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Gold Standard: Gotham Awards go for 'First Reformed,' 'The Favourite'

Gold Standard: Gotham Awards go for 'First Reformed,' 'The Favourite'
Ethan Hawke in "First Reformed," which earned three Gotham nominations (A24)

The Gotham Awards nominations have kicked off the awards season. And if you loved Paul Schrader’s “First Reformed” — and, c’mon, you did revel in this remarkable film, right? — then you’re probably thinking things got off on the right foot. (Or the good foot, as the Godfather of Soul would have it.)

Welcome to the Gold Standard, the newsletter from the Los Angeles Times that helps guide you through the ins and outs of the awards season leading up to the Oscars, not to mention providing links to essential James Brown songs.

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I'm Glenn Whipp, The Times' awards columnist and your newsletter host.

Gotham Awards provide early awards season boosts

The bogus Hollywood Film Awards trumpets that it’s the “Official Launch of the Awards Season.”® (Yes, it’s apparently trademarked.) But it’s the Gotham Independent Film Awards, whose nominees and winners are voted on by small committees of writers, critics and programmers (27 in all, including Times film critic Justin Chang), that really kicks things off because … transparency. Unlike the Hollywood Film Awards, we know who’s voting here, and the prizes aren’t simply given because the honoree agrees to show up to the ceremony.

For best picture, the Gotham nominees included Yorgos Lanthimos’ biting historical dramedy “The Favourite,” Paul Schrader’s searching character study “First Reformed,” Barry Jenkins’ striking adaptation of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Josephine Decker’s barely seen, improv-heavy drama “Madeline’s Madeline” and Chloé Zhao’s beautiful rodeo story “The Rider.”

Notably absent was Alfonso Cuaron’s festival favorite “Roma,” though, historically, Gotham Awards voters have shied away from presumed awards season favorites to champion smaller titles such as “Madeline’s Madeline” that might otherwise be overlooked.

Times film writer Mark Olsen reported on the full slate of nominees, which included two additional nominations for “First Reformed” (Schrader’s screenplay and actor Ethan Hawke) and a special jury award to Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz for their ensemble performance in “The Favourite.” (During awards season, Fox Searchlight will be campaigning Colman for lead and Stone and Weisz in supporting.)

Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in "The Kindergarten Teacher," now streaming on Netflix.
Maggie Gyllenhaal stars in "The Kindergarten Teacher," now streaming on Netflix. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Don’t forget Maggie Gyllenhaal for ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’

The Gotham Awards don’t have supporting acting categories, making for a real jumble and some inevitable omissions. Because voters like to spotlight unconventional films and performances, it would have been great to see Maggie Gyllenhaal win some love for her terrific titular turn in “The Kindergarten Teacher.” But that voting panel went in a different direction. (Michelle Pfeiffer boosters do take loyalty to another level.)

I spoke to Gyllenhaal recently about the film and the ways she recognized herself within the character, a woman whose life changes when one of her kindergartners spits out a transcendent poem after class.

“As a woman artist, you’re always bending over backwards to fit into something that isn’t natural to fit yourself into,” Gyllenhaal says. “I didn’t have to do that with this film. I didn’t have to dig it out. There was a magnetic pull inviting me in. That’s rare. Really rare.”

“The Kindergarten Teacher” is now streaming on Netflix.

Russell Hornsby stars in "The Hate U Give."
Russell Hornsby stars in "The Hate U Give." (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Russell Hornsby: ‘Sometimes you know you have to go that extra mile’

“The Hate U Give,” an adaptation of Angie Thomas’ popular YA novel, is viewed as an awards season long shot. But maybe it’s being underestimated. The film, starring Amandla Stenberg as a high-school student who witnesses an unprovoked police shooting, has earned stellar reviews (read The Times’ Kenneth Turan’s take) and has done well commercially since its release earlier this month.

There are a number of strong performances in the movie, including Stenberg’s powerful lead turn. But Russell Hornsby, playing the girl’s loving and protective father, is the standout. Times film writer Tre’vell Anderson spoke with Hornsby, who considers “The Hate U Give” to be this generation’s “Boyz N the Hood,” a movie he holds dear.

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“We learned about aspects of our community, about aspects of our society, about aspects of blackness and life at that time from ‘Boyz N the Hood,’” Hornsby says.

“Sometimes,” he continues, “you have those projects where you know you have to go that extra mile and work extra hard because it’s not just for you. And for us, we wanted to be authentic. That holds a lot of responsibility.”

Feedback?

I'd love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can't get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.

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