Could Gothams Be Start of Awards Streak for ‘Birdman’?

The Gotham Independent Film Awards marked the official start of movie awards season this week, and if the winners can be taken as any indication of the bigger award ceremonies to come, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman and Richard Linklater’s Boyhood will be the indies taking home trophies this year.

The Gothams aren’t always accurate indicators for the Oscars, with the awards resulting in big upsets and surprises much more frequently than the stuffy and predictable Academy Awards, but they often can be. Matthew McConaughey began his winning streak for Dallas Buyers Club at the Gothams last year, thus the dawn of the period in time that historians will later refer to as “the McConaissance.” But last year’s Gothams also had an upset that gave the Best Picture award to the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis, which the Academy would go on to snub over future Oscar winner 12 Years a Slave.

This year Birdman took home the award for Best Feature, and star Michael Keaton was awarded for Best Actor. Keaton is thought to be a frontrunner for at least an Oscar nomination, and after this win could be seen as a major contender to take home the prize for his role as an aging, washed-up Hollywood actor who decides to put on a Broadway play based on a Raymond Carver story and succeed in the theater.

The character Riggan Thompson is similar to Keaton not only for being a Hollywood star perhaps past his prime, but also for being the former star of a huge superhero franchise. Keaton joked about his past playing Batman in his acceptance speech, saying, per Indie Wire: “My folks at Gotham, feels good to be back home. I don’t wanna toot my own horn but when’s the last time you saw The Joker or The Penguin causing any problems? I gotta get back to Wayne Manor any minute so let’s wrap this up.”

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a movie unlike any other, one that tells a coming-of-age story that actually shows the process of aging through Linklater’s decision to take 12 years to make the film. A lot could have gone wrong with such an endeavor, but it worked out extremely well for the director, and the movie is being hailed as one of the best of the year. It was nominated for several Gotham awards and took home the Independent Film Audience Award.

Those two films received the highest honors from Gotham, but others from the indie film community are poised to break through into mainstream awards after winning Gothams, as well. Julianne Moore’s performance as a linguistics professor who gets early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice is considered a big possibility for her first Oscar win, and she took home the Gotham for Best Actress.

The cast of Foxcatcher was honored for Best Ensemble, and Steve Carell or Channing Tatum could take home awards from other ceremonies in part because of how surprising it is to see them give such good performances in such a serious movie.

Of course, the Academy often decides to go with big-budget epics and tear-jerking biopics rather than independent films, so while a few or even all of these movies could snag nominations, it’s possible that none of them will take home any Oscars. Birdman has been drooled over by critics, but it is a bizarre film that eschews comparisons and expectations. We’ll have to wait and see if the Academy decides to side with the Gothams on this one.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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