Last night as the New York Film Critics doled out their prizes at their annual awards gala -- now in its 77th year -- the mood was predictably relaxed onstage (the winners were announced last month). The vibe in the audience was another matter.
The word from the rumor mill goes something like this: At the outset of the evening team IFC Films and team Roadside Attractions arrived at the Manhattan club Crimson only to find themselves both booked at the same table. Things didn't get better for the two distributors when "Margin Call" director J.C. Chandor, in accepting his award for best Best First Feature for the Roadside release, referred to documentary films as less realistic than scripted ones (IFC was attending on behalf of Best Documentary winner "Cave of Forgotten Dreams").
On stage, the big stars played nice. Brad Pitt remained humble in accepting the award for Best Actor ("I never imagined that I'd be standing up here tonight," Pitt told the audience), as did his "Tree of Life" co-star Jessica Chastain who was visibly nervous when collecting her Breakthough Performer prize.
Meryl Streep was also on hand to accept the Best Actress prize for "The Iron Lady," while Robert DeNiro made a surprise appearance to present "The Artist" director Michael Hazanavicius with the Best Director award.
But even they were no match for recently laid off Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman, who was met with night's longest and most passionate standing ovation after taking the stage.