Nicole Kidman shimmers in silver at Gotham Awards in NYC

Nicole Kidman shimmers in silver at Gotham Awards in NYC

As award shows go, the IFP Gotham Awards doesn’t have the cachet or the glitz of the Oscars or the Golden Globes. It’s a bit scrappier than its better-funded brethren. But then, for a series of awards dedicated to independent film, that’s almost the point.

Indie film is a scrappy business. “It was a brutal battle, but we did it,” said the director Luca Guadagnino, whose “Call Me by Your Name” won best feature. But it’s one in which even the loftiest stars will stoop to conquer.

“I’m about to start an independent film next week,” said Nicole Kidman, on hand to receive a Tribute award. “Independent film gave me my start, and basically gave me the best roles I’ve ever had. It’s a place that I feel the safest in.” By the time she ascended the podium to receive her award, adoringly presented by Reese Witherspoon, she’d kicked off her shoes and glided up barefoot.

You won’t see that at the Oscars.

But in addition to spotlighting films and performances that may have flown under the radar over the past year, the Gothams are also the unofficial kickoff to awards season, the scrimmage to the Oscars in March, when prognosticators start laying their bets.

Timothée Chalamet, 21, the young star of “Call Me by Your Name,” took home the award for breakthrough actor, which will only amplify the Oscar buzz already circling him. He’d been more or less unknown, save for a small role on “Homeland,” before the film’s release. “I am barely not unknown now,” he said.

But bringing the little-known to the fore is part of the charm of the awards, which find space to nominate both the brand-new (the 7-year-old Brooklynn Prince, of “The Florida Project”) and the relatively obscure (the 87-year-old theater legend Lois Smith, of “Marjorie Prime”), along with the well-known but green (Mary J. Blige, whose work in “Mudbound” was recognized as part of a special jury award for ensemble performance, and was nominated for breakthrough actor).

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“It’s nice to be a breakthrough in acting,” Ms. Blige said. “I’ve never had this before, and I sure didn’t see it coming.”

The specter of politics and of Hollywood’s harassment scandals hung over the evening. Joana Vicente, the executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project, which presents the awards, honored the women and men who stepped forward to expose abuse (though it went unmentioned that one of the night’s tributes went to Dustin Hoffman, who had himself been accused of incident of harassment, for which he apologized).

“I think that’s a topic that is at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” said Jason Blum, the recipient of a Tribute award and a producer of “Get Out,” the night’s biggest winner, when asked about the scandals. “There are a lot of very powerful movies to be made about it that will continue to push people to think about it differently than they have been.”
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