It was Kathryn Bigelow’s night at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards Monday night at Crimson Club in Manhattan’s Flatiron district.
The very tall and beautiful director of the Osama bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty collected the top prizes for best picture and directing from the New York Film Critics Circle.
Screenwriter Mark Boal took home a best screenplay award. The awards are certificates, no fancy glass or medal statues for this writers group, and during their acceptance speeches, both Boal and Bigelow took the opportunity to address those critics who said the film endorsed waterboarding and other forms of torture to obtain confessions from suspected terrorists.
Bigelow said, “Thankfully I want to say that I’m standing in a room of people who understand that depiction is not endorsement, and if it was, no artist could ever portray inhumane practices, no author could ever write about them, and no filmmaker could ever delve into the naughty subjects of our time.”
She added, “So this film is a product of the things that you guys have said about other work that I’ve done.”
Chastain, who presented Bigelow with her directing award, noted that the director was very much like Maya, the CIA operative the actress portrayed. “I can’t help compare my character of Maya to Kathryn, two powerful women that allowed their expert work to stand before them,” Chastain said. “Maya is capable and strong. Gender becomes a non-issue, just like Kathryn Bigelow. Capable and strong, intelligent, tenacious as all hell and very, very brave. Nothing stops Kathryn.”
In his acceptance speech, Mark Boal said for the filmmakers that “tonight is a night of great celebration for all of us. Unfortunately, I stand before you with some bad news. My sources at the CIA tell me that the government’s investigation into the arts is not stopping. Apparently, the French government will be investing Les Miz. There is very good evidence their depiction of the June Rebellion contradicts a secret court order.” The audience roared.
Boal’s comment was in response to Senate investigations on how he and Bigelow got special access to documents and information they made use of in the film.
He added, “We opened in Spain this weekend, and I’m thrilled to report that we did very well in a number of theaters. We actually beat The Hobbit.”
Most importantly he said he wanted “to pay tribute to the people who were most affected by the events that we depicted in the film. By that I mean the victims of 9/11 and their families, the first responders, special forces and a great number of people who gave their lives.”
Earlier in the evening, Michael Moore got heckled by a member of the audience when he criticized the Catholic Church during his presentation speech to David France for best first film for How to Survive a Plague, a stirring movie about the AIDS epidemic. Moore took it in stride, noting that he’d been an altar boy and then quoting a Latin prayer.
Chris Rock made a surprise appearance and a humorous speech when he presented Ken Burns, along with Burns’ daughter Sarah and her husband David McMahon, an award for best documentary for The Central Park Five, about the Central Park jogger rape in 1989 and the wrongful imprisonment of five teenagers for more than a decade. Rock said he liked Lincoln. “Free the slaves. I can’t wait for Lincoln 2.”
Sally Field, who won a best supporting actress award for playing Honest Abe’s wife in Lincoln, admitted she never reads critic reviews. She told the New York Film Critics Circle, “I thank you so much, so much, even though I didn’t read your reviews and I have no idea what you said.”
Matthew McConaughey, who has finished shooting Dallas Buyers Club, in which he plays a man with AIDS, has already put 25 pounds back on his frame but still looks gaunt. He received a best supporting actor award for Bernie and Magic Mike.
He spoke of his lengthy eight- to ten-page-long e-mail exchanges with Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh where he tried to find his way into the role of the stripper Dallas. Soderbergh would reply in one word, “Absolutely.” In another response to a long e-mail, Soderbergh wrote back, “Sure.”
“Thank you for giving me the freedom to fly,” McConaughey told Soderbergh.
The 85-year-old French actress Emmanuelle Riva, who stars in Amour, accepted Austrian director Michael Haneke’s award for best foreign film and said at that very moment he was in Los Angeles accepting her prize for best actress. “I hope that he’s having as much pleasure in accepting my award as I am in accepting this.”
Steven Spielberg presented the best actor award to Daniel Day-Lewis and said he managed to meet Day-Lewis in 2003, but had a hard time getting him to accept the role of Lincoln. It was only after the third rewrite and a long painful exchange of letters, that Day-Lewis finally agreed after the third script.
Spielberg said that Day-Lewis invited him and playwright Tony Kushner (who also received a screenplay prize from the NY Film Critics Circle ) to Ireland, where he has a farm, “and a year later we made the film.”
Day-Lewis responded in his acceptance speech, “Well if you didn’t know what a f…ing idiot I was before, you know now.”
Rachel Weisz, who won the best actress award for the little-seen, Terence Davies-directed film called The Deep Blue Sea (released in March 2012), looked stunning in a tight black sheath with red accents — a dress designed by Prada — and sky-high bright red stilettos that looked gorgeous and impossibly difficult to walk in, but which she mastered gracefully.
Weisz was genuinely thrilled by the honor and recognition for a film that made little more than one million dollars at the box office. She told the audience, “I never, ever, ever, thought in a million years that I would be standing here for this role, for this film. I thought maybe, being optimistic, maybe 30 people would see the movie. It turns out there’s definitely 35,” she said. “Blow me down with a feather.”
Although she walked the red carpet without husband Daniel Craig, the James Bond actor joined her afterwards for dinner. Craig smiled broadly but said little when someone congratulated him on the success of Skyfall, which has already topped one billion dollars at the box office. After the long evening, the two actors, who look very much in love, held hands and slipped out a side exit.
As for whether the most famous director in the world, Steven Spielberg, reads reviews of his films, he told me adamantly that he does, especially when the critics like his films. “In the particular case of Lincoln, all the reviews were informed, intelligent, in depth,” he said.