Lee Daniels, always a provocateur, addressed the huge crowd at Cipriani Wall Street at this week's Gotham Awards with a confession: he hates white people. No one gasped. It was not clear whether this proclamation was part of his complaint that no one in the cavernous space was listening to his introduction of honoree Forest Whitaker. Was he merely trying to grab the attention? All night long at this, the annual awards given to "independent" -i.e. non-Hollywood fare, speakers seemed daunted by the noise in the room throwing off the rhythms of, for example, the evening's host, comedian Nick Kroll, who was decidedly unfunny. Still, Whitaker managed to present a gentle, Zen-like oration. And Steve Buscemi speaking of James Gandolfini delivered a moving tribute to the Tony Soprano actor who died so suddenly this past summer. "What a loss," he noted of this most beloved actor whose family was present for the tribute.
Of the awards, the big winner was the Coen Brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis" for Best Feature. Brie Larson of "Short Term 12" beat out big stars, Cate Blanchett ("Blue Jasmin") and Scarlett Johansson ("Don Jon") for Best Actress, making many wonder how independent films are being defined this year. "Fruitvale Station," an excellent film Whitaker produced. Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan garnering honors for the Bingham Ry Breakthrough Director and Breakthrough Actor respectively, for this edgy movie about the true story of a young man killed, a variation on the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Telling a story of racial profiling and violence against blacks, these young filmmakers send out a message of love, ready for their next challenges as artists. What makes this movie, "12 Years a Slave," and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" important is not that they relate the black experience, but that in telling this history so well, they made great films.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.