Gold Standard: Nods for ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Manchester’ at Gotham Awards but not for ‘La La Land’?

“Moonlight” was a big favorite with the Gotham Awards voters.
“Moonlight” cast members, from left, Mahershala Ali, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, Alex R. Hibbert, writer Tarell Alvin McCraney, director Barry Jenkins, Naomie Harris and actor Andre Holland. The film earned several Gotham Awards nominations.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Given the bitterness that New Yorkers harbor in their hearts toward Los Angeles, is it really surprising that the Gotham Independent Film Awards didn’t bestow any nominations on “La La Land,” a cinematic valentine to the City of Angels?

“La La Land,” Damien Chazelle’s romantic musical that wowed critics and audiences at fall film festivals, failed to show up anywhere in the New York-based awards slate announced Thursday morning.

The big winner: Sad Sundance drama “Manchester by the Sea,” nominated for best feature, screenplay and acting turns by lead actor Casey Affleck and young Lucas Hedges in the breakthrough category.

Rounding out the best feature category were Richard Linklater’s wildly entertaining male bonding comedy “Everybody Wants Some!!” Kelly Reichardt’s intimate drama “Certain Women,” Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age story “Moonlight” and Jim Jarmusch’s meditative “Paterson.”


Four panels -- each composed of five critics, writers and programmers (but predominantly critics) -- choose the nominees for picture, documentary, lead actor and actress, breakthrough actor, breakthrough director and screenplay.

The mandate, say those who participate in the voting (and they say it privately, as panelists aren’t supposed to divulge much on the record), is to honor boundary-pushing movies and performances and not worry about predicting what Oscar voters might do. (That’s the Broadcast Film Critics Assn.’s job.)

Panelists noted that, for each list of five nominees, there could have been an alternate list of five that were equally deserving. “La La Land” apparently just missed the cut for best feature, as did the acclaimed western-thriller “Hell or High Water.” The latter film received nominations for screenplay and lead actor Jeff Bridges.

With their small-batch critics committees, the Gotham Awards can be seen as an early indicator of how critics groups might vote in the coming weeks. But even in that regard, there’s always a notable omission or two. The Gothams overlooked “Room” for best feature last year, and the indie drama went on to win innumerable critics prizes and four Oscar nominations, including best picture.


One other item worth noting is the “Moonlight” cast — Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Alex Hibbert, André Holland, Jharrel Jerome, Janelle Monáe, Jaden Piner, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders — receiving the Gotham Jury Award for Ensemble Performance.

Last year, that distinction went to “Spotlight,” the eventual Oscar best picture winner. “Moonlight” might not have the same broad appeal for academy voters. But it’s yet another sign that Jenkins’ extraordinary, deeply personal movie is winning viewers’ hearts. It opens in theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Thursday night.

In addition to the competitive awards, actors Amy Adams and Ethan Hawke, director Oliver Stone, and producer Arnon Milchan will receive tributes.The Gotham Awards will be presented on Nov. 28 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City.

Twitter: @glennwhipp

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