Everyone’s a Critic at the NYFCC Awards
I am not a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, nor do I play one on TV. But I pretended to be one for a few hours last night when I scored an invitation to the NYFCC’s annual awards dinner, courtesy of my editor at the New York Daily News, Joe Neumaier. The ceremony was everything I’d hoped it would be—lengthy, celeb-studded and punctuated by moments of extreme weirdness. It was a thrill for me just to be welcomed by an organization that counts among its members Rex Reed—that guy was a judge on The Gong Show! (You may think I’m kidding, but I’m not.) Here are the highlights, and a few of the lowlights, from last night’s shindig.
*Before the show, Zero Dark Thirty star Jessica Chastain and filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow chatted about their mutual fear of public speaking. “I’m so nervous!” said Chastain, who presented Best Director to Bigelow. “I get emotional when I’m talking about this film, and I don’t want to cry on stage.” Not to worry: The graceful Chastain pulled off her speech flawlessly.
*Presenting the Best Non-Fiction Film Award to Ken Burns’ The Central Park Five, Chris Rock took a minute to congratulate Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis on Lincoln. “It was amazing—he freed the slaves!” the comic quipped. “You didn’t have to kill him, though. I can’t wait for Lincoln 2!”
*James Gandolfini introduced Best Cinematography winner Greig Fraser, who shot the Sopranos vet in Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly. And during the pre-ceremony cocktail hour, Fraser had to introduce himself to Gandolfini, whom he hadn’t met (the actor worked for only two days on Zero and ten on Killing). Awkward!
*Ever the provocateur, Michael Moore presented the Best First Film prize to the AIDS documentary How to Survive a Plague and in the process accused Pope John Paul II of having “blood on his hands” for ignoring the crisis. An offended Catholic in the crowd started to heckle Moore, who reminded the audience of his background as a seminarian and drowned out the protestor by chanting loudly in Latin. Fer Crissakes!
*Best Supporting Actor winner Matthew McConaughey (appearing gaunt from his role as an AIDS patient in Dallas Buyers Club and sporting what looked like a Jheri-Curl) launched into a nine-minute speech that concluded with a cringe-worthily sexist-sounding thank you to better half Camila Alves: “I got a great wife. What I mean by that is have a woman that lets me go into that bubble with blinders on… and I know that the homestead’s taken care of. I even get quite inconsiderate to reality as a whole, and she forgives me for that. You come home and think you might have demerits and they say, ‘No, you got credit.’” Hey, Magic Matt, you might want to ask Steven Soderbergh or Rick Linklater to write your speech next time.
*Katie Couric presented Best Supporting Actress to Lincoln‘s Sally Field, yet somehow the daytime diva still managed to make the speech about herself. Couric pointed out that it was her birthday, but that she was happy to spend it celebrating one of her favorite actresses (whom she probably embarrassed by praising Smokey and the Bandit and threatening to sing the entire theme song to Gidget). Deadpanned Field upon taking the stage, “I guess this means I have to do your show again.” Translation: She dislikes her—she really dislikes her!
*Lincoln‘s Tony Kushner won Best Screenplay—and Best Speech of the night. “I want to begin by thanking from the bottom of my heart each and every one of the narrow fourth-ballot majority of you,” he joked to the assembled critics, attributing the line to his husband (and my mentor back in the day at Entertainment Weekly) Mark Harris. “I’m very grateful for this award to those who voted to give it to me and for those who didn’t I’m grateful to you as well—just not as grateful.” Sounds like Tony learned a thing or two about honesty from Abe.
*Rachel Weisz took home Best Actress for The Deep Blue Sea and referenced her husband, Daniel “007″ Craig, who was in attendance (thus winning me a $1 bet with Mr. Neumaier). She also praised absent costar Tom Hiddleston, who earned applause from the crowd. “Even the Catholic thinks he’s great,” she said harshly, gesturing towards the heckler. “Even so, even so…” Maybe she was channeling her Wicked Witch from Oz: The Great and Powerful?
*Spielberg prefaced his introduction to Best Actor winner Day-Lewis by reading publicly for the first time from the picky thespian’s rejection letters after he’d read earlier drafts of the Lincoln script (before Kushner came on board to adapt Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals). “I can’t account for how at any given moment I feel the need to explore one life as opposed to another, but I do know that I can only do this work if I feel as if there’s almost no choice,” Day-Lewis wrote in 2004. “In this case, as fascinated as I was by Abe, it was the fascination of a grateful spectator who longs to see a story told rather than that of a particpant.” So he’s a great writer, too. Is there anything this guy can’t do?
*Apparently not. Day-Lewis took the stage and was thoroughly charming. “If you didn’t know before now that I’m a fucking idiot, you do now,” he demurred of his initial resistance to take the role. “I do say yes sometimes,” he added. “Whenever Doris Kearns Goodwin asks me to go binge-drinking, I say yes.” Well, who wouldn’t?
*If only Charlie Rose had gone binge-drinking rather than deliver a droning speech praising Best Picture winner Zero Dark Thirty. The PBS/CBS talking head read monotonously from his prepared text, frequently turning his head away from the microphone and rendering himself blessedly inaudible. After he was finally done, screenwriter-producer Mark Boal gave a feisty acceptance speech, playfully claiming the French government was investigating Les Miserables and defiantly declaring, “We stand by our film.” As do I—and the New York Film Critics Circle, of which I am not a member. Or did I mention that already?