Film's Gotham Awards: Let the Season Begin

11/29/2011 04:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 29, 2012

You could say that the Gotham Awards has edge and heart, marking the official start of the awards season. Cavernous Cipriani's on Wall Street was the scene of great film industry camaraderie on Monday night. An "Oscars" night for indie films, with categories like "Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You," the evening shines a light on many films that will make the trip to Los Angeles for the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, as say, The King's Speech, did last year.

This year, George Clooney may not be an indie leading man; that fact was not missed in this crowd. Much loved, he was the butt of at least one joke. In The Descendants, Alexander Payne's latest film, he leads a stunning cast. The film is high on critics' Best Picture lists. In the Gotham's category of Best Ensemble Performance, Mike Mills' excellent Beginners beat them out. Did you see it? Exactly. Christopher Plummer, picking up the prize, noted co-star Ewan MacGregor was off working in Africa. "I hate him," he laughed.

Oliver Platt and Edie Falco emcee'd, with many one-liners that landed with a thud. Supping on filet mignon and Chantilly cake, who could care? At this reporter's table, the conversation was lively: Ira Sachs and John Cameron Mitchell and Ellen Kuras who recalled a time when the Gothams was even more irreverent. Still, watching clips of each of their stellar careers, you could see why Hollywood and the indie world alike would honor Tom Rothman, Charlize Theron, David Cronenberg, and Gary Oldman.

Many of the speeches, such as Jim Jarmusch and Ang Lee on Rothman's role in their careers, made it personal. Patton Oswalt introducing Charlize Theron has a comedy act going. Funny together, completing one another's sentences, they make an unlikely couple in Jason Reitman's new movie Young Adult. Theron gets serious though, modestly noting her luck in being offered prime roles. Cronenberg, the Canadian auteur of such head trips as The Fly, Videodrome, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, and his latest, A Dangerous Method, claimed, "I have tried to sell out."

With Alec Baldwin introducing, Gary Oldman got a standing ovation when he took the stage. He embodies his characters, in Harry Potter, Batman, Dracula, as Pontius Pilate, Lee Harvey Oswald, Joe Orton, and Sid Vicious, among them. Is it just the makeup? I asked him, being playful. No, he replied: "Sometimes I don't wear any. I just like to dress up."

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