Armie Gets Stage Fright
It was a given that award winner and current It Boy Timothée Chalamet would rock the mic. However, the night’s plan called for “Call Me By Your Name” director Luca Guadagnino to present the award to Chalamet, and bring up co-star Armie Hammer to share additional insights into their collaborations. When Guadagnino finished his heartfelt speech, Hammer decided to stay seated and Chalamet came up instead. Whatever awkwardness ensued for a few brief moments fell by the wayside once the charismatic actor took flight, joking to Haddish that “You know grapefruits very well, I know peaches,” and calling Hammer his “big brother.”
Ultimately, Hammer (who did walk the red carpet earlier in the night) took nothing away from the proceedings by staying in his seat, though that unexpected development speaks to his unique and somewhat intangible movie star identity. Just as “Call Me By Your Name” upends conventional depictions of masculinity in American movies, Hammer does, too. This super-confident, traditional movie star hunk is actually camera shy.
Haskell Meets Haddish
The MVP of the evening was undoubtedly Molly Haskell, the feminist film critic whom NYFCC honored with a special career achievement award. She arrived onstage in the wake of Haddish’s historic acceptance, and it was a magical synergistic moment to hear the 78-year-old author of “From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women at the Movies” put “Girls Trip” in context. “‘Girls Trip’ is wilder and raunchier than any Rat Pack adventure you could imagine, and we’ve got evidence of that tonight,” she said. Haskell ended by discussing the big picture of challenges facing women in the film industry. “If this award is reparations to women in the year of harassers, I’m quite happy to accept it as such,” she said. “I do so on behalf of women everywhere, and especially film critics everywhere.”
“Coco” Gets Musical
When Disney confirmed that “Coco” songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez would be able to present the movie with best animated film, I was adamant that they bring their talents to the stage. We had no musical instruments for them to play, so the couple improvised an a cappella rendition of the movie’s bittersweet “Remember Me,” using Lopez’s iPhone keyboard to nail the right key. Before the ceremony, the New York-based couple (currently putting the finishing touches on a Broadway version of “Frozen”) told me they practiced on the ride over, and their driver said they were off-key. I encouraged them to share that story from the podium, which they did. It helped bring a personal dimension to the awards-show ritual of a musical performance, and bring a snippet of the tender creativity at the heart of this lovely movie into the room. Watch their performance below:
Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez singing (and briefly messing up) “Remember Me” from COCO at NYFCC pic.twitter.com/izjLCezXjL
— Esther Zuckerman (@ezwrites) January 4, 2018
Welcome Home, Abel Ferrara
The “Bad Lieutenant” auteur was a seminal New York filmmaker until he moved to Rome a few years ago, but he continues to churn out provocative visions abroad, while his decades-long body of work continues to inspire new generations. Case in point: He’s been a longtime hero to “Florida Project” director Sean Baker, so it was a real delight to see that Ferrara decided to fly himself into town to present Baker with the best director prize. The world tends to underestimate Ferrara, confusing his cluttered approach to public speaking for incoherence no matter the grimy specificity of his direction.
In fact, this brooding artist remains a cinematic rebel who simply operates on his own frequency. He watched the night’s ceremony closely throughout the evening, jotting down notes on the back of the program, and worked his way through an idiosyncratic tribute that rivaled only Haddish’s delivery earlier in the night. Referring to the statue of the goddess Quan Yin looming behind him (to which Haddish committed several minutes of jokes), he said the multi-limbed statue “looks like a director trying to raise money for his next film.” Then he turned to Baker. “You can’t buy heart, man,” he said. “That’s what it really is with a director. When you see these movies, you see what he brought to them. It’s not the technique, the use of an iPhone or whatever, it’s the heart behind it.”
Greta Gerwig, Film Criticism Fanatic
“Lady Bird” was the big winner of the night, with writer-director Greta Gerwig took the stage twice — first to present the best actress award to her star Saoirse Ronan, a moment that reduced both women to sniffles, then again at the end of the night to accept the prize for best film. Much as her movie brings a refreshing degree of realism to familiar coming-of-age tropes, Gerwig felt like a natural fit for the room, with no evidence of the jet-setting campaign dominating her schedule (she flew in with Ronan on a charter plane from the Palm Springs International Film Festival earlier that day).
While some actors said they avoided reading reviews, Gerwig — a devout New York cinephile — took the opposite route, thanking film critics for writing about her output. “Your response to my work over the time I have spent as an actor and writer has heartened me and pushed me and made me want to be a better artist,” she said. “It’s going to be Friday again soon, and I’m going to do what I do, which is go buy the papers and read the reviews.”