(L-R) Liev Schreiber, Thomas McCarthy, Rachel McAdams, and John Slattery attend the 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards on November 30, 2015 in New York City.
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December 1, 2015 10:18 AM EST

Though Oscar pundits debate the weight of smaller award wins in predicting Oscar glory—and even whether we should treat those awards as prognosticators—in all probability, those early belt notches can’t exactly hurt. So when the Gotham Awards shower love on Spotlight—writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s film about the Boston Globe team that brought to light the Boston Archdiocese’s cover-up of child sexual abuse by priests—it’s worth paying at least a little attention.

Presented by the Independent Feature Project, the largest independent film organization in the U.S., the Gotham Awards are the first major presentation of the award season, which culminates with the Academy Awards on Feb. 28, 2016. Spotlight snagged Gotham Awards for Best Feature, Best Screenplay and a special award for its acting ensemble, which includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup and Brian D’Arcy James.

But it’s early yet to clear room on the mantle for that gold statuette. Several of the year’s most hotly anticipated movies have yet to hit theaters. There’s still David O. Russell’s Joy, starring perennial Oscar-bait tag-team Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight and 2015 Best Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Leonardo Dicaprio-starring The Revenant, all out on Christmas Day.

Other winners at the Gotham Awards—which, it should be said, may be considered an inherent honor regardless of any future Oscar nominations—include The Diary of a Teenage Girl‘s Bel Powley, Love & Mercy‘s Paul Dano and the documentary The Look of Silence.

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Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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