By ElizaBeth Taylor and Henry Eshelman
New York City showed its redoubtable “can-do” spirit tonight at the 30th Gotham Awards at Cipriani Wall Street. Robert Hall Winery returned for its third year as wine sponsor. In a remarkable, first-time ever hybrid of live and virtual presentation, presenters and honorees in attendance sat at tiny, socially distanced tables in the cavernous space and mingled cautiously but enthusiastically between trips to the podium. Each table had its own service. Given the perfectly reasonable level of stress attendant a peri-pandemic affair, the wine went a long way towards relieving it.
Following the final awards presentation of the night by Michael Shannon—a particular fan of the brand’s Paso Robles Red—the lights came up, and the talent and crew raised a heartfelt Robert Hall toast and offered lusty, raucous applause in celebration of both themselves, the night’s achievement and the indomitable New York sass and style, a brilliant tribute to the Big Apple and the filmmakers who call it home.
As the evening got underway, breakthrough Zachary Quinto presented the Breakthrough Actor Award to winner Kingsley Ben-Adir for One Night in Miami, who accepted from a hotel in London at 1AM his time.
Padma Lakshmi presented the Best Documentary award to dual winners: A Thousand Cuts; director Ramona S. Diaz; and Time; director Garrett Bradley.
The first winners couldn’t hear anyone initially, and there were a few more moments of “Can you hear me? Is this thing on?” but everyone got the hang of the virtual call-and-response as the night unfolded.
NYC Film Commission Head Anne del Castillo presented the “Made in New York” Award to fellow commissioner Geoffrey Wright for his work for food delivery relief program “Brooklyn for Life.” Wright delivered his acceptance speech in front of a very convincing Basquiat reproduction from his Brooklyn “home borough.”
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)presented the Screenwriting Award, also to two scripts: The 40 Year Old Version, by Radha Blank, who exclaimed “Holy Shit! I’m kind of shocked. I’m done” when she learned of her win and Fourteen, by Dan Sallitt.
George C. Wolfe, director of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom presented a tribute to Viola Davis.
Renee Elise Goldsberry delivered the student filmmaker honors. The Gotham Executive Director Jeffrey Sharp announced a Joel Schumacher endowment program for undergraduate filmmakers.
The Mustang director Laure de Clermont-Tonnere presented the International Feature Award to Identifying Features, Maïmouna Doucouré, director.
Nicole Kidman presented the Industry Award to Ryan Murphy. After he accepted the award, a colleague said, “Thank you for having the courage to tell the stories many people aren’t brave enough to tell.”
Palm Springs’ Cristen Milioti presented the Gotham Audience Award to Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao who, above all, thanked “the audience.”
Aaron Sorkin introduced the Ensemble Award tribute to The Trial of The Chicago Seven, represented by tributes from cast members including Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Noah Robbins, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Alex Sharp, Alice Kremelberg and Kelvin Harrison Jr.
Steve Gaghan gave the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award to Andrew Patterson for The Vast of Night. Lupita Nyong’o presented the Director’s Tribute to Steve McQueen.
Euphoria’s Hunter Schafer, in studio, presented the Breakthrough Series (under 40 minutes) award to I May Destroy You, created by Michaela Coel, who couldn’t attend, but sent a note saying, “I want to thank you to everyone for helping me birth this project. The only disappointing part was the end of it.”
The Undoing’s Noma Dumezweni, presented the Breakthrough Award for series exceeding 40 minutes to HBO’s Watchmen, accepted by Executive Producer Nicole Kassell.
Moonlight’s André Holland delivered a moving tribute to the late Chad Boseman, who said, “He was gracious without being officious, tender without being sentimental. We have a saying in the South that goes, ‘One and one don’t always make two, sometimes it make three or four.’ He then led the audience in a moment of silent celebration of the actor. Boseman’s widow Simone Ledward Boseman emotionally added, “He actively searched for the truth in himself and those around him in the moment…He was blessed to live many lives. He harnessed the power of letting go.”
Anthony Mackie (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom)presented the Best Actress Award to Nicole Beharie from Miss Juneteenth, who was surprised into silence for about fifteen seconds until she got her audio working. “Oh my God, OK,” she said. “Should I just talk? I was not expecting this. Such an amazing group of people I am honored just to be in this category.”
Rebecca Hall of Godzilla vs. King Kong presented the award for Best Actor to Riz Ahmed for The Sound of Metal.
Michael Shannon presented the final award of the night for Best Feature, noting the all-female roster of nominees. The winner was again Nomadland, directed by Chloe Zhao, who thanked the jury and her fellow nominees: “Thanks for sharing a category with us. Thanks to all the film festivals who screened our film. We love you New York City, be safe be strong and thank you!”
As the expression goes, without the sponsors the event would not be possible. ROBERT HALL WINERY, founded in 1999 by Robert and Margaret Hall in the rolling hills of Paso Robles wine country, created an iconic Paso Robles winery that specialized in delivering the “Essence of Paso Robles,” believing that Paso Robles could deliver an excellent bottle of wine to consumers at a reasonable price, and for those who visited the winery in person (and they WILL visit in person in the future), they could have a first-class experience on the beautiful grounds. Wine enthusiasts and critics agreed, awarding the winery many top accolades over the years as production volume climbed on an annual basis.
Against considerable odds, Robert Hall helped make The Gotham Awards a night of love for independent film—which New York claims as its own—as well as hope for the future of New York City as an artistic and media capital.