It was the name on everyone’s lips at last night’s annual New York Film Critics Circle awards dinner: Tiffany Haddish. The breakout “Girls Trip” star was on hand to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress — a turn good enough to earn her the same win from other critics groups, including the African-American Film Critics Association, plus two nods from the Critics Choice Awards — and the comedian seemed destined to shake up the show from the outset. NYFCC chair (and IndieWire’s own) Eric Kohn immediately deemed Haddish’s table his favorite, and the bar was busy slinging a signature cocktail name in her honor (the Tiffany Toast, made of Finlandia grapefruit vodka, yuzu citrus, and a hint of pomegranate).
Even people who weren’t in attendance were talking Tiffany, and when “Phantom Thread” actress Lesley Manville took the stage to accept the best screenplay award on behalf of her director Paul Thomas Anderson, it included a special message for Haddish. “I know that everyone wants to work with you, but may I please cut in front of the line,” Manville read, followed by Anderson’s phone number (she swears!) and an ask to call or text him whenever she’s able. The crowd went wild.
“Girls Trip” director Malcolm D. Lee introduced Haddish, speaking highly of her skills both as a person and a performer, with one paramount quality: how she makes us laugh. By the time Haddish took the stage to accept her award — Tiffany Toast in hand — the crowd at Tao Downtown was primed for some laughs, and the “Carmichael Show” star did not disappoint. She paid immediate homage to the drink in her hand, deeming the “Tiffany special…it’s delicious. I had two, and I do feel like magic.”
Haddish, who last year also debuted her comedy special “She Ready!” on Showtime, went for laughs early, thanking God first, “because without God, my mom and daddy wouldn’t have put their two uglies together and made me.” She flirted with attendee Michael B. Jordan, she discussed how the giant Hindu goddess statue behind her reflected her own worldview, and she even provided a raunchy look inside a scene that was too wild to make it to the final cut of “Girls Trip.”
Soon, however, what ended up being a nearly 20 minute long speech, an instant epic in the NYFCC world, Haddish traded laughs for honesty. “I think this whole business is about how you feel, what you put out to the world, and how you make other people feel. When you feel good about what you’re doing, in my mind, it makes other people feel good,” she told the crowd.
While the entire evening was occasionally — and appropriately — overshadowed by some of the last year’s more wrenching stories, from the rise of sexual harassment and abuse reportage, the death of beloved film exhibitor and distributor Dan Talbot, and the consistent worry that both film acting and film critics are going out of style, Haddish amusingly and sagely redirected the energy into the real topic at hand: the future, and how it’s changing for good.
It was a theme that couldn’t be ignored, and was often confronted head on, from John Cameron Mitchell imploring the audience to see foreign language winner “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” even if it “scares” them to best first film director Jordan Peele’s sent-in speech asking film-goers to “continue the dialogue” his “Get Out” engages in.
Trailblazing was the real story of the evening, from Rachel Morrison’s historic win for best cinematography for “Mudbound,” the first women to win the honor from the NYFCC, to special award winner Molly Haskell, who marveled that our current state of affairs is “really a revolution,” and one she’s been personally fighting for her entire career.
Haddish spoke directly to that during the most emotional portion of her speech, telling the crowd, “I know some people in here are going to talk shit about me. It’s okay. You know why it’s okay? Because you care enough to say something. If you didn’t say nothing, then you didn’t care. So if you said something, thank you. I don’t care if it’s positive or negative. I appreciate you.”
She continued, “I’m glad you see me. Cause there were so many years nobody saw me. You know when you’re a little kid going through the system, you wonder, ‘Does anyone even know I’m alive?’…There are so many people like me that you guys have no clue about. But they coming, ’cause I kicked the fucking door open.”
You can watch Haddish’s speech in full, thanks to NYFCC vice chair Alison Willmore, below.