Steven Soderbergh has some stories about Matthew McConaughey that you might not believe. The "Magic Mike" director introduced his star, honored for his lively performances in both that film and Richard Linklater's "Bernie." As usual, Soderbergh was disarmingly witty, but his final anecdote left the audience vaguely stunned, as he recalled that an extra on the "Magic Mike" set pulling the g-string off a half-clothed McConaughey as his stripper character and "trying to stick a finger up his butt." At the podium moments later, McConaughey said, "I'm not sure it was my butt, but she was trying to stick it somewhere."
McConaughey has plenty of stories of his own. Maybe too many. The actor's rambling acceptance speech, in which he drew a parallel between his characters in "Magic Mike" and "Bernie" before relishing praise on both films' directors, long overstayed its due. Still, he landed plenty of good lines. "The two characters I got to play were really obsessed men," he said. "I was able to get feverishly drunk on their ambitions."
Emmanuelle Riva is nimble and funny. The octogenarian accepted the prize for Best Foreign Language Film, which went to "Amour," even while pointing out that director Michael Haneke was in Los Angeles accepting an acting prize on her behalf. Though helped to the stage by Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker, Riva looked incredibly spry. "We gave a great deal to this film," she said.
Milestone Films got to soak up the spotlight. The company's Dennis Doros and Amy Heller took the stage to accept a special prize from the NYFCC for "The Shirley Project," their ongoing efforts to restore the films of the late Shirley Clarke ("The Connection" and "Ornette: Made In America" were re-released this year; more will follow in 2013). Doros reminded the roomful of industry heavyweights that archivists have one of the most important jobs in the lasting power of film history. "Apathy is our biggest enemy," he said.
Armond White…at it again. As a presenter, Michael Moore tends to come across the same way he does in his movies: aggressively chatty and eager for attention. Setting the stage for David France's "How to Survive a Plague," which won Best First Feature, Moore spent a long while rambling about the importance of ACT UP and TAG to raise AIDS awareness. Then a voice cropped up from across the room that briefly diverted attention away from the speaker. It hard to tell from my table, but it sounded a lot like "Fuck you!" Moore didn't hesitate. "Oops, I've offended the Catholics," he said, before talking a little bit longer. White confirmed to me after the event that he was the heckler. "He wasn't the winner," White said. Fortunately, the brief, awkward interruption didn't entirely derail the proceedings or hang over the rest of the evening, unlike White's infamous spat with NYFCC winner Darren Aronofsky in 2011.
The absent star of the night was Andrew Sarris. The legendary critic, who died this past summer, received a special tribute from critic J. Hoberman, Sarris' former colleague at the Village Voice. Hoberman, who also acknowledged the passing of critic Judith Crist, brought his original, frayed copy of Sarris' "The American Cinema" to the podium. Raising it up and on the brink of tears, he elevated the volume to religious standards. "We called this The Book," he said, and kissed it. Bigelow, a classmate of Hoberman's at Columbia some 35 years ago when both studied under Sarris, also acknowledged the critic's passing, calling him "a mentor."