the prize; he gave an epic, almost frightening lyricism to the very small story of an estranged aunt botching a Thanksgiving turkey, and shot his film in his own family home, with his own aunt playing the starring role.