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Jessica Chastain, National Board of Review Gala

Starry Night on the Red Carpet at the National Board of Review Gala

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Jessica Chastain, National Board of Review Gala

Jessica Chastain at the National Board of Review Gala

Photos by Anne-Katrin Titze where noted. 

The heat is on for the awards season. The Golden Globes takes place Sunday in Los Angeles, and all the movie megastars will attend. The New York version of this celebrity pileup is the National Board of Review Gala, which took place Tuesday evening at Ciprani’s 42d St.

Bradley Cooper, the NBOR best actor winner for Silver Linings Playbook, moved quickly and rarely stopped, but he was all smiles and we all got a good look at his gorgeous blue eyes.

Musician Sixto Rodriguez, the subject of Searching for Sugar Man, looked frail and was dressed in a dark jacket and shades and looked like the wanderer he was in the film, which received an NBOR best documentary prize. John Goodman, who’s had a good year in splashy roles in Argo and Flight, walked by the red carpet but didn’t stop to give interviews.

There were some actors who bypassed the red carpet, like Daniel Craig, who was there for a tribute to Barbara Broccoli and “50 Years of Bond,” and Leonardo DiCaprio, who won for best supporting actor in Django Unchained.

Quvenzhané Wallis, National Board of Review

Quvenzhané Wallis, National Board of Review | Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

But then there was radiant Quvenzhane Wallis, the spunky, nine-year old star of the magical fable The Beasts of the Southern Wild, who received the breakthrough performance actress award, and who looked like she got a big kick out of the whole celebrity trip.  She answered each question thoughtfully and elegantly.

Quvenzhane wore a deep green dress, patent leather shoes and a black fancy bow in her hair. When asked if her shoes were comfortable, she put her two thumbs up. Everyone commented on her handbag, which was shaped like a black toy poodle. The actress kept stroking its ears, and she called it Blackie.

You know an actress has made it when a designer wants to dress her, and according to that standard, Quvenzhane has arrived. The dress, her mother told me, was by Ralph Lauren, who “got in touch with our people and we went into a fitting.”

With the Globes on Sunday, there were the inevitable ‘how do you choose the perfect award dress’ questions. “Stylist,” Amanda Seyfried said. “My publicist usually tells me what she wants me to wear, and then I usually fight with her and usually wear what she wants me to wear.”

Chris Tucker’s sartorial decision was simple. He doesn’t have that many choices in his closet, he said about his black silk shirt and tux. When asked, for some inexplicable reason, how he could help Bradley Cooper (his Silver Linings Playbook co-star) find a girlfriend, in the understatement of the century, he replied, “He doesn’t need any help in that department.”

Tucker also said Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence “worked constantly” on their dance sequences, which sometimes stressed out the actress. The first time he met Lawrence on set, Tucker came into the makeup trailer “happy and energized” and yelled, ‘It’s a beautiful day!'” He said she told him, “Oh Shut up.” Then suggested they “get some Adele, and she put it on the phone – she’s young so they got everything on their phone,” Tucker said, we were “in the make up chair just jamming to Adele and after that, me and her was cool.”

Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin received a best directing debut prize, and he still looks happily stunned by all the accolades his movie has picked up since Sundance. He’s now promoted the film longer than he’s shot it.

“It’s like a different job,” he said of the red-carpet experience. “It’s a strange sensation, but it’s been much more rewarding than I ever could have imagined, I have to say. Getting to meet people that I admire. I didn’t know any filmmakers before I did this, and now I’m getting to meet some of my heroes and have them see my work is incredible. I just met David O. Russell, and I’ve loved his movies my whole life.”

Famke Janssen, National Board of Review Gala

Famke Janssen at the National Board of Review Gala

The impossibly tall and beautiful Famke Janssen, a Bond girl who played evil Xenia in the Bond film GoldenEye, told me she was there to participate in the Bond tribute. I told her I recalled all the fight scenes she did with her thighs in the 1995 film. “My thighs did a lot of acting,” she quipped. “They were busy that time.”

I said I hoped there was a Taken 3 and maybe she and co-star Liam Neeson, who plays her ex-husband, would get back together because there’s chemistry and they look so good together. “He’s taller than I am even. That’s so rare that happens to me,” she said, but “I don’t think Liam’s interested. I’m perfectly happy to be taken again,” she laughed.

Tom Holland, the 16-year-old boy who stars with Naomi Watts in The Impossible and who received the breakthrough actor nod, said all this excitement was new to him. “I’m just a boy from London,” he said. Asked if Watts had given him any advice about impressing on the red carpet, the actor replied that she told him, “Prepare yourself. Especially the photos because everyone just sort of shouts at you for no reason and you’re blinded by the light.” Has he been blinded yet tonight? He joked, “Yeah. I actually can’t see you guys right now. You’re just all a blur.”

No one was more excited to be there last night than Ann Dowd, who won best supporting actress for a movie almost no one has seen: Compliance, directed by Craig Zobel.  Hers is a Cinderella story. Dowd has been working in movies and theater since the 1980’s in supporting and character roles as a character actress. The groundswell of support for her and the film came from bloggers. She wore red cowboy boots and an Eileen Fisher outfit. I asked her how it felt to win the same category as DiCaprio and she replied, “Pinch me. I know there’s a more sophisticated way to say that,” but it eluded her at the moment, she said.

“Oh Wow! It’s such a bummer!” David O. Russell cracked when a reporter asked him if he was getting sick of all the awards season red carpets. “It’s really a blessing to do all of it. I’m extremely grateful, and it requires you to bring the grown up skills of staying present, staying sincere, staying vulnerable, and also protecting yourself and just being happy you made the movie. I’d rather be here.”

Jason Clarke, the Australian actor who co-stars in Zero Dark Thirty, had just jetted in from Australia, he told me. Director Kathryn Bigelow was to receive best director and best film prize. Bigelow would be late to arrive because she was at a special screening of the film in Washington D.C.

I asked Clarke what he thought about the controversy the film provoked. “I don’t really think about it that much. I read about it,” he said. “I played a politician before on Brotherhood on Showtime, and it’s one of these things that happen. I think it’s interesting and controversial what they’ve chosen to do and what they’ve chosen to focus on.”

Ben Affleck, National Board of Review Gala

Ben Affleck at the National Board of Review Gala | Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

Ben Affleck, who’s very tall and charming, and seemed to be working a Serpico look with his facial hair, answered at length a question about the movies that inspired him. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, he became obsessed with movies from that period, as well as movies from the 70’s.  “That obsession is still with me,” he said.

Affleck was there to receive a special achievement in filmmaking award. He got an extra boost that day with a Directors Guild of America nomination for Argo, a movie set in 1979 which tells the true story of a CIA rescue mission during the Iranian hostage crisis. The agency disguised six U.S. Embassy employees as members of a Hollywood film crew known by the code name “Argo.” CIA expert Tony Mendez, who was also at the gala, masterminded it in real life.

Affleck said he copied the look of the films from the 70’s and 80’s for Argo. “From All the President’s Men to Godfather to Serpico to Dog Day Afternoon to Cassavetes’ movies, The Conversation on and on,” he said. “You look at the 1970’s, it was really the prime era in my mind for American cinematic depth-full drama, and these are still the movies that I look to as my inspiration. The Verdict was the movie that I had up on the wall while I was making Gone Baby Gone because I wanted to do something showing where morals failed in Boston like that one.”

Jessica Chastain wore an elegant black Alexander McQueen dress with heavy gold detailing around the neckline. Her hair was swept up and she had an elegant Grace Kelly look. She received the best actress award by the NBOR for Zero Dark Thirty.

The next awards event is the Golden Globes in L.A. When asked where she’ll be when she gets nominated for an Oscar Thursday, Chastain replied, “You mean IF I get nominated? I’ll be in an airplane flying from New York to L.A., so I will not know,” she laughed. “And when I land, I’ll turn my phone on, and I’ll either have a lot of messages or it will be like radio silence.”

Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist based in New York who is passionate about the movies. Her idea of heaven is watching three movies in a row. She’s written for various outlets, including the New York Times, Showbiz411.com, More.com and MovieMaker Magazine. For five seasons, she contributed to the New York Times seasonal movie blog, Carpetbaggers, where she covered major awards events and interviewed stars like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman and Helen Mirren.

Paula Schwartz has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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