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‘Spotlight’ named best feature – Mirren takes dig at Trump in Gotham Awards speech

Actress Helen Mirren speaks onstage during the 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Nov 30.
Actress Helen Mirren speaks onstage during the 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street on Nov 30.

LOS ANGELES, Dec 1, (RTRS): Helen Mirren spiced up the 2015 Gotham Awards ceremony with an acceptance speech that ranged from bawdy to funny to serious, getting in a dig at Donald Trump while she was at it.

She slipped Trump’s name in as she praised the writers who had been central to her career, and offered a meditation on the power of words. Words, she mused, can convey everything from love to hate to kindness to stupidity — and right after the word “stupidity” is when she added, “Donald Trump,” jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon that started rolling during Rosie Perez’s speech to introduce the Gothams’ audience award.

Mirren, who was accepting one of the career tributes handed out during the 2015 Gotham Awards ceremony, opened her speech with the attention-grabbing line, “I have to tell you a story about the queen.”

She went on, “When ‘The Queen’ was first screened at Venice, I’d never seen it before, and neither had my husband Taylor. In the first scene I’m in the full regalia, and I turn and look at the camera and there’s silence in the cinema. And my husband lets out this huge laugh.  She finished her story with the mischievous aside: “Between you and me, he has.”

Appreciation

Mirren’s appreciation of all the writers she’s worked with, and the words that power their projects, was part of the more serious subject matter she touched on during her speech. “Let us love our writers and their courage, and stand behind them whenever they’re threatened with any chickensh-censorship,” she said.

She also encouraged the audience to lobby on behalf of Saudi Arabian poet Ashraf Fayadh, currently sentenced to death in his home country.

“Spotlight” was named best feature at the 2015 Gotham Awards, capping an evening of wins for the film that also included the award for screenplay and a previously announced special jury prize for its acting ensemble.

Actress Bel Powley beat out heavyweight competition — including Cate Blanchett, Blythe Danner and Lily Tomlin — to win the award for best actress for her work in “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” while Paul Dano snagged best actor for his performance in “Love & Mercy.” The Gothams also singled out “Robot” as the winner of its first award for breakthrough longform series.

The Gotham Awards marked the start of film industry’s awards season with a Nov 30 ceremony in New York, honoring winners drawn from a pool of independent contenders including “Diary of a Teenage Girl,” which earned four nominations, as well as “Carol” and “Tangerine,” which picked up three apiece. Hosted by the “Broad City” duo of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, the evening also included the inaugural winners in new serialized content categories, which encompassed nominees from TV and digital.

The screenplay award for “Spotlight” went to Tom McCarthy, who also directed, and co-screenwriter Josh Singer. The film went into the ceremony with one award already under its belt, having previously been named the recipient of a special ensemble award for a cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup and Brian D’Arcy James.

Performance

The whole crew showed up to collect the award. “To get one actor to give an ego-sublimated, selfless performance is an achievement,” Ruffalo said. “To get a whole group of actors do it together is a frickin’ miracle!”

“Tangerine” won the audience award, with the film taking the trophy not long after its win in the breakthrough actor category for star Mya Taylor.

Taylor wasn’t there to accept her award (she’d missed a flight), but “Tangerine” director Sean Baker spoke on behalf of the trans actress. “My hope is that the industry embraces Mya and embraces Kiki,” he said from the podium, referring also to Taylor’s co-star in the film, Kitana Kiki Rodriguez. “They’ve proven there’s trans talent out there. It’s just up to us to look, and up to us to cast.”

Nadia Manzoor and Radhka Vaz’s indie web series “Shugs and Fats” picked up the honor for breakthrough shortform series, and Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence” won the honor for best documentary.

Glazer and Jacobson kicked off the ceremony with a little gentle ribbing of the Gothams, which earned a few jabs for a lineup of nominees full of dark subject matter. “You know what’s not too dark? The nominees for best actor and best actress,” Jacobson cracked. “That’s right. Eleven white people!” Glazer added.

The evening encompassed career tributes to figures including Anonymous Content chief Steve Golin — who had a good night, with wins for Anonymous Content titles “Spotlight” and “Robot” — as well as Helen Mirren and Robert Redford. Mirren gave a particularly memorable speech, while Redford told a story about keeping humble in the face of success.

Winners

* Best Feature: Spotlight

* Best Actress: Bel Powley as Minnie Goetze — The Diary of a Teenage Girl

* Breakthrough Series – Longform: Robot

* Best Actor: Paul Dano as Brian Wilson — Love & Mercy

* Best Documentary: The Look of Silence — Director: Joshua Oppenheimer

* Audience Award: Tangerine

* The First Gotham Appreciation Award: Ellen Cotter of Angelika Film Center Theaters

* Special Jury Award — Ensemble Performance: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery, Stanley Tucci, Brian d’Arcy James, Liev Schreiber, and Billy Crudup — Spotlight

* Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director: Jonas Carpigano — Mediterranea

* Breakthrough Series — Short Form: Shugs & Fats

* Best Screenplay: Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer — Spotlight

* Breakthrough Actor: Mya Taylor — Tangerine

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