The 21st Gotham Independent Film Awards kicked off awards season with their ceremony this evening, doling out a limited number of awards to some of the strongest independent voices and films of the year. The Gothams cover just seven categories, but they often signal big trends and name up-and-comers, what with awards named things like Breakthrough Director and Actor or Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. The final jury is made up of “distinguished filmmakers,” though you’d be hard-pressed to find a list of just who is on that jury this year.

The Gothams turned in some real surprises tonight (big enough that, even as the first award show of the year, they are still considered shocks, that’s something), with the two biggest nomination-getters, The Descendants and Martha Marcy May Marlene, coming away without a thing. Martha Marcy May Marlene missing out on awards is certainly bizarre enough, but what may well be the biggest upset from that shut-out is lead actress Elizabeth Olsen losing out on Breakthrough Actor to Felicity Jones. Both ladies starred in Sundance hits (MMMM and Like Crazy, respectively), but back in January, I cannot imagine that anyone would have placed Jones’ performance above Olsen’s (including myself, and I quite liked both films and both performances).

Other jaw-droppers? Mike MillsBeginners taking home Best Feature – along with Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, as the two productions tied for the honor. If this is a hint as to how unpredictable the coming season will be, count me in. Check out the full list of winners after the break.

Best Feature: TIE: The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick and Beginners, directed by Mike Mills
Best Documentary: Better This World, directed by Kelly Duane and Katie Galloway
Best Ensemble Performance: Beginners
Breakthrough Director: Dee Rees, Pariah
Breakthrough Actor: Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: Scenes of a Crime, directed by Blue Hadaegh & Grover Babcock
Audience Choice Award: Girlfriend, directed by Justin Lerner


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