It was a big night for Robert DeNiro, who was given the Chaplin Award for Lifetime Achievement at Lincoln Center’s David Koch Theater. Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Ben Stiller, Whoopi Goldberg, Sean Penn, Barry Levinson, and Harvey Keitel were among those who lavished praise on DeNiro during the two hour presentation.
DeNiro, who spoke at the end of the show, called out Donald Trump. On the red carpet he’d labelled him “Trump the Chump.” On stage, DeNiro– who is emblematic of New York, a real local hero–criticized Trump for trying to cut the NEA, National Endowment for the Humanties, and PBS among other things. DeNiro is happily relentless in his dressing down of Trump.
But it was ironic that the Film Society of Lincoln Center chose the exact venue for DeNiro’s tribute. The former New York State Theater and home to the City Opera now bears the name of billionaire David Koch, who certainly represents the opposite of DeNiro’s beliefs. Koch and his brothers didn’t openly support Trump, but they are far right Republicans with a very conservative agenda.
That may be one reason the Chaplin Awards seemed severly under attended this year. There were plenty of empty seats all over the hall. People who sat in the balconies complained of not being able to see the speakers. Indeed, the stage set was spare beyond reason– just a potted plant on either side and a podium in the center. There was also what seemed like mass confusion in the lobby before the show.
Still, all the speakers spoke from the heart, and each had personal anecdotes to share with a crowd that also included producer Irwin Winkler, mogul Harvey Weinstein, movie exec Michael Barker, famed artist Stephen Hannock, John Turturro, Carla Gugino, and a variety of Broadway actors who had the night off.
There were many clip reels from DeNiro’s movies, from “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver” right through “Silver Linings Playbook” and “The Intern.” DeNiro has faced criticism over the years for working too much and taking too many movies– some of which have been clunkers. But really the breadth and depth of his work from the shown clips was pretty amazing. He even said to me afterwards that there were some clips he’d never seen before and quite liked– like a very underrated 1999 film called “Flawless” with Philip Seymour Hoffman.
More later Tuesday…
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