But in feting Everything Everywhere All At Once, the metaverse-skipping action adventure directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheiner, the filmmaking duo known as “the Daniels”, the Gothams selected an unlikely runaway success. Released in March, Everything Everywhere All At Once made more than US$100 million worldwide against a US$14 million budget, making it A24’s highest grossing film. The warm affection for the absurdist film now has it poised to potentially play underdog at the Oscars. The film also recently led nominations to the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
“This movie has been celebrated by the Asian American community, by the immigrant community, by people with weird brains, people who are overwhelmed or sad,” said Scheiner accepting the award with his filmmaking partner. “This award is for you guys. Your stories matter. You matter.”
While the Gothams are known for exalting the hardscrabble pursuit of lower budget filmmaking, one of its many tribute awards went to another box-office force in Adam Sandler. The 56-year-old actor-comedian, who this year starred in the well-received Netflix basketball drama-comedy Hustle, provided the night’s most raucous speech, after an introduction by Uncut Gems filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie.
Sandler, explaining that he had been too busy to prepare remarks, claimed his speech was written by his two daughters. His career, as he read, was launched with two guiding principles: “People in prison need movies, too,” and: “TBS needs content.”
The Gotham award, Sandler read, “means a lot to him seeing as most of the awards on his trophy shelf are shaped like popcorn buckets, blimps or fake mini Oscars that say Father of the Year which he sadly purchased himself while wondering in a self-pitying fog through the head shops of Time’s Square”.
The Gothams give gender neutral acting awards, which meant that some awards favourites this year that wouldn’t normally be head-to-head, like Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Cate Blanchett (Tár), were up against each other. Todd Fields’ Tár, starring Blanchett as a renowned conductor, came into the Gothams with a leading five nominations and went home with an award for Fields’ screenplay.
But Till star Danielle Deadwyler ultimately prevailed in the crowded lead acting category. Deadwyler, who plays Mamie Till-Bradley in the piercing drama, wasn’t able to attend the ceremony. Till director Chinonye Chukwu accepted on her behalf.
Deadwyler’s win should add momentum to her Oscar chances, as should the award for Quan, who is best known as the child star of The Goonies and Temple Of Doom.
The breakthrough director award went to Charlotte Wells for Aftersun, the Scottish filmmaker’s tender, devastating debut about a father (Paul Mescal) and daughter (Frankie Corio) on vacation. Aftersun also earned a shoutout from Daniel Kwan who said Aftersun should have won best feature, not Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Steven Spielberg had been scheduled to introduce a tribute award for Michelle Williams, star of Spielberg’s The Fabelmans. Filling in was Williams’ co-star Paul Dano, who said Spielberg tested positive for COVID-19. Williams spent much of her speech reflecting on how instrumental Dawson’s Creek co-star Mary Beth Peil was to her as a young actor. Williams was also visibly stunned by a standing ovation.
“What is happening?” said a wide-eyed Williams. “I shouldn’t even be out of the house. I just had a baby.”
Other winners included Audrey Diwan’s Happening for best international feature. The French abortion drama, set in 1963 France, took on added relevance after the repeal in the United States of Roe v. Wade. All That Breathes, Shaunak Sen’s film about a New Dehli bird hospital, took best documentary.
Tribute honorees also included Focus Features’ Peter Kujawski and Jason Cassidy, and a thunderous tribute to the late Sidney Poitier by Jonathan Majors, who announced a new initiative in Poitier’s name to help young filmmakers. “Bravo, Mr. Poitier,” Majors said. “We got your back.”
Gina Prince-Bythewood, The Woman King filmmaker, was also honoured after being introduced by Katheryn Bigelow. Prince-Bythewood said the Hurt Locker filmmaker inspired her to believe she could be a director. “Kathryn was my possible,” said Prince-Bythewood.
“When you see the trailer to The Woman King, do you see incredible women or do you see other? Do you see incredible women to be inspired by or do you see other?” said Prince-Bythewood. “I want you to see yourself in my characters the same way I see myself in yours.”