Catalina Saavedra in The Maid (top); Stella Schnabel in You Won't Miss Me (middle); The Hurt Locker by Kathryn Bigelow (bottom)
“Kudos to you, great performance,” Rosie Perez told Willem Dafoe, after saying that Lars von Trier's Antichrist, a dark, sex-filled drama in which Dafoe co-stars with Charlotte Gainsbourg, was a “sick-ass movie.” That was followed by: “Was that your … Oooohhhh. It was?"
And so went the 2009 edition of the Gotham Awards, in which performers cracked jokes that would be unacceptable on network TV. Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily make the jokes any funnier or the show any better than, say, the Oscars or the Golden Globes, but on the bright side some of the Gotham choices were unusual – and thus interesting as well.
Chief among those was the choice of Catalina Saavedra as Breakthrough Actor for her performance as a resentful maid in Sebastián Silva's Chilean-made The Maid (no rhyme intended). Saavedra made her acceptance speech in Spanish, dedicating the award to director-screenwriter Silva, co-screenwriter Pedro Peirano, and fellow cast members. (Silva interceded on her behalf at one point, telling the crowd, “Hey guys, she doesn't have an agent!” Now, if Saavedra is as lucky as Melissa Leo was last year, she'll surely have one after landing a best actress Oscar nod early next year.)
Ry Russo-Young's You Won't Miss Me, the tale of a problematic young woman (Stella Schnabel) released from a psychiatric hospital, was voted the Best Film Not Showing at a Theater Near You, while Robert Siegel was chosen best director for Big Fan, the tale of a New York Giants fan (Patton Oswalt) who gets beaten up by his favorite player – and then has to deal with it.
Unsurprising were the two The Hurt Locker victories: best picture and best ensemble. A Gotham best picture win usually indicates more awards (or at least award nominations) elsewhere. Among past Gotham best picture winners are Frozen River, Into the Wild, Half Nelson, Capote, and Sideways.
Robert Kenner's Food, Inc., a likely Oscar contender, was named best documentary.
The evening's special honorees were producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, who received their award from Joel and Ethan Coen; actress Natalie Portman, who was praised at length by Jim Sheridan, her Brothers director; likely best supporting actor nominee Stanley Tucci, who declared upon receiving his award from his The Devil Wears Prada and Julie & Julia co-star Meryl Streep, “I feel it's a little early…”; and The Hurt Locker director and likely 2010 Oscar nominee Kathryn Bigelow, who got her trophy from Willem Dafoe.
A special Gotham tribute should have been handed to Shohreh Aghdashloo as well, for taking care of business without sounding giddy or uttering a single crack.
Among other award presenters were Ellen Burstyn, Anthony Mackie, and Brooke Shields.
And the last Gotham 2009 word goes to Meryl Streep: “If you're not a supporting actor, you're not an actor.” (Streep then went on to say that she felt “buttressed” by Stanley Tucci.)
Wait, I take that back. The last Gotham 2009 word goes to Stanley Tucci, referring to the state of the arts – especially the laborious and (relatively speaking) expensive art of independent filmmaking: “I do believe that these ups-and-downs are cyclical, and that things will get better.”
Here's hoping he's 100 percent right.
Full list of 2009 Gotham Awards winners and nominees
Cherien Dabis, director; Christina Piovesan, Paul Barkin, producers (National Geographic Entertainment)
Robert Siegel, director; Jean Kouremetis, Elan Bogarin, producers (First Independent Pictures)
* The Hurt Locker
Kathryn Bigelow, director; Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro, producers (Summit Entertainment)
Sebastian Silva, director; Gregorio Gonzales, producer (Elephant Eye Films)
A Serious Man
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, directors / producers (Focus Features)
* Food, Inc.
Robert Kenner, director; Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, producers (Magnolia Pictures)
Jeff Stilson, director; Chris Rock, Kevin O'Donnell, Nelson George Jenny Hunter, producers (Liddell Entertainment and Roadside Attractions in association with HBO Films)
My Neighbor My Killer
Anne Aghion, director/producer (Gacaca Productions)
Michael Almereyda, director; Michael Almereyda, Laurie Butler, producers (Post Factory Films)
James Toback, director; James Toback, Damon Bingham, producers (Sony Pictures Classics)
Cruz Angeles for Don't Let Me Drown
Frazer Bradshaw for Everything Strange and New
Noah Buschel for The Missing Person (Strand Releasing)
Derick Martini for Lymelife (Screen Media Films)
* Robert Siegel for Big Fan (First Independent Pictures)
Ben Foster in The Messenger (Oscilloscope Laboratories)
Patton Oswalt in Big Fan (First Independent Pictures)
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker (Summit Entertainment)
* Catalina Saavedra in The Maid (Elephant Eye Films)
Souleymane Sy Savane in Goodbye Solo (Roadside Attractions)
Best Ensemble Performance
Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Ryan Reynolds (Miramax Films)
Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun, Emily Watson, Katheryn Winnick, David Strathairn (Samuel Goldwyn Films)
* The Hurt Locker
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse, Evangeline Lilly (Summit Entertainment)
A Serious Man
Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed (Focus Features)
Algenis Perez Soto, Rayniel Rufino, Michael Gaston, Andre Holland, Ann Whitney, Richard Bull, Ellary Porterfield, Jaime Tirelli (Sony Pictures Classics)
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
Everything Strange and New
Frazer Bradshaw, director; Laura Techera Francia, A.D. Liano, producers
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
Damien Chazelle, director; Jasmine McGlade, producer
Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, directors/producers
* You Won't Miss Me
Ry Russo-Young, director/producer
Tariq Tapa, director; Tariq Tapa, Josee Lajoie, Hilal Ahmed Langoo, producers
Career Tribute Awards
Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner
List of 2009 Gotham Awards winners and nominees via the Gotham Independent Film Awards website