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October 20, 2008

Gotham critics kick off indie awards


It's both cheeky and insightful to have an award dubbed "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You."

Nicely done, Gotham Independent Film Awards, which has sifted through the many minuscule-budgeted barely seen niche art films and documentaries of the year -- that would be most of them -- and come up with nominees as diverse as "Man on Wire," "Ballast" and "Frozen River."

"Ballast," which centers on a suicide and its fallout in a poor Mississippi Delta town, was the top vote-getter.

From the group that helped springboard Oscar-nominated performances from "Junebug" and "Half Nelson," the New York-based organization stuck strictly to the indie world, ignoring offerings from mainstream distributors (there was a bit of a flap over that nomination for "The Departed" a few years ago).

A couple of its contenders have made a little bank  -- "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," at more than $28 million, and "The Visitor" at some $11 million and change -- but most have struggled to find their respective audiences though the ROI is still pretty decent on a docu like "Trouble the Water." It's expected to be better than decent for "The Wrestler," what with all the Oscar chatter for Mickey Rourke's lead performance as a washed up grappler.

We're waiting to see which critics groups remember "American Teen" in their awards derbies. Give it a look, guys, it's not nearly as lightweight as the prerelease attention might've suggested.

See the full list of Gotham nominees here. Winners will be announced Dec. 2.

In other bits from films critics ...

John Calley, a four-decade Hollywood studio veteran turned indie producer, is the first former studio chief to get the Career Achievement Award from the L.A. Film Critics Assn. Past winners have included Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman, Roger Corman, Richard Widmark and Ennio Morricone. More here and here.


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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

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  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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