"Winter's Bone" won the Best Feature award at the 20th Gotham Independent Feature Awards, the New York-based indie presentation that serves as one of the first significant shows of awards season.
The Debra Granik film also won the award for Best Ensemble Performance on a night when the hIgh-profile films -- and Oscar contenders -- "Black Swan," "Blue Valentine" and "The Kids Are All Right" were shut out.
Last year's Gothams winner, "The Hurt Locker" went on to take home the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars – but that was an anomaly at the show, a presentation of the Independent Feature Project which normally honors the likes of "Into the Wild" and "Frozen River."
Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson

Laura Poitras' "The Oath," perhaps the major omission from the Oscar documentary shortlist, was named Best Documentary. By design, at least half of the awards went to small films that are not expected to figure in the awards race.

In the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You category, for example, the winner was Mike Ott's "Littlerock." And in something of a surprise, Kevin Asch won the Breakthrough Director award for "Holy Rollers"; Lena Dunham had been considered the favorite for the higher-profile "Tiny Furniture."
In the Breakthrough Performance category, which was expected to go to Jennifer Lawrence for "Winter's Bone," Ronald Bronstein was a surprise winner for his role in "Daddy Longlegs."
The ceremony took place at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, and was hosted by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci (above). Presenters included Bill Murray, Steve Buscemi, Melissa Leo, Natalie Portman, Sam Rockwell, Winona Ryder, Anthony Mackie, Paul Rudd and newly-named Oscar host Anne Hathaway, who presented a special tribute to Focus Features CEO James Schamus.

Other winners of honorary awards were director Darren Aronofsky and actors Hilary Swank and Robert Duvall. Going in to the show, "Winter's Bone" had the most nominations of any Gotham nominee, with three. (The awards are only given out in six juried categories, plus an audience award.)

Other nominees for the Best Feature award were "Black Swan," "Blue Valentine," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Let Me In." The Gotham Awards are a smaller, New York-based bookend to the Film Independent Spirit Awards; the Gothams are an indie awards ceremony that comes early in awards season, while the Spirit Awards take place almost at the end, the day before the Academy Awards. Spirit Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday morning.

The winners:
Best Feature: "Winter's Bone"
Best Documentary: "The Oath"
Best Ensemble Performance: "Winter's Bone"
Breakthrough Director: Kevin Asch, "Holy Rollers"
Breakthrough Actor: Ronald Bronstein, "Daddy Longlegs"
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You: "Littlerock"
Festival Genius Audience Award: "Waiting for 'Superman'"

by Steve Pond, THE WRAP

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