- NEW YORK (AP)
Celine Song's wistful romance Past Lives earned top honors at the Gotham Awards on Monday evening at an award-season kickoff where the night's biggest drama came in a political speech by Robert De Niro that the actor claimed had been edited without his permission.
Past Lives, a breakout at the Sundance Film Festival in January and an arthouse hit in June for A24, may be poised to be an Oscar sleeper this year after winning best feature film at the Gothams. Affection is strong for Song's directorial debut, starring Greta Lee as a woman born in Seoul who, after marrying an American (John Magaro), reconnects with a childhood friend from South Korea (Teo Yoo).
"This is the first film I've ever made and a very personal film about an extraordinary feeling I had in an ordinary bar in the East Village, not too many blocks away from here," said Song, accepting the award. "As this film has been shared with the world, it has taught me — and taught us — that you're never alone in that extraordinary feeling."
Past Lives was expected to win, but the ceremony went off-script when De Niro, co-star in Martin Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon, took the podium to present a tribute award to the film. While giving his remarks, De Niro noticed a section had been omitted on the teleprompter. After attempting to scroll back through, he completed his speech before returning to read from his phone.
"The beginning of my speech was edited, cut out," De Niro said. "I didn't know about it."
De Niro, known for his fiery rhetoric against former President Donald Trump, then expanded on what he called America's "post-truth society" and chided Hollywood — specifically John Wayne — for earlier depictions of Native Americans.
"The former president lied to us more than 30,000 times during his four years in office, and he's keeping up the pace with his current campaign of retribution," De Niro said. "With all of his lies, he can't hide his soul. He attacks the weak, destroys the gifts of nature and shows his disrespect for example using Pocahontas as a slur."
De Niro seemed to blame Apple, which produced Killers of the Flower Moon, for the changes to his speech.
"So I'm going to say these things — to Apple and thank them, all that. Gothams. Blah blah blah. Apple. But I don't really feel like thanking them at all for what they did," said De Niro. "How dare they do that, actually."
Apple didn't immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday evening.
It was still a big night for Scorsese's epic, about the Osage murders in the early 20th century, even though Scorsese unexpectedly wasn't in attendance. Lily Gladstone, who stars in the film opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, won for best lead performance — though not for that performance.
Gladstone won for a lesser-known film released earlier in 2023: The Unknown Country, in which stars as a woman embarking on a road trip though the Midwest. In each of her speeches — for Killers of the Flower Moon and The Unknown Country — Gladstone praised the filmmakers for prioritizing Native perspectives.
"I challenge everybody in this room who makes films: Invest. When you have a budget, invest it in the people," said Gladstone. "Invest in the people that you're telling your story about. Your film will be better for it. Your lives will be better for it."
The Gotham Awards, now in their 33rd year, leapfrog most of the major ceremonies that lead up to the Academy Awards. But over time, they've established themselves as the first big party of the season, and an early hint at some of the favorites.
Put on by the Gotham Film & Media Institute and held annually at Cipriani Wall Street, the Gothams have some quirks that make them different than other awards. Prizes are chosen by small committees of film professionals, critics and journalists. Their acting categories are also gender neutral, with 10 actors nominated for lead performance, and another 10 up for supporting performances.
This year, one of the most competitive categories was best international film. There, Justine Triet's Palme d'Or winning courtroom drama Anatomy of a Fall triumphed over the likes of Poor Things, All of Us Strangers and The Zone of Interest. Triet's film also won for best screenplay.
Andrew Haigh's tender metaphysical drama All of Us Strangers, starring Andrew Scott as a screenwriter cast back into his childhood while developing a relationship with a neighbor (Paul Mescal), had come into the Gothams as the lead nominee with four nods, but went home without a trophy.
The Gothams this year removed a $35 million budget cap for nominees, but many big-budget films still opted not to submit themselves. The monthslong Screen Actors Guild strike meant awards season got off to a slower start, but one of the early questions is if anything can rival those diametrically opposed summer sensations of Barbie and Oppenheimer.
Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie of Barbie were among the numerous tribute awards. In their joint speech, Gerwig said her partner, Noah Baumbach, found out he was co-writing the movie with her from a Variety article that cited them both. He sent the article to Gerwig with just a question mark, she said.
"Then he wrote back: 'It's OK, we'll make each other laugh,'" added Gerwig.
Best supporting performance went to Charles Melton of Todd Haynes' May December. He plays a young father who first began his relationship with his wife (Julianne Moore) when he was a minor.
A.V. Rockwell, whose directorial debut A Thousand and One stars Teyana Taylor as a single mother, won for breakthrough director. She noted all of her fellow nominees were women. "It's a fight just to get here," she said.
"Just to be frank, it is very hard to tell a culturally specific story when you look like this," said Rockwell.
Best documentary went to Kaouther Ben Hania's Tunisian film Four Daughters, a true story about a Tunisian women with two daughters who became radicalized. The film reconstructs their disappearance.
In the TV categories, the Netflix series Beef, starring Steven Yeun and Ali Wong as a pair locked in a feud after a road rage incident, won for both breakthrough series under 40 minutes and for Wong's performance.
"If you haven't seen Beef' yet, I swear it's more than me and Steven crying." Wong said.
Winning the award for Breakthrough Series (Over 40 minutes) was A Small Light, based on the true story of Miep Gies, the woman who hid and sheltered Anne Frank’s family and others from Nazis.
Tribute awards ensured that some star power hit the Gothams stage. They were given to: Bradley Cooper, the director, star and co-writer of Maestro; Ben Affleck, the director and co-star of Air; George C. Wolfe, the director of Rustin; and Michael Mann, the director of Ferrari.
Affleck, however, wasn't in attendance. The film's screenwriter, Alex Convery, instead accepted the award.
"Well, you thought you were getting Ben Affleck," said Convery. "Sorry."
The Gothams have a checkered history of forecasting future awards glory. Last year, it was the first win in what became a runaway Oscar campaign for Everything Everywhere All at Once, and where Ke Huy Quan's supporting-actor bid got its start. The year before that, Gotham winner The Lost Daughter faded on the campaign trail, but 2020-winner Nomadland went the distance to the Academy Awards.
Here’s a category-by-category rundown of the 33rd Annual Gotham Award recipients:
For Best Feature, presented by Julianne Moore and Natalie Portman
Directed by Celine Song
Produced by David Hinojosa, Pamela Koffler, Christine Vachon
Released by A24
The Best Feature jury included: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Danielle Deadwyler, Beau Flynn, Edward Shults Trey & Olivia Wilde
For Best Documentary Feature, presented by Carla Cugino and Rebecca Hall
Directed by Kaouther Ben Hania
Produced by Nadim Cheikhrouha
Released by Kino Lorber
The Best Documentary jury included: Yoni Golijov, Teddy Leifer, Andrew Rossi, Nanfu Wang & Jamila Wignot
For Best International Feature, presented Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Stan Walker
Anatomy of a Fall
Directed by Justine Triet
Produced by Marie-Ange Luciani and David Thion
Released by NEON
The Best International Feature jury included: Gracija Filipovic, Asher Goldstein, André Holland, Danilea Taplin Lundberg & Giancarlo Nasi
For Outstanding Lead Performance, presented by Willem Dafoe and Danielle Deadwyler
Lily Gladstone in The Unknown Country
Released by Music Box Films
The Outstanding Lead Performance jury included: Thomas Benski, Liz Cardenas, Ethan Hawke, David Lowery & Alfre Woodard
For Outstanding Supporting Performance, presented by Jamie Bell and Shailene Woodley
Charles Melton in May December
Released by Netflix
The Outstanding Supporting Performance jury included: Juan Pablo Gonzalez, Alma Har’el, Stephan James, Anya Taylor-Joy & Julie Yorn
For Breakthrough Director Award, presented by Radikha Jones and Andrew Scott
A.V. Rockwell for A Thousand and One
Released by Focus Features
The Breakthrough Director Award Presented by Cadillac jury included: Anna Boden, Chinonye Chukwu, Ricky D’Ambrose, Richard Gladstein & Anne Rosellini
For Best Screenplay, presented by Stephanie March and Jeffrey Sharp
Justine Triet and Arthur Harari for Anatomy of a Fall
Released by NEON
The Best Screenplay jury included: Lee Daniels, Lena Dunham, Sian Heder, Scott Lambert & Diego Luna
For Breakthrough Series (Over 40 Minutes), presented by Bob Odenkirk and Steven Yeun
A Small Light
Created by Tony Phelan and Joan Rater
Executive Produced by Susanna Fogel, William Harper, Avi Nir, Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, Lisa Roos, Alon Shtruzman, and Peter Traugott
The Breakthrough Series (Over 40 Minutes) jury included: DeMane Davis, Frankie Faison, Sanaa Hamri, Haley Lu Richardson & Paul Thureen
For Breakthrough Series (Under 40 Minutes), presented by Nicole Beharie and Morgan Spector
Created by Lee Sung Jin
Executive Produced by Ravi Nandan, Alli Reich, Jake Schreier, Ali Wong, and Steven Yeun
The Breakthrough Series (Under 40 Minutes) jury included: Adam Arkin, Sterlin Harjo, Jordana Mollick, Taylour Paige & Susanna Styron
For Outstanding Performance in a New Series, presented by Greta Lee and Teyana Taylor
Ali Wong in Beef
The Outstanding Performance in a New Series jury included: Danielle Brooks, Kim Coleman, Aaron Cooley & Soo Hugh
The Gotham Film & Media Institute also announced ViacomCBS’ MTV Entertainment Group will continue to underwrite the Gotham EDU Schumacher Cranshaw Scholarship as part of The Gotham EDU Career Development Program. The scholarship is in honor of the legacy of filmmaker Joel Scumacher and MTV creative director Sophia Cranshaw, for undergraduate students who identify as Black, Indigenous, People of Color and LGBTQ+. The Gotham EDU Career Development program offers support in the form of classes and mentorship.
The Gotham’s Sidney Poitier Initiative, which supports The Gotham’s equity programs, also received funding from Moviepass. The Sidney Poitier Initiative fuels the careers of and expands opportunities for trailblazing film and media creators from historically excluded backgrounds.