Like your family reunion or the first day of cripplingly cold weather, the award season is on the top rung of annual events worth dreading. And with last night’s Gotham Awards, movie talk is officially in trophy mode. We’re officially only allowed to evaluate new movies in terms of how many awards and nominations they’ll accrue. Sorry, “Office Christmas Party”! Your only purpose is to rake in cash money and maybe make us laugh with the sight of T.J. Miller doing something silly.
To take a less cynical approach, award season does mean that worthy films (sometimes) reap the praise they deserve. If the Gotham Awards, the first big to-do of the season, are any indication, that means we’ll be hearing again and again about how a bunch of genuinely terrific films — among them “Moonlight,” “Manchester by the Sea” and “Elle” — are officially terrific. And isn’t that better than rewarding movies, like the new “Lion,” that largely exist only to Hoover up awards?
Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” — which chronicles three periods in a young black kid-and-eventually-adult’s life — raked in four awards, namely Best Feature, Best Screenplay, the Audience Award and Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance. The latter is a trophy too rare among awards bodies. That’s a shame since it’s hard to single out a single performance in “Moonlight,” not the least because our lead is played by three separate actors, each one amazing. But if we have to pick one or even two, let’s make sure Andre Holland (as the grown version of our hero’s friend) and Mahershala Ali (as the charismatic yet loving drug dealer who takes the kid iteration under his wing) get some love.
Honestly we’d say Kenneth Lonergan’s “Manchester by the Sea” deserved the screenplay award, though it’s still a photo finish. At least Casey Affleck nabbed one for his peerless turn as a sadsack (with a truly horrific tragedy in his past, mind you) dealing with the recent death of his brother (Kyle Chandler). Isabelle Huppert took another for Paul Verhoeven’s weirdly darkly funny rape drama “Elle,” though we’d like to point out she’s just as terrific, and in a very different mode, in Mia Hansen-Love’s “Things to Come,” which hits American shores this weekend.
Elsewhere, Trey Edward Shults handily scored the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for his acrobatic work on “Krisha,” a movie about a disastrous Thanksgiving that still probably wasn’t as bad as yours this year. Anya Taylor-Joy beat out the likes of “Manchester”’s Lucas Hedges and “Certain Women”’s Lily Gladstone for Breakthrough Actor. And the Gothams extend to both TV — with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” taking home “Breakthrough Series — Long Form” — and web platforms. That means the web series “Her Story” (which you can stream here) got mentioned alongside this year’s heavy-hitter movie films.
Complete list of winners after the jump: