Dan Talbot, of New Yorker Films and the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, was presented with an Industry Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a lengthy speech (one that can be read here) that included tales from his many years in distribution. It was an outlandish, amusing and wise performance, but it was antithetical to television, stopping the ceremony dead for unhurried musings on topics that were surely bewildering to most civilians that tuned in as the TelePrompter flashed, "Please wrap it up."
This year's host, Birbiglia, appeared cowed after that rough opening, admitting, "This is the hardest crowd I have ever played in front of in my life." He is emblematic of an undercurrent running throughout the Gothams -- an uneasy mix of professionalism and an aw-shucks acknowledgement that professionalism feels funny and formal and we're all just people here. But professionalism is what you need if you want people who are not there in the room with you to invest in watching. Both Birbiglia and Krasinski turned to the Internet to crowdsource their jokes, a shtick that worked better for the latter, who pulled from IMDb comments, than the former, who solicited gags (that weren't bad!) from Twitter. But the underlying thought was the same: a breaking-down of the barriers between those on stage and those in the larger Internet audience, even the ones that had no idea their words were being read aloud in front of a crowd.
It's an act that's become more than trendy these days -- with cable news channels regularly turning to social media to provide commentary -- but at the Gothams it also provided a reminder that indie film is still a relatively intimate world. Krasinski's jokes rested on how removed the speculative IMDb comments were from his pal Damon as a person, while Birbiglia's depended on how fundamentally insidery jokes about "The Master" and being a struggling artist can be.
The Gothams may never be great TV, and maybe that's not so important (though it would be nice if they had a smoother live stream from which the audio didn't sporadically drop out). In a world in which the Web can give everyone access to everything, trying to cater to everyone, including crowds who were never going to stick around to see who won the Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Award anyway, is unnecessary.
Broader platforms are helpful for publicity and for attracting sponsorship, but the fact that the Gothams remain a little inside-baseball is a welcome thing. As Birbiglia said, "We are here tonight because if we don't give ourselves these awards, who will?" For films such as "The Master" and people like David O. Russell probably plenty of people. It's the chance to see others coming up to the podium that sets the Gothams apart.