Horror hit Get Out wins big at muted Gotham awards

Cinema still of horror hit Get Out.
Cinema still of horror hit Get Out. PHOTO: UNIVERSAL PICTURES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES)- The coming-of-age romantic tale Call Me by Your Name was named best feature Monday night at the IFP Gotham Awards, the traditional kickoff to awards season. But the hit horror film Get Out dominated with three wins, for screenplay, breakthrough director and the audience award.

"It's so important that we support these voices from the outside, the perspectives we haven't seen that haven't been told," said Jordan Peele, who wrote and directed Get Out.

After landing the audience award, he cracked: "I just tore my pants taking a knee."

For an event that marks the onset of a months-long whirlwind of parties and prize-giving culminating in the Oscars in March, the annual Independent Filmmaker Project awards, held in Lower Manhattan on Nov 27, were a noticeably muted affair.

At first, I thought it was all in my head, until I consulted a seasoned publicist. "Does it feel joyless? Flat? Or am I just projecting?" I asked, and the publicist said that everyone was feeling guilty.

For what - Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced mogul who has been accused of sexual harassment by dozens of women? (He has denied all allegations of nonconsensual sex.) The publicist said probably.

Even Nicole Kidman, who received one of six (six!) tribute awards, weighed in on the lack of fizz.

"It needs to get a little louder, a little rowdier," Kidman said from the stage, where she stood barefoot (her shoes hurt, she explained) after Reese Witherspoon gave her an emotional introduction. "I don't know what's happening. It seems sedate."

If Weinstein or other entertainment figures who stand accused of sexual misconduct or worse accounted for the night's desultory feel, their names were never mentioned.

As with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Governors Awards earlier this month, it was mum's the word.

References to the scandal were made, fleetingly by Witherspoon (she noted that Kidman's character in their hit miniseries Big Little Lies struggled with abuse and harassment) and more pointedly by Joana Vicente, executive director of the Independent Filmmaker Project, who noted that it had been a tough year for the industry. "So many painful truths revealed," she said, before praising those who stepped forward to speak of harassment or abuse.

Of course the night was an auspicious one for the prizewinners, positioning Get Out and Call Me by Your Name as early favorites, as expected, going into the Oscars race.

Timothée Chalamet, the young star of Call Me by Your Name, collected the best breakthrough performance award. The best actor prize went to James Franco, for his turn in The Disaster Artist, while Saoirse Ronan won best actress for her lead performance in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird.

The best documentary prize went to Strong Island, by Yance Ford, which told of the unprosecuted fatal shooting of Ford's brother decades ago. The World War II-era drama Mudbound, starring Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell and Carey Mulligan, picked up the best ensemble award.