Gotham Awards: ‘Moonlight’ Gets a Shot of Momentum — or Does It? (Analysis)

THR's awards analyst notes that the last two best feature winners, 'Birdman' and 'Spotlight,' went on to win the best picture Oscar, but that there are reasons to believe these are not examples of cause-and-effect.
‘Moonlight’ in the winners’ circle

The Gotham Awards are to the Oscars what the Iowa caucuses are to a presidential election and the NFL’s preseason games are to its regular season: they’re the first “results” to come in, so they get a lot of attention, but the reality is they don’t really tell us much of anything about what’s to come.

This is not to rain on the parade of Moonlight, the big winner at Monday night’s 26th annual Gothams — it took best feature, best screenplay, a special ensemble prize and the audience award, and, at the end of the day, it may well pose the greatest threat to presumptive best picture Oscar favorite La La Land. Nor is it to diminish the moment in the spotlight enjoyed by the others invited up to the podium — best actor Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea), best actress Isabelle Huppert (Elle) and Ezra Edelman, director of best documentary O.J.: Made in America.

But, as much as we may want to ascribe greater “meaning” to the Gothams, the reality is that the winner in each of its categories is chosen by four or five more or less random people from the film industry — some more associated with the indies (e.g. Emily Mortimer) than others (e.g. Jonah Hill) — whereas Oscar nominations are chosen by hundreds and Oscar winners are determined by thousands. Needless to say, the handful of Gotham voters is miles away from being a scientific sample for the large pool of ultimate Academy voters.

If one wants to get a good read on how the indie film community feels about this year’s crop of films,…