Oscar hopes run high now that "Winter's Bone" received three nominations from the Gotham Independent Film Awards. That's the same number as "The Hurt Locker" reaped last year before it romped at the Oscars.
"The Hurt Locker" won best picture at both awards, but that's the first time the groups' champs aligned. Over the past several years, none of the Gotham Awards' winners were even nominated for best picture: in 2008 ("Frozen River"), 2007 ("Into the Wild") and 2006 ("Half Nelson"). The previous two Gotham victors did make the Oscar high five, however: "Capote" (2005), "Sideways" (2004).
Last year, it was extremely odd that the Gotham Awards, based in New York City as their name suggests, didn't nominate "Precious" for best picture even though it was the most praiseworthy indie shot in Manhattan. In 2007, they didn't nominate "Juno" in the top race, although Ellen Page won best breakthrough performer.
Nonetheless, the Gotham Awards can boost an indie's profile in trophy season in a significant way. While many Oscarologists have considered "Winter's Bone" star Jennifer Lawrence a serious contender to break into the academy's lead actress race, they felt the film had little hope of getting into Oscar's Top 10. That may change now, especially if the movie wins at the Nov. 29 event.
For a full list of nominees, see my colleague Susan King's earlier report here.
Photo: "Winter's Bone" (Roadside Attractions).