The official kick off for the awards season race began Monday night with the Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street.
It was an evening of fun, surprises and upsets. The top prize, Best Feature, went to Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom, “ which is a whimsical tale about young love. Only the film’s child stars Jared Gilman, 13, and Kara Hayward, 14, and Bob Balaban were at the awards show to pick up their trophy. (Anderson is shooting a film.)
“It’s fun to be in something people love,” Balaban told me. “This is a festival where you really say it’s nice to be included with all of these special, difficult, unusual movies.
The evening began with an upset, when the Audience Award went to “Artifact” a documentary directed by Bartholomew Cubbins, instead of favored “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” directed by Benh Zeitlin. Even Cubbins, which is really the pseudonym for actor Jared Leto, was shocked. “I feel like ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ should be up here with me.” The musician-turned actor-turned director made a movie about his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, and the album “War."
Leto has become very skinny for his “Dallas Buyers Club,” his first acting role in five years, where he portrays a transgender person. Matthew McConaughey stars in the film as someone diagnosed with AIDS/HIV and he’s even skinnier than Leto.
The breakthrough actor prize went to Emayatzy Corinealdi, the star of “Middle of Nowhere,” who won over the evening’s host, Mike Birbiglia (“Sleepwalk With Me”), Quvenzhane Wallis (the child star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild), Thure Lindhardt (“Keep the Lights On) and Melanie Lynskey (“Hello, I Must Be Going”).
In previous years, winners, have included Ellen Page (2007), Rinko Kikuchi (2006) and Amy Adams (2005), all who went on to receive Oscar nominations. After we told Corinealdi of the starry lineage of the award, the beautiful actress replied, “You know, this is right here. I’m going to stay right in this moment. I’m just going to enjoy it because it doesn’t happen often so I’m thankful.”
“The Beasts of the Southern Wild” director won his first of two glass trophies. Even before he could finish the press line after winning breakthrough director, his name was called again as winner of the inaugural Bingham Ray award for a promising new filmmaker, and Zeitlin sprinted back to the podium. (The award was named for the independent film executive who died this year.) He returned to the pressroom holding both trophies like matching bookends. He said, “There’s so much love for this movie. It’s overwhelming.”
Another surprise was best ensemble award that went to “Your Sister’s Sister,” starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt and Mark Dupluss. It beat out heavily favored “Silver Linings Playbook,” starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jacki Weaver, Chris Tucker, John Ortiz. “Silver Linings,” a critical and audience favorite since its debut at the Toronto Festival, seems destined for Oscar gold, especially for director, movie, and leads Lawrence and Bradley Cooper despite its loss last night.
David O’Russell, Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard and Jeff Skoll of Participant Media were honored with special tributes last night.
Russell told me in the pressroom about his shout out to the actors, “I wouldn’t be here without them. It’s a blessing. The greatest thing about writing a script or telling stories that affect an audience,” he said, “is then you get the good actors to come forward and really want to do anything they can for you. They’ll run through fire for you if they believe in you and that’s what I’m most grateful for.”
The gorgeous and beguiling Marion Cotillard had just received her tribute award. She was stunning with her hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, a vision in black Christian Dior and around her neck a yoke of diamonds by Chopard; she was circled by reporters with recorders close enough to touch them. “I’m thinking about the people I worked with,” she said, when musing about what the award meant to her and her role in “Rust and Bone,” which may bring her another Oscar, “who gave me the opportunity to dig deep inside of the character so it belongs to them.”
The award for best documentary was not surprising, in a strong lineup, the award went to the brilliant “How to Survive a Plague,” directed by David France.
The highlight of the evening in the pressroom came with the arrival of Matt Damon, who was a tribute recipient. The good natured fun-loving actor batted questions from the press that ranged from silly, to thoughtful, to surreal, which he handled with grace, humor and charm.
What’s it like coming full circle with Gus Van Sant in “Promised Land” another reporter asked. (Van Sant also directed “Good Will Hunting” of course, which was the actor’s debut film and Oscar-winning film with Ben Affleck in 1997.) “I hope it’s not full circle,” Damon said. “I hope we’re just a little way into the circle.
Talking about “Good Will Hunting,” someone asked what he thought was the secret to the film’s amazing success? “It was just like something that we wrote and we never compromised on it and it was good by our standards and that was really it. And we did the same thing with "Promised Land" and Ben did the same thing with "Argo." It’s just kind of revising and working on it until you get the thing that you want.”
The complete list of nominees is on their web site: http://gotham.ifp.org/.