Around midnight on Monday night, the area around Crimson had a pulse. Four women from Amsterdam stood outside the club looking for Chris Rock. A crowd rushed screaming "Daniel" on East 21st street. Was it Craig, sneaking a Bond-worthy getaway in a black tricked out SUV? Or was it Day Lewis, who was honored as Best Actor for his portrayal of Lincoln? Earlier, Rock had presented a Best Non-Fiction Film award to Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon for Central Park Five, but not before shouting out to Steven Spielberg, awed: Lincoln, man, he freed the slaves!
And so, the night belonged to American history: in the films Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty, and the rebellious spirit of How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic of the early '80s, and the biased resistance that kept life saving drugs from many suffering from the disease. Presenting the award for Best First Film to director David France, documentarian and public contrarian Michael Moore pontificated as a contentious journalist turned heckler screamed the "f " word from the balcony. Never have our freedoms felt more alive.
Lincoln garnered many awards, including Best Screenplay for playwright Tony Kushner who had worked with Spielberg on Munich, and Best Supporting Actress for Sally Field who said she had to work her whole life to stand in Mary Todd Lincoln's shoes and now does not want to give them up. Kushner commended her performance, noting that Lincoln's wife, a formidable political figure in her own right, is beaming down from heaven, but wishes the petite actress would stop saying how much weight she gained for this role. Spielberg read several letters penned by Day Lewis eloquently turning him down for "Abe," as revisions kept coming. Said Day Lewis, like Lincoln a tall drink of water, "I do say yes from time to time."
Known for reaching outside the predictable awards season films, the NYFCC honored Rachel Weisz for Best Actress in Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea, a beautiful work that came and went, featuring a theme not far from Anna Karenina; in broadest terms, a woman throws away a comfortable married life for a lover. Needless to say, the results are tragic. Matthew McConaughey garnered Best Supporting Actor for Bernie and Magic Mike. Veteran actress Emmanuelle Riva accepted the Best Foreign Film award for Michael Haneke's Amour, noting that the director was in LA accepting an award for her.
Charlie Rose presented the Best Picture award to Zero Dark Thirty, noting its depiction of the greatest manhunt in history. Everyone from director Kathryn Bigelow to screenwriter Mark Boal to the movie's star Jessica Chastain -- splendid in black lace Oscar de la Renta -- felt the heat of their movie on the current debate about torture, or euphemistically, enhanced techniques of interrogation. With a notion plucked from the headlines, Boal joked about the French arresting the Les Mis filmmakers for their view of the French Revolution. Some wondered, would the Zero Dark Thirty cast go to prison for revealing secrets, questioning policy, dramatizing waterboarding as an effective means of gaining intel. As Kathryn Bigelow put it, "Depiction is not endorsement."
Then she accepted her award in memory of her mentor Andrew Sarris who died this year. Along with another old school pioneer critic, Judith Crist, recently deceased, Sarris is sorely missed.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.