The Coen brothers‘ Inside Llewyn Davis won Best Feature tonight at the fourth annual IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards but lost some of the spotlight to presenter Lee Daniels, who made some eyebrow-raising remarks. Kicking off awards season in NYC, the trophy show propelled the CBS period folk music drama and Fruitvale Station, Dallas Buyers Club, and docu The Act of Killing toward the Oscars. The raucous audience at Cipriani Wall Street chattered so loudly during Daniels’ tribute speech his The Butler star Forest Whitaker that he tried to shush them with a few f-bombs. “Forest would like to hear all you talking through my speech, so shut the f*ck up,” admonished Daniels. He wasn’t the only presenter to complain onstage about the Gothams crowd, as Julie Delpy threatened to set herself on fire to get their attention while presenting another tribute, to Before Midnight helmer Richard Linklater.
Big wins went to Fruitvale Station, which nabbed Best Breakthrough Director and Actor for Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan, respectively. Dallas Buyers Club star and Oscar hopeful Matthew McConaughey won the Gothams’ inaugural Best Actor award and accepted via iPhone through co-star Jared Leto with his signature “All right, all right, all right.” Short Term 12‘s Brie Larson nabbed Best Actress honors, boosting the SXSW winner’s awards profile. Presenting Best Documentary, Morgan Spurlock took a shot at public television (“PBS: We pay more money than IFC”) before presenting the Gotham to Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar hopeful The Act of Killing.
Host Nick Kroll (Kroll Show, The League) struggled with the ambivalent room early on with a roast of the indie scene: “To the people from L.A. or abroad, I hope you’re enjoying your tiny hotel room you had to pay for out of pocket because Magnolia or IFC wouldn’t pony up.” Riffing on the night’s nominees, he quipped, “A common theme in this year’s movies are the horrors we inflict upon one another – slavery, war, folk music… .” Unfortunately for Kroll, he was upstaged by New York Mayor Bloomberg. “Independent filmmakers and New York have a lot in common… We both want Harvey Weinstein to be nice to us.” Boosting local filmmaking versus runaway production to neighboring Canada while presenting the tribute to his Media and Entertainment Commissioner Katherine Oliver, Bloomberg joked, “For the record: the mayor of Toronto and the mayor of New York do not have a lot in common.”
Elsewhere during the night, Steve Buscemi paid tribute to the late James Gandolfini, whom he directed on The Sopranos and later acted alongside when he joined the cast. Buscemi and Gandolfini also co-starred in Romance & Cigarettes and the recent The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. “I did not know the meaning of intimidated until those first few takes, and I felt as a director obligated to say something. … Jimmy was very gracious and patient with me. Tony Soprano did not come easy to him. He couldn’t just turn it on and off, but when he got there it was incredible.”
During his tribute to Linklater, Hawke said: “As a director he’s singular. Many directors will give you the opportunity to share his vision but Rick asks you to have vision.” Said Delpy: “I think you got the best of me. I could die right now because you got the best. I want to thank you from the bottom of my big fat French heart,” she added.
“The truth is, none of us are doing it alone,” said Linklater as he accepted tribute honors by thanking his past and present collaborators — and Buscemi, for letting him crash on his couch years ago.
After telling the Gothams crowd to STFU, Daniels shared high praise for friend and collaborator Whitaker. “When I did research for The Butler I became very angry at white people. That shit ain’t funny because it’s not funny what happened. … The lesson I learned when I did The Butler was that Forest told me to keep my anger in, to not be a stereotypical angry black man. Because if I were angry and I saw racism, then it became real. I had to step above it and pretend it wasn’t there. How do you tell your 17-year-old son that you can’t go into a 7-Eleven because you’re African-American and a dude? But Forest helped me through that. He taught me a lot.”
Said Whitaker of his craft: “I’m just trying to remove the veil in front of my eyes … to discover. … The truth is not finite, it’s an infinite thing. Then I surrender to the fact that even if I live on some foundation of truth, that I think I’m discovering something. It continues to expand. Physicists talk about the universe is expanding… I’m going to continue to place my attention with you in unveiling the complexity of the human experience, the human soul.”
Here is the full list of winners:
Inside Llewyn Davis
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors; Scott Rudin, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, producers (CBS Films)
Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club
BINGHAM RAY BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR
Ryan Coogler for Fruitvale Station
(The Weinstein Company)
Michael B. Jordan in Fruitvale Station
(The Weinstein Company)
The Act of Killing
Joshua Oppenheimer, director; Signe Byrge, Joshua Oppenheimer, producers (Drafthouse Films)
Jake Shimabukuro: Life on Four Strings
Tadashi Nakamura, director; Donald Young, producer
(Center for Asian American Media and PBS)
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Beneath the Harvest Sky
Gita Pullapilly, director