Michael Keaton and Saoirse Ronan won the top actor awards for “Spotlight” and “Brooklyn” respectfully at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards celebration last night at Tao Downtown. But the main attraction at the star-studded event was Kristen Stewart, who received the best supporting nod for Olivier Assayas’s little-seen showbiz drama, “Clouds of Sils Maria,” starring Juliet Binoche as a superstar and Stewart as her meticulous and subservient personal assistant, first screened at Cannes over a year ago.
Stewart was the last of the award winners to arrive on the red carpet and posed for photographers in a flurry and then was whisked away for the ceremony where she was guarded by security all night. The “Twilight” star stayed for the entire celebration and at the end of the evening mixed with celebrity guests Jim Jarmusch, David Hyde Pierce, Paul Haggis, Bennett Miller and Tony Kushner.
Julianne Moore presented Stewart with her supporting actress award and joked she was glad it was still early in the evening, because otherwise, “I was going to be drunk before I got up there.”
Moore went on to say that she has known Stewart since the actress was twelve years old and starred in the 2004 film, “Catch that Kid,” directed by her husband Bart Freundlich, who told her Stewart was going to be a big star.
Stewart gave a laid back and short speech but seemed genuinely moved by the nod from the New York Film Critics. “I’ve received a lot of Popcorns, MTV Popcorn awards,” she said, but this meant something more for a film she described as “thoughtful and quiet,” adding, “It came out a year ago, so this is nuts.”
If Stewart was the evening’s superstar, Irish actress Saoirse Ronan was the event’s charmer. Liam Neeson, who presented her with the award, compared her to the late Irish actress Maureen O’Hara, who also became a star as a teenager. Nominations are nothing new for Ronan, who was nominated for an Oscar when she was thirteen, for “Atonement.”
Ronan, who will appear next month on Broadway in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” mentioned that she was born in the Bronx and moved to Ireland when she was three. “I am from the Bronx after all,” she said in her charming Irish brogue. “Saorise from the Block’ is what they call me,” she said, referring to the Jennifer Lopez song. She added, “It’s a lot like J-Lo, a little more attitude, though.”
Best actor winner Michael Keaton, who plays a Boston Globe editor in “Spotlight,” who headed the investigative team that uncovered sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, gave his typical freewheeling speech that was endearing during last year’s awards season and has now become his trademark. Keaton said as one of seven sibling his mother “drilled” into him that, “You should be grateful, so whining was not even remotely in our vocabulary.”
He continued, “I’m going to say simply to the people who decided I was pretty good in this movie, ‘Thank you, just thanks.’ That’s it!” He went on to say, “I’m so fortunate to do what I do.” He thanked the cast and director Tom McCarthy. “This is tough material to pull off in the degree he pulled off… Look man, I’m a blessed dude! I’ve had a nice life,” Keaton said. “I work hard. I deserve it. I will tell you that.”
Keaton extended special thanks to the “real stars” of the movie, the journalists of the Boston Globe, and he thanked his cast and directors and crew. He also singled out the people involved. “God bless them! This is for the survivors of this horrific situation, and I really hope it’s going to change things in the world.”
Early in the evening on the red carpet, Keaton admitted he doesn’t pay much attention to what writers say about his films. “This is not a good thing,” he confessed, but he thinks about critics only as an after thought. “I often go, ‘Oh that’s right! Someone’s going to write about this.’ I pretty much just enjoy making the movie. I haven’t really seen any of my movies, for, I don’t know, a bunch of years. I saw this and I saw ‘Birdman.’”
Keaton said he saw “Spotlight” two or three times. “Birdman is his favorite. “I’ve seen ‘Birdman’ four times,” he said. “That’s just unique. There’s just nothing like it. I venture to say there never will be anything like it. Honestly it’s not me. It’s Alejandro [Iñárritu]. I’m part of cinematic history if you ask me. And I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about him and IT, so as a person who loves filmmaking, I can’t not watch that,” he said. “I tell people all the time I would catch myself thinking, ‘God I love this movie,’ and then I’d go, ‘Wait, I’m in this movie.’”
Raised Catholic, Keaton said “Spotlight” was special to him. “I was an altar boy, and it means a lot to be part of something like this, to be honest with you.”
A reporter asked what his favorite part was about working with the “Birdman” director? ”He’ll drill down, he’ll drill down, he’ll drill down to the specifics to get to the truth of the scene, to get the reality of the scene, and I like that,” said Keaton. “It’s not just being pushed. It’s how you’re pushed and why you’re pushed. You know, I can go all day. They can never wear me out.”
As for whether he was shocked by the subject of “Spotlight,” Keaton said he read about it for a long time, but “It’s always shocking. You think you get it and you know, when you’re making this movie you think, ‘Well, I read the script and I’m in it, so I get it.’ And then there would be days where you’d be in the middle of the scene, and you run through it maybe in the fifth, sixth scene and you go, ‘Wow!’ It hits you on a whole other level. It’s kind of hard, you know, to fight through it and get back to work frankly.”
When asked if he enjoyed being back on the awards circuit, he said, “How bad can it be? There’s a whole lot worse things to do beside somebody saying, ‘Hey we think you’re pretty cool!”
I asked him what it meant being recognized by the New York Critics group? “These guys, they really write well and they can be really tough, so if they think you did all right that’s pretty gratifying.”
Although the New York Film Critics Circle is comprised primarily of male critics, the big winner was the estrogen-cocooned film, “Carol,” about lesbian lovers in 1950’s New York, which stars Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. “Carol” received the top prize for best film. The Weinstein Company film also picked up awards for screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, cinematographer Edward Lachman and director Todd Haynes, who are all getting a lot of practice making speeches leading up to the Oscars.
Photo c2016 Showbiz411 by Paula Schwartz