When writing about the Gotham Awards here at The A.V. Club we like to make a couple cracks to remind readers that these prizes are not in any way associated with Batman. So imagine how tickled we were when Gotham’s Ben McKenzie came out as a presenter at the Monday ceremony, which was held in a lavish domed venue that looked like a place where Bruce Wayne might hold a soiree. Of course, the Gothams still have very little to do with superheroes. They are, after all, put on by the Independent Film Project and meant to honor the movies that, unlike comic book adaptations, don’t get big studio dollars. Still, they’ve come to serve as Oscar prognosticators, and were recently deemed the “Iowa Caucus” of awards season by Variety. If that is the case, then Moonlight could be Obama in 2008. Barry Jenkins’ film won Best Feature, Best Screenplay, the Audience Award, and the Special Jury Award for Ensemble Performance. But, naturally, the room was more focused on the results of the 2016 election than the one eight years ago, and Jenkins mentioned the “tough times” and the importance of stories about marginalized people in his final acceptance speech. His nod to the current climate was somber, but the event, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, was also peppered with Trump-related jokes from presenters, including Damian Lewis and Nick Kroll.
Casey Affleck shocked no one by winning the prize for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, while Isabelle Huppert emerged an unexpected victor in Best Actress for Elle, over the likes of Natalie Portman for Jackie and Annette Bening for 20th Century Women. Huppert seemed genuinely surprised that she won; Affleck seemed genuinely surprised that he gave a shit that he won. “This feels really good, I’ve got to say,” the scruffy actor said. “I didn’t think I cared that much.” (We should note that The A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd was on the Actor and Actress nominating committee.)
Elsewhere, O.J.: Made In America took Best Documentary, The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy got Breakthrough Actor, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was awarded Breakthrough Series, Long Form. Additionally, there were tributes to various indie luminaries throughout the evening. Winona Ryder introduced one recipient, her Reality Bites co-star Ethan Hawke, providing ample fodder for Gen X ’shippers. Hawke, in turn, told stories about the times he felt “washed up” in his career. Cate Blanchett effusively praised Amy Adams, but slipped in a compliment for Moonlight, while Danny DeVito screamed “holy shit balls” when he took the mic to set up the clip reel for producer Arnon Milchan. Oliver Stone’s speech upon receiving his commendation early in the evening was a call to action. “Don’t go easy on what you think is wrong,” he told the younger filmmakers in the audience. He then issued a warning cribbed from his latest subject, Edward Snowden, about the Orwellian times we live in: “Surveillance state, 1984, cyber warfare, drone warfare is with us. This is a major, major issue in our time. I hope you young people will not forget this.” And you thought he wouldn’t get political.