With his Manhattan home just blocks away and his specter even closer, Donald Trump went unmentioned – at least by name – at the National Board of Review Awards gala in New York Wednesday night. But judging by the foreboding in more than a few acceptance speeches, the president-elect isn’t far from Hollywood’s mind.
“We are living in very troubled times,” said director Kenneth Lonergan, accepting the Best Film award for his Manchester By The Sea. “How troubled, we just don’t know yet. It’s going to be a lot of trouble, or it might be bad trouble like we’ve never seen. I hope it’s not that, but if it is, I think a lot of people here tonight have spoken about the inspiration that we can get from each other.”
Lonergan offered specific praise of Best Documentary winner O.J.: Made In America, Ezra Edelman’s seven-hour epic that examines the country’s racial divide through the life and crimes of O.J. Simpson.
“What inspired me the most about the documentary,” Lonergan said, “was the guts and the bravery and intelligence that Ezra has, of showing without comment and without equivocation completely differing points of view about this tremendously complicated problem, one after the other after the other for seven hours – I could have watched it for 20 hours, I could be watching it still.
“The fact is, just by seeing the different points of view of each person involved in that tragedy, the multiplicity of viewpoints, just seeing that in front of you, without Ezra telling us what to think, creates a fullness of experience.”
Consideration of marginalized viewpoints, Lonergan continued, is the “way to approach our work, and approach the next four years. Hopefully only four years.”
Earlier in the evening, author Ta-Nehisi Coates presented the Best Director award to Barry Jenkins (left) for Moonlight, the first black director to receive that award since the NBR’s founding in 1909. Coates suggested that black directors and actors are burdened with the “trap” of presenting art that is “positive,” suggesting that a better goal is creating “productive” work that illuminates. Jenkins picked up on the theme, adding that, while the NBR’s previous choices for Best Director were worthy winners and “amazing names,” there “were certain people who just weren’t considered.”
“As we make America great again,” Jenkins continued, “let’s remember some inconsiderable things in our legacy, because there was a time when someone like me just was not considered.”
Of course, the three-hour ceremony at Cipriani 42nd Street wasn’t all – or even mostly – so weighty, being an awards presentation, after all. A buzz-cut, 20-year-old Lucas Hedges (above, with Lonergan), taking the Breakthrough Performance (Male) award for Manchester By The Sea, charmed the crowd with his enthused gratitude for everyone from costar (and Best Actor winner) Casey Affleck to his two acting coaches.
Martin Scorsese and Jay Cocks, winning Best Adapted Screenplay for Silence, spoke of their now-familiar 28-year struggle to get the film made, and Maggie Gyllenhaal presented Jeff Bridges with his Supporting Actor win (for Hell Or High Water) with some wishful thinking that his one-time role as President of the United States would come true.
Patriots Day director Peter Berg, sharing the Spotlight Award with Mark Wahlberg for creative collaboration, decried “the absurdity of the idea that terrorism is going to be a divisive force – love will destroy hatred every time.”
Affleck, accepting his second Best Actor award in as many nights, veered from what is shaping up to be his standard thank-yous by recalling his 2007 NBR Supporting Actor win for The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, specifically director Andrew Dominik’s less-than-eloquent presentation of the honor. Affleck recalled the painful site of watching a nervous Dominik freeze up onstage, and remembered thinking, “Now I know why that movie is so damn long.”
For a complete list of winners, look here.