As host of this year’s Gotham Awards, filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell opened the annual ceremony with an incendiary bang, taking aim at the current climate and Hollywood culture during his opening remarks, which he termed his “unacceptance speech.”
“This is my unacceptance speech,” he announced to the crowd assembled at Cipriani on Wall Street this evening. “Everything’s unacceptable now. Everything’s fucked up. You can’t read the news. Everything is fast forwarding and rewinding at the same time. Everything is like zooming in and dollying out. We’re all in ‘Taxi Driver’ now, we’re in ‘Network,’ we’re in ‘Nashville,’ it’s like the ’70s.”
He didn’t let up, taking aim at both the political climate and the kind of work currently coming out of Hollywood.
“It’s a weird time,” he said. “So we hashtag resist, because we’re panicking and we want to do the right thing so hard, and we reach for the right thing, and it’s like flying around. We grab it, we hold really tight, and we sand off all the complexity and we flatten the nuance until the right thing looks like Hollywood. It’s really simplifed and smooth. It’s a weird time.”
And, yes, he also had some thoughts to share on the topic of “fake news,” though with a decidedly positive bent.
“If all news is fake, all stories are true,” Mitchell said. “So you gotta make sure the stories are good. There’s a lot of people in here making good stories that are complex, that haven’t sanded off the prickly complexity. That are informed, that are entertaining.”
Mitchell was also enthused by the possibility that films could change lives and stories for the better, something he’s seen many times over the course of his career.
“Being a queer guy who survived AIDS, I realize that these stories actually make a fucking difference,” he said. “A couple of films, a couple of TV shows shifted the paradigm on a whole class of people.I still get Instagrams and Grinder messages who say, ‘Your film is banned in my country, I stole it, it saved my life.'”
But even Mitchell has his own films to sell, and he cracked wise about his upcoming film — perhaps one of those informed and entertaining ones he so loves? — the upcoming release “How to Talk to Girls at Parties.”
“It doesn’t mean I don’t have a new film coming out next spring,” he said. “A24, when is my opening date? April 25? I’ll take it.”
He ended with a call to action to his fellow artists: “We have a responsibility, that’s all.”