23 October 2007 | The Hollywood Reporter | See recent The Hollywood Reporter news »

NEW YORK -- After departing from tradition to embrace studio pictures with its nominations last year, the Gotham Awards on Monday returned to its roots, tapping only indie and specialty films for its annual kudos.

In doing so, it tried another walk down the line between awards-season relevance and indie bona fides.

The Gothams, which are run by the industry group IFP, handed out best feature noms to the New York-centric (Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding and Killer Films/Weinstein Co.'s I'm Not There) and the specialty divisions (Fox Searchlight's The Namesake and Paramount Vantage's Into the Wild).

But notably, it gave the most noms to an ultra-indie, Craig Zobel's music-world satire Great World of Sound. In addition to best feature, the movie also landed breakthrough director and breakthrough actor spots. (Zobel shared the former with Lee Isaac Chung, Stephane Gauger, Julia Loktev and David Von Ancken; Kene Holliday was nominated for the latter along with Emile Hirsch, Ellen Page, Jess Weixler and Luisa Williams.)

The nomination slate returns the Gothams to a path some say it had abandoned last year, when it nominated two studio films, Warners' The Departed and Sony's Marie Antoinette, for best feature.

By any measure, the size of the nominated movies this year were much smaller. Last year, the top three grossers on the best feature ballot earned a collective $154 million. Of this year's three best feature noms that have been released so far, the take has been just $18 million. (With $18,000, World was responsible for roughly 0.1% of that.)

As the first awards ceremony of the season, the Gothams have tried to position themselves as an awards program that can set the agenda for the coming months while also including movies that won't get recognition from other quarters. The balance hasn't always been easy.

The choices announced Monday divided players in the biz -- based largely, it seemed, on whether those players had nominated films. While many said it reflected the proper ethos of inclusion, others say it represented an overcorrection.

"It seems like they got such a backlash from last year that they went too far the other way," said an executive at one studio.

Supporters of the choices, however, said the Gothams are upholding primary values. "There isn't a mission exactly, but there is a spirit and a deeply felt philosophy," ThinkFilm U.S. chief Mark Urman said. "The Gothams specifically have to pay some attention to the achievements that others won't pay attention to."

In a sense, the Gothams are in a no-win situation: When they choose higher-profile movies that could help establish them as a bigger player, they're criticized for losing their way; when they don't, they're criticized for being provincial.


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