It’s hard to fit all the bold names of those who attended the New York Film Critics Circle Gala on Tuesday night into a single paragraph.
Due to the format of the event, which has a presenter (usually someone notable) introducing the actual winner of an award, the list was overflowing with brilliance, this year more than usual as A-listers also did some of the best work of 2019. Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, Lupita Nyong’o, Alec Baldwin, Laura Dern, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Ben Stiller, Spike Lee, Samantha Bee and Steve Buscemi were not only part of Tao Downtown list. The cavernous bottle-service restaurant in the shadow of Google’s expanding New York headquarters never seemed a more fitting venue for this idiosyncratic, long-winded dinner winner.
Pitt extended his disarming streak at the awards mic, describing Quentin Tarantino’s winning NYFCC script for Once upon a time… in Hollywood as presenting “iambic Quent-amètre”. He joked about the film’s showbiz focus, which tends to play well with awards voters: “Finally, after all this time, a Hollywood movie.” He also lightly roasted his director as “the only guy I know who needs cocaine to stop while speaking.”
Stiller was content to be an unexpected defender of Parasite, but delivered compelling testimony to the film’s power as “the best film of the year in any language.” Director Bong Joon-ho quickly demolished the house by leaving his usual Korean to quote a spicy line from angry bull (“Have you fucked my wife?”) at a table a few yards away, where Scorsese, De Niro and Pesci (that movie – and The Irishman‘s – collaborators) all seated.
The nearly three-hour show resulted in honors for two quintessentially New York films, The Irishman and Uncut Gems, which was a hit with the city’s detractors, as evidenced by the list of winners released last month. Even though The Irishman took home the top prize, with Pesci and Dern taking home supporting actor honors, Netflix’s mojo isn’t what it was before Sunday’s Golden Globes, where the company walked away with just one win from 17 nominations.
Given the festive nature of the night, no one brought up this specific data point, but a running gag has developed thanks to director Mati Diop. Winner of the best first film for Atlantics, which was released by Netflix after its breakthrough at Cannes, came at the end of a long, passionate and emotional speech only to realize that it had failed to acknowledge the streaming giant’s support. “Thank you, Netflix,” she blurted out, and was called back by several others who followed.
“Thanks, Netflix – no, seriously, because no one else would touch this movie for 10 years,” Scorsese said. With Best Picture and Pesci acceptances, the director appeared on stage with De Niro and Pacino, his frequent collaborators. De Niro helpfully intervened during a kind outburst of profanity from Pesci to offer, “What he means is ‘Thank you’.” Scorsese took his time, after an affectionate introduction from Lee, who said his late mother introduced him to Scorsese’s work. , to shake specific thanks from a few dozen people involved in The Irishman.
Sandler has embraced his acting past which is generally not praised by New York critics. He made the audience scream by recalling his Little Nicky past, but also tweaked Josh and Benny Safdie, co-directors of Uncut Gems and the Best Director winners. “How do you distinguish the Safdie brothers? ” He asked. “Well, Josh looks like a yeshiva student who might shoot you, and Benny looks like a friendly dentist.” He added his wish that they become one of the famous sibling tandems in history, joining the Wright Brothers…and the Menendez Brothers.
The Safdies differed on their view of the critical establishment. Josh said he doesn’t read reviews, while Benny admitted to giving “a review of reviews”. Bennie also gave a recap of the 10-year journey to get to do Gemswhich involved a three-year detour to make a basketball documentary and inspired Sandler to get involved after watching the duo’s film Good time.