Maggie Gyllenhaal's Elena Ferrante adaptation “The Lost Daughter" won four Gotham Awards including best feature film at the 31st Gotham Awards, the annual New York independent film celebration that serves as a boozy kickoff to Oscar season.
Gyllenhaal won breakthrough director and best screenplay for her directorial debut, and star Olivia Colman shared the award for outstanding lead performance with Frankie Faison, “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain,” a drama based on the 2011 police shooting in White Plains, New York. “The Lost Daughter,” a Netflix release, opens in theaters Dec. 17.
As one of the first stops in the long march to the Oscars, Monday evening's Gothams was the first real attempt since the pandemic began to summon all the season's usual glitz and pomp. Stars including Kristen Stewart, Tessa Thompson and Dakota Johnson walked the red carpet. Inside the crowded banquet hall, attendees were required to provide proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Last year's Gotham Awards (where “Nomadland” won the top award) was held virtually, with winners accepting awards by Zoom and an online poker platform deployed to digitally sit guests at tables.
This year, even with the recent discovery of the omicron variant spooking a film industry still trying to rebound from the pandemic, the Gothams got back to normal — even while tweaking traditions.
For the first time, the Gothams were presented without gendered acting categories. While the season's top award shows — the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys — haven't yet embraced such a move, the Gothams are part of a growing number of awards bodies, including the Grammys and the MTV Film and TV Awards, to ditch “best actor" and “best actress.”
Several times during Monday night's show that was applauded. Ethan Hawke, a co-winner for his performance in the series “The Good Lord Bird,” said he never understood the separate categories in the first place.
“True talent shines through the divisions meant to separate us,” said “Billions” actor Asia Kate Dillon, a presenter.
Other borders seemed to disintegrate at the Gothams, once a more narrow celebration of independent film. Among the series winners was Netflix's “Squid Game,” the pop-culture sensation that has been watched for more than 2 billion hours, according to the streaming service. At the Gothams, speeches have often exalted the hard work and sometimes lesser-seen rewards of indie film.
“CODA,” the celebrated coming-of-age drama about a hearing daughter in a deaf family, won several awards. Troy Kotsur, the veteran deaf actor who plays the film's fisherman father, won outstanding supporting performance. Emilia Jones, who stars as the daughter, won breakthrough performer. After an award-winning debut at a virtual Sundance Film Festival, the film's awards hopes had seemed to lag somewhat after a muted streaming debut on Apple TV+ in August. But the Gothams gave “CODA” a boost.
"First off, I’m absolutely handless right now,” Kotsur said through sign language, shaking his hands.
Nominees and winners (except for best film) are chosen by juries for the Gothams. In a few categories, they elected multiple winners — like for outstanding lead performance where Colman and Faison both won from a pool of 10 nominees.
Other winners included Ryusuke Hamaguchi's intimate epic “Drive My Car” for best international film and Jonas Poher Rasmussen's “Flee," an animated film about an Afghanistan migrant's life, for best documentary.
But the Gothams also trot out a number of tribute awards, some of them going to a handful of filmmakers and performers expected to play starring roles throughout awards season. Those included honors for Jane Campion, director of “The Power of the Dog"; Stewart for her performance at Princess Diana in “Spencer”; Peter Dinklage for the upcoming “Cyrano”; and the cast of Jeymes Samuel's Black Western “The Harder They Fall.”
Often, the tribute introductions are as dramatic as the acceptance speeches. “Spencer” director Pablo Larrain, alongside Julianne Moore, told Stewart that she changed his life and called her “a miracle of cinema.”
“I feel so visible to him,” Stewart said.
Dinklage, introduced with exuberance by Hawke ("If he was British, he'd be a knight"), stood aside and went “off-podium” for his speech because, he noted, the lectern was too high for him.
“The podium, not me,” he said. “Although...”
But Dinklage, who plays Cyrano de Bergerac in the film, spoke warmly about his life in movies and his love of “you tribe of weirdos.”
“When it's good, it's not precious,” said Dinklage of acting. “It's work.”