What can't Meryl Streep do? Presenting a Best Actress award to her friend Emma Thompson, she offered the 700 gala guests of the National Board of Review at Cipriani 42ndStreet an option, a short speech of praise, or a longer complaint. I don't remember a show of hands. Wearing a souvenir trucker hat emblazoned with the words, "Prize Winner" evoking Woody played by Bruce Dern in Nebraska, Streep launched into her kvetch with full gusto. "I'm not the prize winner," noted Streep in mock rivalry, "That's so weird." Recounting instances of Walt Disney's gender bias, in her final moments of praise for Thompson, she recited a poem she composed in her honor, ending:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the entirely splendid Emma Thompson."
"Bloody hell no," exclaimed Thompson, arriving onstage heelless, and offering a series of one-liners. "No greater love hath one than to don a frock to salute a friend. I'm grateful for the menopause. It's bloody cold out. Normally at moments like this I like to complain about the shortage of roles for women. The role of P. L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks was about a woman who was neither a wife nor a mother. The perm meant no sex for months. And then it meant animal noises. Thank you again Meryl. That was an extraordinary experience."
This sister act was just one of the highlights of an evening honoring an eclectic array of the season's finest films: Fruitvale Station, Prisoners, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, Wolf of Wall Street, and Her were the big winners for performances, direction, best picture, and so on. Tina Brown introduced Haifaa Al-Mansour the winner of the Freedom of Expression Award for her film, Wadjda, from Saudi Arabia, a country where women are kept at home. Lea Seydoux presented to her Blue is the Warmest Color co-star Adele Exarchopoulos for Best Breakthrough Actress. Just having these two sexy French women onstage together was a coup, even though neither one could remember the name of the organization in its 107th year to thank and blamed the lapse on poor English.
While other groups put 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle on top of their lists, the NBR celebrated less predictable and highly worthy choices. And honorees and presenters rose to hilarious occasion.
Introduced by his SNL co-star Seth Myers, Will Forte did standup accepting the award for Best Supporting Actor in Nebraska. Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze, and Jon Favreau, all directors who acted in Wolf of Wall Street introduced Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, awarded for Career Collaboration. The duo finished each other's sentences, tripping over each other. Steve Buscemi and Edie Falco presented "Wolf' screenwriter Terence Winter for his adapted script in similar comedic form. And finally, accepting their award for Best Picture, the Her producers, Megan Ellison and Spike Jonze announced their third producer could not attend. But they had hired an actor to make the appropriate speech. Admitting that he had not yet seen the film about a young man who falls in love with his Operating System voiced by Scarlett Johansson, Rob Reiner accepted the award for the Her team, hitting all the right notes, especially when he said, you don't even see Scarlett Johansson, and she's the one you want to see.
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