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"Tree of Life," "Beginners" tie for Gotham Award

Left: Brad Pitt in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life"; Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." The two films shared the top prize at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Fox Searchlight; Focus Features

NEW YORK - "The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's tale of a Texas family that captures the scope of life's origins, and "Beginners," about a elderly man who comes out as a homosexual, tied for the Best Feature prize at the 21st Gotham Independent Film Awards.

The Gothams - the first film prizes to be presented this season - are presented by the Independent Filmmaker Project.

Other nominees for Best Feature were "The Descendants," starring George Clooney; "Meek's Cutoff," with Michelle Williams as a pioneer woman lost on the Oregon Trail; and "Take Shelter," starring Michael Shannon as a husband and father suffering from apocalyptic visions.

Winners were announced in New York City Monday evening.

Films eligible in the seven categories are American movies that demonstrate the vision of an individual director, producer, writer or writer/director, as opposed to a "work for hire"; are distributed by an independent or specialty division (or self-distributed); and are made with "an economy of means."

Christopher Plummer: Fresh and ever-young

Other winners and nominees included:

Best Ensemble Performance:
"Beginners" (winner)
"The Descendants"
"Margin Call"
"Martha Marcy May Marlene"
"Take Shelter"

Best Documentary:
"Better This World" (winner)
"Bill Cunningham New York"
"Hell and Back Again":
"The Interrupters"
"The Woodmans"

Breakthrough Actor:
Felicity Jones, "Like Crazy" (Winner)
Elizabeth Olsen, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Harmony Santana, "Gun Hill Road"
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"
Jacon Wysocki, "Terry"

Breakthrough Director:
Dee Rees, "Pariah" (winner)
Mike Cahill, "Another Earth"
Sean Durkin, "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Vera Farmiga, "Higher Ground"
Evan Glodell, "Bellflower"

Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You:
"Scenes of a Crime" (winner) - Prize includes a one-week run at the Museum of Modern Art
"Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same"
"The Redemption of General Butt Naked"

Gotham Audience Award: (Voted online by moviegoers)
"Girlfriend" (Winner)
"Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey"
"The First Grader"
"Wild Horse, Wild Ride"

Career tributes were also presented to actress Charlize Theron, actor Gary Oldman, director David Cronenberg ("A Dangerous Method"), and Fox Filmed Entertainment exec Tom Rothman.

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