All sorts of challenges arise when an awards ceremony is held during a pandemic, and one of them, as evidenced by the 30th annual Gotham Awards livestream on Monday night, could be the technical difficulty of pulling up remote acceptance speeches.
“Shall I talk now?” asked a confused Radha Blank when she won a Gotham Award for her script for “The 40-Year-Old Version”.
Actor Kingsley Ben-Adir from “One Night in Miami” looked similarly confused when the Gothams livestream met him in a London hotel room, patiently waiting for every direction. “I think I should speak now,” said Ben-Adir as he accepted a breakthrough actor award, “but I hear so many people talking that I can’t really understand what’s going on.”
Welcome to award ceremonies in the era of Zoom – glitchy rather than glitzy, but still party-ready and occasionally moving. Perhaps Time director Garrett Bradley put it best when she accepted her Gotham Award for Best Documentary: “If this were a real space, there would be so many people up here,” Bradley said. “But we live in two dimensions.”
The night’s biggest winner was “Nomadland,” a Frances McDormand street drama that many would expect to be a top contender for the Best Picture Oscar. The film by director Chloé Zhao was awarded both the best feature and the audience award. Zhao’s previous film “The Rider” triumphed at the Gothams two years ago.
Though the Gothams are indie-oriented, their presence on the award circuit is oversized: as the first major ceremony of the season, they were often a great barometer of excitement. What films caught the attention of the East Coast crowd and could get enough momentum to make it to the Oscar? You couldn’t help but overhear all kinds of lobbying as you pushed your way through a sea of formal attire on your way to the bar.
The Gothams tried to recapture some of that magic this year with “virtual tables” where a handful of curated viewers could video-chat if they wished. (My table stayed silent.) But there is only so much you can do virtually to recreate a starry moment like the late arrival of Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez last year, who swam to their table long after the show started and brought the proceedings to an event almost halted. Or the time when I wished myself luck: “Can you ever forgive me?” Contestant Richard E. Grant and he said, “I read the predictions on IndieWire today. I won’t be “
Even so, even a virtual ceremony can produce something that feels delightfully real. The winners in the leading actor categories, Nicole Beharie for “Miss Juneteenth” and Riz Ahmed for “Sound of Metal”, were both thrilled, and when Ahmed tried to gain a foothold, he poetically summed up the moment: “It feels like one very shaky time, ”he said. “But if we can all wiggle together, maybe we’ll dance.”
Ahmed won the award over the late Chadwick Boseman, who was nominated for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” but Boseman was honored with a special posthumous trophy nonetheless. The actor’s award was received by the actor’s widow, Simone Ledward Boseman.
His widow called the award “recognition not only of his profound work, but also of the impact it has had on this industry and this world” and looked up, a tear streaming down her cheek. “Chad, thanks,” she said. “I love you, I am so proud of you. Bring your light further on us. “