The 25th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards kicked off awards season last night with Helen Mirren expletives and plenty of Donald Trump jokes, as Spotlight and Tangerine racked up a slew of trophies.
Telling the true story of the Boston Globe’s 2002 investigation into child sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Church, Tom McCarthy’s drama Spotlight won Best Feature, Best Screenplay, and a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance, honoring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, and Stanley Tucci for their roles in the film. “To get one actor to do a selfless, ego-subjugated performance is incredibly rare,” Ruffalo said. “But to have a whole group of actors do it together is a frickin’ miracle.”
McCarthy, his co-writer Josh Singer, and the members of the cast also recognized the real-life reporters portrayed in the film, who attended the awards ceremony, as well as the many survivors of abuse who contributed to Spotlight. “Really, this kind of reflects back to the people who we’re playing,” Ruffalo said. “They were selfless and they were a great ensemble, and you have to be a great ensemble to get great things done. No man is an island, and these people proved it more than anybody.”
While Spotlight took home the most awards with three, Tangerine snagged two, including the Audience Award. Actress Mya Taylor also won the Breakthrough Actor award for her portrayal of a transgender sex worker. Thanks to a missed flight, Taylor wasn’t there to collect her award, but Tangerine director Sean Baker accepted on her behalf, thanking Taylor and her costar Kitani Kiki Rodriguez for their performances. “My hope is that the industry embraces Mya, embraces Kiki,” Baker said. “They have a bright future ahead. They’ve also proven that there’s trans talent out there. It’s just up to us to look and up to us to cast.”
Despite Tangerine’s wins, the list of nominees included very little racial diversity, something hosts Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City touched on. After peppering their opening monologue with repeated declarations of “yass queen,” Jacobson commented that there’s “some dark s— nominated tonight,” to which Glazer replied, “You know what’s not dark? The Best Actor and Actress nominees.” Of the 11 actors nominated in both categories, all of them are white. “You guys could open up a Williams Sonoma,” Glazer said. “Instead of an award, our Best Actor and Actress winners will be given a continued lifetime of privilege and also tickets to Hamilton.”
Going into the Gothams, The Diary of a Teenage Girl led with the most nominations, and star Bel Powley picked up a Best Actress win, beating out a crowded field led by Oscar frontrunners Brie Larson and Cate Blanchett. Paul Dano won Best Actor for his role in Love & Mercy.
A win at the Gothams doesn’t always indicate a future Oscar win, especially considering that Gotham winners are independent films chosen by a small panel of industry judges instead of a larger voting body, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Still, there’s usually a fair amount of overlap between the awards shows: Last year, Birdman won Best Feature, Julianne Moore won for Best Actress in Still Alice, and CITIZENFOUR won Best Documentary, and all three went on to win their respective categories at the Oscars.
This year’s ceremony also marked a Gothams first, as the Independent Filmmaker Project awarded prizes for achievements in long form and short form series. Radhika Vaz and Nadia P. Manzoor’s web series Shugs and Fats took home the inaugural Breakthrough Series, Short Form award, and USA’s summer hit Mr. Robot won for Long Form.
In addition to handing out awards for this year’s winners, the Independent Film Project recognized four individuals for their extensive careers and contributions to indie film. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, the director of last year’s Best Feature winner, paid tribute to The Revenant producer Steve Golin in a heartfelt speech, honoring his work on films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich. Golin also took to the stage for Spotlight and Mr. Robot’s wins.
Carol director Todd Haynes was also honored, as were Robert Redford and Mirren for their prolific careers. While Redford gave a moving speech about humility, saying, “If you get too close to success, you run the risk of losing yourself,” Mirren earned some of the biggest laughs of the night in a foul-mouthed monologue. After Robert De Niro introduced her by saying, “I didn’t grow up wanting to have sex with the Queen of England,” Mirren kicked off her speech by saying, “I have to tell you a story about f—ing the queen, which is how when The Queen was first screened at Venice, I’d never seen it before, and neither had my husband Taylor [Hackford]. The first shot is me in full regalia, the wig and everything, and I turn and look at the camera, and there’s silence in the cinema. My husband lets out this huge laugh, like, ‘Ha ha ha ha ha!’ because he’d never seen me dressed as the queen before. So I leaned over to him, and I said, ‘Darling, do you think you’ll ever f— me again?’”
“Between you and me, he has,” she added.
Mirren went on credit her success to the writers she’s worked with over the years, saying, “Let us love our writers and their courage and always stand behind them when they’re threatened with silence by any chickens— political censorship.”
She also drew attention to Saudi Arabian poet Ashraf Fayadh, who was recently sentenced to death. “This, to me, is the utter denial of everything that is fine about humanity,” Mirren said. She continued, saying that words can convey every human emotion and condition, from “love and hatred to inspiration and stupidity,” adding “Donald Trump” after “stupidity.”
Mirren wasn’t the only one to take jabs at Trump throughout the night: Jacobson applauded the Gothams for recognizing Tangerine, “the movie Donald Trump described as ‘I walked into the wrong theater,’” and when Manzoor and Vaz accepted their award, Manzoor proclaimed, “We can use this to beat Donald Trump.”
Check out the full list of nominees here, and see the winners from the 25th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards below:
Best Feature: Spotlight
Best Documentary: The Look of Silence
Gotham Independent Film Audience Award: Tangerine
Best Actor: Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Best Actress: Bel Powley, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Best Screenplay: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight
Breakthrough Actor: Mya Taylor, Tangerine
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director: Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Breakthrough Series – Long Form: Mr. Robot
Breakthrough Series – Short Form: Shugs & Fats
Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Billy Crudup, and Stanley Tucci
euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ Grant: Chanelle Aponte Pearson, 195 Lewis