In some ways, this year’s Gotham Awards couldn’t have been more of the moment. Vaccination cards and a recent negative Covid test were required for entry. The acting categories were stripped of gender binaries. And two sign-language interpreters were stationed to make sure that deaf and hard-of-hearing attendees could celebrate in real time.
But the real meat of the show — the schmoozing, the stargazing and the buzz-measuring — felt utterly business as usual. And that may have been the night’s biggest win.
The Gothams, presented by the Gotham Film & Media Institute, have always prided themselves on being the first significant awards show of the season: They fete winners before most groups have even announced their nominees. Last year, that meant the Gothams were the first to attempt a big awards show over Zoom, and like the telecasts that would follow, the ceremony was airless and full of baffled cues. Instead of delivering joyful acceptance speeches, most winners sat motionless in front of a webcam and wondered if it was their time to speak.
This year, the Gothams returned to Cipriani Wall Street, and you’d have hardly known there was an interruption at all: While last year’s event was virtual and glitchy, this year’s was in-person and boozy. Before the show, several attendees remarked on how surreal the reunion felt, but once things got started, the only disrupters acknowledged from the stage were the usual coterie of producers, agents and streaming services.
In 2019, at the last Gothams held in person, Netflix’s “Marriage Story” won so many awards that the director Noah Baumbach appeared sheepish at the end of the night; this year, it was the streamer’s maternal melodrama “The Lost Daughter” that prevailed to such an extent that one of its stars, Dakota Johnson, called upon to present the best-feature award, remarked, “Bet you guys are real sick of us, huh?”
But “The Lost Daughter” triumphed in that category, too, in addition to nabbing screenplay and director awards for actress-turned-auteur Maggie Gyllenhaal (adapting an Elena Ferrante work) and a lead-performance trophy for Olivia Colman, which she shared in a tie with Frankie Faison from “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain.”
The Gothams have somewhat restrictive eligibility rules: Films made internationally or for more than $35 million can’t be in the running for the top prizes. The ceremony regularly skirts those rules, however, by handing out special tributes to buzzy films or performances that would otherwise be nudged out of contention. That is how the “The Power of the Dog” director Jane Campion and “Spencer” star Kristen Stewart found themselves picking up honorary trophies at the ceremony.
That makes the show a tricky Oscar barometer, as do the five- or six-person juries that vote for each category. Chloé Zhao’s “Nomadland” ran the table at both the Oscars and the Gothams during last year’s smaller-scaled season, but this year, with star-driven studio films in the mix like “King Richard,” “Dune” and “West Side Story,” the Gothams’ value as a precursor may be harder to predict.
Still, it’s never bad to be seen winning. Other notable Gotham victors included the animated documentary “Flee,” international-film winner “Drive My Car,” and two notable breakthrough TV series, the Korean sensation “Squid Game” and the acclaimed FX series “Reservation Dogs.”
For “CODA,” a Sundance sensation that had a mild debut on Apple TV+ over the summer, the Gothams provided a valuable renaissance: This dramedy about a deaf family picked up a breakthrough-performer award for its lead, Emilia Jones, and a supporting trophy for Troy Kotsur.
Was Kotsur speechless? Not quite.
“I’m just absolutely handless right now,” he signed from the stage.