Nothing signals the start of awards season like a bunch of indie movies you've never heard of getting nominated for some critics prize you've never heard of, am I right? On Oct. 22, that day arrived, when the nominations for the Gotham Independent Film Awards were released to the public. While a few of the movies nominated might be familiar to most moviegoers — the Cate Blanchett-starring Carol, for one, has earned a lot of buzz — the vast majority are going to be pretty new, unless you're a film critic or a hardcore fan. So if you're someone who likes following awards season but isn't familiar with this newest crop of contenders, here's what to know about Diary of a Teenage Girl, Tangerine, Spotlight and more.
First, let's start with the obvious ones, by which I mean the movies that you'll definitely be hearing about often in the coming months. Spotlight, starring an A-list cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams, follows the Boston Globe's 2001 investigation into sex abuse in the Catholic Church. It won rave reviews at its festival debut earlier this year, and is already being predicted to sweep the 2016 Oscars. Then there's Tangerine, a dramedy released this summer, which received high praise for both its original plot and its casting of trans actors. Other notable nominees include Love & Mercy, a drama about Brian Wilson; James White, a powerful movie about family and grief; and 99 Homes, a housing crisis-focused film starring Andrew Garfield.
But the main movie to keep an eye on is Diary of a Teenage Girl. When this film was released in August, it received great reviews, but as a small movie starring an unknown actress, it didn't get that much attention. That's all about to change, though; Diary led the pack of Gotham nominations, a good sign that it'll earn nods from other, bigger awards shows later this year. As a huge fan of the film, I couldn't be more excited about this — especially because it means that finally, more than just a handful of critics will understand why Diary of a Teenage Girl is one of the best movies this year. Until then, here's what to know:
Its Star Is A Total Newcomer
To American audiences, at least. 23-year-old Bel Powley spent years starring on the BBC's M.I. High, but playing Minnie in Diary is by far her biggest role. The actress is phenomenal as the sex-craving, art-loving teen, and after seeing her in the film, it's easy to see why her resume is quickly filling up with movies like A Royal Night Out and Equals. Powley is a star in the making.
The Supporting Cast Is Fantastic
Between Kristen Wiig as Minnie's hard-partying mom, Alexander Skarsgard as her much-older lover, and Christopher Meloni as her distant father, Diary is stacked with talented actors. Powley is the revelation here, but her co-stars give the movie their all, too.
It's Hugely Feminist
Very few movies are as unashamed and upfront about their feminism as Diary is. The movie's plot revolves around a teenage girl's desire to have sex and explore her own sexuality, neither of which is shamed or criticized. There are in-depth, complicated relationships between the movie's women, and Minnie is as complex a character as any male teen you'd see on-screen. It's a rare and important film, so be sure not to miss it when it arrives on DVD and, most likely, is nominated for more awards as the year comes to an end.
Images: Sony Pictures Classics (2)