The 28th annual IFP Gotham Awards offered a few surprises to kick off awards season, honoring dark horse The Rider as Best Feature, its only win of the night. First Reformed and Eighth Grade each took a pair of competitive awards.

Rachel Weisz accepts the ensemble acting award for “The Favourite”
Andy Kropa/Shutterstock

The Favourite had ample presence, taking home a previously announced ensemble acting award and having star Rachel Weisz honored with a career acting tribute. But the Fox Searchlight release did not win in three other competitive categories, Best Feature, Best Screenplay and the Audience Award.

Best Actress, in another twist, went to Toni Collette for horror hit Hereditary. A24, which released the film along with Eighth Grade and First Reformed, dominated the distributor standings with five total awards.

“The Rider”
Sony Pictures Classics

In addition to the nine competitive categories, the ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street included several non-competitive salutes. In addition to Weisz, recipients included Willem Dafoe (Actor Tribute), Paul Greengrass (Directors Tribute) and producer Jon Kamen (Industry Tribute). Sandra Lee, who made a short film for HBO and has won two Emmys as a TV host, received the “Made in NY” Award from the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment to start the show.

In recent years, the show has become more predictive of Oscar fortunes, with Get Out, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird each bringing home Gothams and then earning Oscar love.

Here is how it all went down at Cipriani Wall Street, on a wet and soggy New York night:

7:08PM PT: WINNER: Best Feature – The Rider

The night ended with a stunner, as the Sony Classics title directed by Chloé Zhao took top honors.

Zhao was a no-show (one of three prominent ones during the show). In her stead, producer Bert Hamelinck took the stage. “Sorry about this,” he began amiably. “I am a Belgian, speaking for a Chinese filmmaker. But I am doing my best.” In the end, a general sense of gratitude — a universal notion in any language — was the main theme of the short and glowing remarks.

6:57PM PT: WINNER: Best Actor – Ethan Hawke, First Reformed

Hawke’s win made it a double for First Reformed, after Paul Schrader’s screenplay was honored earlier. He began his speech by praising Schrader, who has “blazed a trail and lifted this whole room up year after year after year.”

The actor also broke the night’s striking political silence, never mentioning the name of the current president but offering some fiery words about the need to address the current climate.

“We are living in a time when there’s a void of political and spiritual leadership,” he said. “In that kind of time period, a heavy burden falls upon the arts. … We must not give in to tribal thinking … we are the great generators of empathy and compassion.”

6:48PM PT: WINNER: Best Actress – Toni Collette, Hereditary

Collette was not in New York tonight. Instead, Hereditary director Ari Aster accepted the award on her behalf. “I pushed Toni down the stairs,” he deadpanned, before offering the real explanation for her absence, that she is shooting a film. “I want to thank her, not only because she’s incredible in the film but her participation in it got it made,” Aster said.

6:46PM PT: Willem Dafoe offered some deeply felt words after an affecting introduction by quintessential New York City artist Laurie Anderson, whom he called “the most awake person I know.” At one point, Dafoe choked up when praising filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, who died Sunday. “I knew him a little bit. He was not only influential for other filmmakers but he was very generous to other filmmakers. It’s important to remember when people pass.”

He also said it meant a lot to be getting his tribute honor in New York. “It is and will forever be my home,” he said, adding that he believes “in a director-driven cinema and in independent film.”

6:28PM PT: WINNER: Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award – Bo Burnham, Eighth Grade

Burnham breezed through his speech in an ingratiating 20 seconds. “This is another award for Elsie Fisher, honestly,” he said. “My job was to point the camera at her and tell her to be incredible and she would be incredible.” He closed with: “I want to say thank you to my parents, who are watching on livestream and keep texting me. Go to bed! Thank you.”

6:15PM PT: WINNER: Breakthrough Series (Long Form) – Killing Eve

The BBC America breakout starring Sandra Oh in a menacing career-milestone turn beat out HBO’s Sharp Objects, among other nominees.

Because the Gothams are still primarily a film gathering, though, the presenter observed matter-of-factly, “Nobody is here from the movie” and promised the statuette would be delivered to the right address.

Moments before Killing Eve, the other Breakthrough Series award, for short form, went to 195 Lewis.

6:08 PM PT: WINNER: Audience Award – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“To say this is a surprise is an extreme understatement,” said Morgan Neville, the director of the Fred Rogers sensation.

“I’m just happy that people are showing up to see them,” he added of documentaries in general. “A year ago, it seemed like you couldn’t pay people to go see them in theatres.”

6:05 PM PT: Radical Media’s Kamen evoked his local roots in accepting his career tribute.

“I’m still just little Johnny Kamen. I’m just a kid from Queens being given this award,” he said. “It’s kind of extraordinary to think that I am here.” He added, “Anybody who has had any amount of time working at Radical knows that at the end of the day we’re really a family. … We really care.”

5:55 PM PT: WINNER: Breakthrough Actor Award: Elsie Fisher, Eighth Grade

“You can probably see — I am shaking,” she said, seeming genuinely awed. “I am so thankful to be up here. Acting is something I was considering quitting. …. Me from two years ago would be really proud of me right now and I’m really thankful for that.”

5:47 PM PT: Weisz offered a tribute to independent filmmakers in a characteristically elegant, succinct speech accepting her tribute award.

“They show our humanity in all our messiness and all our glory,” she said. “Independent films are very, very difficult to get made.” The Favourite, she cited as an example, took 20 years to reach the screen.

Looking down from the stage, Weisz spotted Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos. “He’s being served filet mignon as I speak, which is very appropriate,” she laughed.

5:38 PM PT: WINNER: Best Screenplay, Paul Schrader, First Reformed

Schrader’s First Reformed, one of the earliest releases of 2018 to gain critical attention, took Best Screenplay.

5:30 PM PT: WINNER: Best Documentary, Hale County This Morning, This Evening

An emotional evocation of the South and the social construction of race. In accepting the award, director RaMell Ross gave nods to fellow nominees, which included some more conspicuous titles like Neighbor? and Shirkers.

“When someone is being represented by someone else, you’re putting a costume on them,” Ross said, reflecting on his film. “So let’s let black folks choose their own clothes.”

Here is the complete list of winners:

BEST FEATURE

The Rider

Chloé Zhao, director; Bert Hamelinck, Sacha Ben Harroche, Mollye Asher, Chloé Zhao, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)

AUDIENCE AWARD

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Morgan Neville, director; Morgan Neville, Caryn Capotosto, Nicholas Ma, producers (Focus Features)

BEST DOCUMENTARY

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

RaMell Ross, director; RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim, producers (The Cinema Guild)

BINGHAM RAY BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR AWARD

Bo Burnham for Eighth Grade (A24)

BEST SCREENPLAY

First Reformed, Paul Schrader (A24)

BEST ACTOR

Ethan Hawke in First Reformed (A24)

BEST ACTRESS*

Toni Collette in Hereditary (A24)

BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR

Elsie Fisher in Eighth Grade (A24)

BREAKTHROUGH SERIES – LONG FORM

Killing Eve, Sally Woodward Gentle, Lee Morris, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, executive producers (BBC America)

BREAKTHROUGH SERIES – SHORT FORM

195 Lewis, Chanelle Aponte Pearson and Rae Leone Allen, creators