This Monday at the 25th IFP Gotham Awards -- the indie film world's kick-off to awards season -- was a bad night to be Queen Elizabeth. Off-color cracks by both presenter Robert de Niro and honoree Helen Mirren impugned her majesty's lack of -- well, to not go too Amy Schumer-esque here -- sexual viability. The jokes were inspired, of course, by Mirren's memorable turns as the royal on both screen and stage.
But queen-bashing might have been the only negativity in an evening that felt like a great warm bath of love for movie makers both behind and in front of the camera. If prior Gothams were marred by non-stop yakking -- drowning out even past presenter, former Mayor Bloomberg -- on Monday, the cavernous Wall Street Cipriani glowed with good will and solidarity. Gathered here were world-class creatives and storytellers risking it all in a famously daunting business, rightly come to celebrate each other.
The love went to screenwriters Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight, who won for Best Screenplay; to neophyte actor Bel Powley for playing a daughter who pinches her mom's B.F. in Diary of a Teenage Girl (and beat out Cate Blanchett); to Tangerine, a micro budget comedy about two transgender sex workers that was shot on an iPhone. In a first, the Gothams awarded a TV Breakthrough Series, nabbed by Sam Esmail's Mr. Robot about a programmer moonlighting as a vigilante hacker.
The event was run with Rockettes-like precision -- praises to Lina Plath and her PR team -- down to the coat room staff, who greeted guests with hangers, giving us shleppers emerging from the 2,3 subway, a taste of life as a one per-center, and hoping for maybe a Veil super-toilet in the ladies'.
Pre-ceremony happy hour is a Gotham highpoint; Bellinis offered on every side by towering blondes like caryatids (maybe moonlighting from Russian oligarchs) -- the moment to flirt with "the talent" and check out their latest project. Ace documentarian Alex Gibney, fresh off the triumph of Going Clear, was revealing nothing, citing the risks of "talking something to death."
Bob Berney, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Amazon Studios touted Chi-raq, the new Spike Lee, a remake of Lysistrata (check Cliff Notes) wherein the girlfriends of dudes killing each other in inner city Chicago -- at a rate to rival that of Iraq -- go on a sex strike until they stop. The takeaway: So, Amazon is now making movies?
Always amiable Tom Bernard of Sony Pictures Classics said I must see Son of Saul, a Holocaust-set film by first time Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes. I confessed I'd shied away because of the grimness of the subject. A recent trailer has changed my mind about seeing it. These astonishing filmmakers have managed to forge a new cinematic language to convey the unspeakable.
Circling 'round now to Cynthia Nixon, who's just stepped off the red carpet. She plays the cancer-stricken mom of Christopher Abbott, up for an award in James White. I wondered, did it freak Nixon out to play a dying woman? Like, make her superstitious? "I never saw it that way," Nixon said. "In the past with extended families, death was a part of life, now it's taboo and hidden away. I want to bring it into the open and recognize it's part of life."
Suffering from Gothams-induced A.D.D., my head jerked from Julianne Moore, who just keeps getting beautiful-er, to Harvey Keitel, who looks a lot better than he does in Youth by Paolo (The Great Beauty) Sorrentino, where he plays ten years older.
The climax of this rambling film arrives when Keitel and co-geezer Michael Caine, who are sitting in a pool, watch a naked Miss Universe join them, and look depressed as hell -- presumably over their bygone virility.
"Why would you expect women viewers to empathize with that?" I asked Keitel. He perked up. "Whaddya mean 'bygone'? You should have been a submarine in that pool." At that moment his wife Daphna arrived. They've been married 15 years, she said, and she's the same age as his mother. Dinner was announced. Keitel looked sorry to see me go.
At the last Gotham I dined in solitary splendor at a table for 12 near the hall -- but no Siberia tonight, 'cause here's Christian Slater pulling up a chair. And then adorable Emmy Rossum and her finance, Sam Esmail, who would soon snag an award for Mr. Robot. "It's sort of a Robin Hood tale, that knocks Wall Street and the big corporations, "Slater told me, "all that good stuff."
The evening's only weirdness? A zealous young security guard saw me scribbling notes from the sidelines, as I stood watching Helen Mirren on a giant monitor sing the praises of writers and take a swipe at Donald Trump. The guard deemed me a suspicious personage and demanded to see my table number. I exhibit violent impulses only at Fairway, I objected. The guard wasn't having it. Maybe in this crowd an imperfect chin line makes you an object of suspicion. He verified my credentials. I thanked him for looking after us.