It’s hard to believe it’s already time for another award season but, alas, here we go again! Last night, the Independent Filmmaker Project helped kick it off with its 25th annual Gotham Awards, which honors the best in independent film. Held downtown at New York City's Cipriani Wall Street, the Euphoria Calvin Klein-, Flick Lauderdale-, and Fiji-sponored event gathered the hottest indie stars of the year, such as Spotlight’s Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo (who posted a thumbs up on his Instagram post-show) and Carol’s Sarah Paulson, as well as their presenter fans, such as Julianne Moore, Glenn Close, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Emmy Rossum.
Comedy Central staples Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer played the lovable, self-deprecating hosts with a mix of endearing jokes that had a raunchy side. Hollywood legends Helen Mirren and Robert Redford were among those who accepted special Tribute honors, which got the noisy crowd on their feet for standing ovations. A total of 16 honors and awards were doled out over a three-course meal, and we were there for the whole thing. Scroll down to see the biggest highlights from the night.
1. Spotlight Wins Big
The independent film was the biggest winner of the evening, taking home the top honor, Best Feature, as well as Best Screenplay and a Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance for its incredible lineup of stars including Liev Schreiber, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Billy Crudup, Stanley Tucci, and Brian D’Arcy James, many of whom were in attendance. “To get one actor to do a selfless, ego-subjugated performance is incredibly rare,” said Ruffalo as he accepted the Ensemble Award. “But to have a whole group of actors do it together is a freaking miracle.” The wins are a good sign for the movie, which tells the story of how The Boston Globe’s investigative unit exposed corruption within the Catholic Church: Last year, the winner of Best Feature, Birdman, went on to win the Oscar.
2. Bel Powley Beats Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Brie Larson and More for Best Actress
The Best Actress category was one of the fiercest of the night, with Cate Blanchett, Blythe Danner, Brie Larson, Lily Tomlin, Kristen Wiig, and British rising star Bel Powley up for the honor. Turns out, the heavyweight competition couldn’t outdo Powley’s turn as the sexually exploratory teen in The Diary of a Teenage Girl. “[Director Marielle Heller] has taught me that, as women in this industry, we don’t have to settle to be someone’s girlfriend,” she said as she accepted her award. “There are amazing female roles out there.” You go, girl.
3. Robert Redford’s Success Speech
When Robert Redford accepted his Tribute award from Dan Rather, whom he played in this year’s Truth, he went on a tangent about what success really means. The 79-year-old’s reflections were among the most poignant of the night. “I realize that when you have success, you want to be a little careful,” he said. “Success has two sides to it. For me, with success, it was not something to embrace, but to shadowbox with, because if you get too close, you run the risk of losing yourself. So I always treated success as something to be careful about. You welcome it. Obviously, you yearn for it. One of the ways to be careful would be to create an equalizer—something to hedge against taking it too seriously and taking yourself too seriously. For me, that hedge and equalizer was the word humility.”
4. Helen Mirren’s Sexy Comments
Helen Mirren is not a shy woman, which is why the crowd went wild during her acceptance speech for her Tribute Award when she told a story about what happened between her and her husband, Taylor Hackford, after he saw her play Queen Elizabeth II. (A clip of her as the queen played before she took the stage.) “My husband had never seen me dressed as the queen before,” she said. “So [at the premiere]. I leaned over to my husband and said, ‘Darling, will you ever f— me again?’ And between you and me, he has.” The crowd cheered relentlessly. What’s not to love about this woman?
5. Broad City Hits Gotham
The IFP tapped the hilarious duo behind Broad City, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, to host this year’s show. And it’s a tough gig: There are hundreds of people in the room, as big as Robert Redford and Robert De Niro, and they’re not all paying attention. But they managed to break through the noise to crack some LOL jokes. One of our faves: “I just passed Helen Mirren backstage and I thought I was looking at art,” Jacobson said.
6. Let’s Hear It for Mr. Robot
The IFP announced several new award categories focusing on independent television this year to “honor exceptionally realized new series that expand the possibilities of creative, independent storytelling in serialized content.” One such award was Breakthrough Series – Longform, which went to USA’s hacker-driven show Mr. Robot. Stars Christian Slater and Rami Malek were there to accept as the whole room cheered. “People have gravitated to it because it’s a unique thing that’s as independent as a TV show,” Malek said. “It has an effect on people that is very special and unique, and I am privileged to be a part of it.” Is this indicative of what will happen at this year’s Golden Globes? Nominations come out Dec. 10—we would be surprised if this show doesn’t get at least one, if not more.
7. Tangerine Commands Attention
The film about trans sex workers on a mission on Christmas Eve was shot entirely on iPhone 5s smartphones and its innovation caught the eyes of the independent world: Mya Taylor won Breakthrough Actor for her role as Alexandra (though she missed her flight and wasn’t able to accept in person) and the movie won the Audience Award. If you haven’t seen it, it’s available on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. Watch the trailer here.
The full list of winners is below:
Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze in The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Breakthrough Series – Longform
Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy
The Look of Silence – Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
The First Gotham Appreciation Award
Ellen Cotter of Angelika Film Center Theaters
Special Jury Award – Ensemble Performance
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup for Spotlight
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director
Jonas Carpigano for Mediterranea
Breakthrough Series – Short Form
Shugs & Fats
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer for Spotlight
Mya Taylor in Tangerine
Film Tribute Awards
Robert Redford, Steve Golin, Todd Haynes, Helen Mirren