Wednesday, May 22, 2024

“Moonlight,” Barry Jenkins’ Tale of a Young Black Gay Man’s Coming of Age, Takes Gotham Awards


Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” swept the Gotham Awards tonight. it won best feature, director and screenplay. The film’s Oscar chances have skyrocketed tonight.

Big surprise for famed French actress Isabelle Huppert. She won Best Actress for Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle.” She just arrived from Europe, was jet lagged, had no idea what award this was, and really almost cried. She had no prepared speech. She has a much better chance now to join likely contenders Annette Bening, Emma Stone, Natalie Portman, and Amy Adams– if Viola Davis stays in supporting.

Bening and Portman, each of whom probably thought they would win– with good reason– must have been just as shocked.

Casey Affleck easily walked away with Best Actor for “Manchester by the Sea.” But that movie took a hit tonight from “Moonlight.” I don’t know how this will be interpreted, but “Manchester” hasn’t got one black actor, and “Moonlight” doesn’t have one white actor. Still, they are each Best Picture contenders, probably facing “La La Land,” “Lion,” and maybe Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.”

The Gotham Awards are for independent films, they’re the Spirit Awards of the East Coast. This year they seemed especially upbeat, with lots of great presenters, some socko speeches (Judith Light, Cate Blanchett, and Amy Adams were the winners of oratory), some odd heartfelt ones (Winona Ryder, praising Ethan Hawke, who saved the day with his acknowledgment of his lifetime award).

The best line of the night– Ethan Hawke: “I was already washed up in the business when I was 14.” He recalled a scathing negative review he received at that age for his debut in a movie called  “Explorers.” He had nowhere to go but up.

Many of the presenters were surprises, including Cate Blanchett, Katie Holmes, and Neve Campbell. I got to meet the whole “Moonlight” cast and the writer-director Barry Jenkins. They are close knit group, and definitely in a good position now. In addition to all those awards, they received an Ensemble award. They’ve also been a special ensemble award by the Indie Spirits. Is “Moonlight” the film to beat? We’ll see…


Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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