The Gotham Awards: Victories for Hurt Locker, Sloshed Presenters

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Aside from a certain to-do about Antichrist and Willem Dafoe’s penis, the main news out of the Gotham Awards last night was, of course, the big wins for The Hurt Locker in the Best Feature and Best Ensemble categories, giving it early positioning in the Oscar race. Before the event, there was a lot of understandable anxiety among the guests about the state of indie filmmaking in today’s financial environment. Luckily, the show, presented at Cipriani, managed to be one of the more entertaining Gothams of recent years.

For starters, props should be given to host Kumail Nanjiani, who broke an unwelcome tradition of Gotham hosts bombing (witness Aasif Mandvi’s stoned-Allah debacle last year) with a flurry of totally respectable jokes comparing indies to Hollywood films. (“Spike Lee made When the Levees Broke about Hurricane Katrina. The most realistic movie to come out of Hollywood about Hurricane Katrina? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ... It’s the most money ever spent on Hurricane Katrina.”)

For starters, props should be given to host Kumail Nanjiani, who broke an unwelcome tradition of Gotham hosts bombing (witness Aasif Mandvi’s stoned-Allah debacle last year) with a flurry of totally respectable jokes comparing indies to Hollywood films. (“Spike Lee made When the Levees Broke about Hurricane Katrina. The most realistic movie to come out of Hollywood about Hurricane Katrina? The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ... It’s the most money ever spent on Hurricane Katrina.”)

The Gothams hand out a number of awards designed to promote lesser-known films. In that vein, the Breakthrough Director Award went to former Onion editor Robert Siegel for Big Fan, while the award for Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You went to Vulture friend Ry Russo Young’s You Won’t Miss Me.

The evening’s other big potential Oscar contender, A Serious Man, didn’t win any of the awards it was nominated for, but the Coen Brothers did make quite an impression with their presentation of a Career Achievement Award for Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, the partners at Working Title films, the company responsible for not only numerous Coen films (including Serious Man), but also such hits as Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Elizabeth, among many others. Joel kicked it off thusly:


“Eight years ago, Ethan and I went to Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, and told them we wanted to make a black-and-white movie about an unhappily married barber. And not just any unhappily married barber, but [one] who wants to become a dry-cleaner. And at the end of the movie everybody dies. Tim and Eric said, ‘Boys, this sounds like a hit. We must make this movie!’ The movie was The Man Who Wasn’t There, and the rest is box-office history.”

The Coens’ speech continued in that vein for a few more movies, which probably brightened the days of those indie filmmakers in the audience whose own films were playing to empty houses across the city (and in some cases, not playing at all).

The other big award at the Gothams, Best Documentary, went to Robert Kenner’s harrowing Food, Inc., currently shortlisted for an Oscar slot and nominated for an Indie Spirit award, giving it an extra push during a season when it’s sure to face some stiff competition from the likes of The Cove.

The evening’s final Career Achievement Award was Kathryn Bigelow’s (presented to her by man of the hour, Dafoe). The director perhaps inadvertently revealed what was on her (and many others’ minds) when her acceptance speech sounded curiously like a Hurt Locker Best Director acceptance speech. (Though, to be fair, the Gothams’ only directing award is Breakthrough Director, and giving that to Bigelow would have been somewhat idiotic.) This allowed her to let her producing and writing partners do the heavy lifting when the film then immediately won the Best Feature award.

See more from the awards show in our Party Lines slideshow.

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