2021 Gotham Awards Wrap Up

Written by Alexander Reams

“Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same.”

Well, folks, the time has come. Drink in the Movies is back, bringing you awards coverage for the 2021-2022 season, and tonight we begin with the 2021 Gotham Awards, the kickoff of almost every award season. 

Unlike most awards shows, I’ll give you the dessert first. After much confusion on who was leading the race here, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s debut, The Lost Daughter took home Best Picture, cementing its space in the tight Oscar race. Along with Best Picture, The Lost Daughter took home the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award for Maggie Gyllenhaal, Best Screenplay, also Gyllenhaal, and Best Lead Performance (it was a tie but we’ll get to that later) for Olivia Colman, bringing its grand total to 4 wins. 

Best Documentary Feature was a runaway win for Flee, who has been sweeping up wins in not only Best Documentary but also Best Animated and Best Foreign Film. Despite winning multiple awards in the latter category, Flee was not nominated for Best International Film. Instead, those nominees were more focused on the even smaller foreign films, with a few Oscar hopefuls, Drive My Car, The Worst Person in the World, and Titane being on the forefront of that category with the former winning here. Ryusuke Hamaguchi has been quietly sneaking away Best International Feature wins from the other frontrunners. Quietly building steam, until now. Now, there are many eyes on this film, so MAYBE IT CAN FINALLY PLAY IN WIDE RELEASE (I would greatly appreciate it). 

There was only one other film that had more than one win, CODA, Sian Heder’s Sundance darling, which despite its wins at Sundance, does little more than cloy for us audience members to feel bad for these characters and that includes Troy Kotsur, who won Best Supporting Performance for CODA. Who should’ve won? That is a question whose answer should be so clear I don’t have to ask it, alas I do. I digress, Reed Birney for Mass should’ve won, and not as much for him but to bring attention to the film so that attention is on the one person who should be nominated, Jason Isaacs. The brightest point of CODA is Emilia Jones’ performance, who in any other year would never win, but in a weak year for Breakthrough Performer, she takes home the gold, not much more to say on that. 

Before I get to the “So What?” Best Lead Performance was a tie, you know Olivia Colman won, and the other was Frankie Faison in The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain. I haven’t seen the film but I will definitely be keeping an eye out for it now. 

Now. So What? Well, the Gotham’s aren’t the most accurate when predicting Oscar nominations, so don’t rush to Gold Derby to change your predictions, but they can help with thinning out the crowds, and at least begin to eye in on possible nominees. I would recommend looking at The Lost Daughter a lot more, especially in the Adapted Screenplay category. Flee has been a lock for some time now, in one category or another. This is not the award show that should make you rush and change your ballot, in fact, I implore you not to. For now, we awards junkies should be celebrating the fact that awards season has returned, and this is only the beginning. 

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

Finch

Written by Patrick Hao

62/100

In the last decade or so, Tom Hanks’ movie star persona has been the embodiment of American professionalism. His characters are men whose greatest virtue is simply being good at their job. Captain Phillips, Sully Sullenberger, and James B. Donovan are just a few of these characters. Even the white beard that Hanks has been sporting – away from his classical clean-cut look – seemingly signifies “I’m too busy being competent to shave.”

Hanks’ new film Finch is another film in his latter stage oeuvre. In Finch, he plays the eponymous character, a mechanical engineer who has settled in being one of the last remaining humans in a post-apocalyptic Earth that has become uninhabitable due to climate change and solar events. Finch is alone except for his dog and a robot dog he built, surviving due to his clever ingenuity and tinkering.

The beginning of Finch is a classic movie star performance – one in which we had already seen Hanks do so well in Cast Away (funnily enough, Zemeckis was originally slated to direct this film). Hanks is so good at being a compelling screen presence that it is almost a disappointment that the film’s ultimate goal is to become a two-hander buddy road trip movie.

The second member of this duo is Jeff, an AI, self-learning, robot companion that Finch built, downloaded with information about dog care. Finch is sick and built Jeff for the outward purpose of taking care of his dog companion when he does go, and maybe for a little companionship himself. Jeff is played convincingly in a motion capture performance from Caleb Landry Jones. His voice is tuned to a robotic fray, and his movements can capture the awkwardness of a newborn weighed down by 500 pounds of nuts and bolts. The CGI is crisp and texture.

When a coming flurry of storms make their present location untenable for living, Finch is forced to relocate in a decked out 80’s RV to San Francisco. This film is produced by Amblin and really has the feel and lightness of an ambling film. The director Miguel Sapochnik never gets in the way of what makes the film crackle – the buddy dynamic of the world-weary cynical Finch and the literal “born yesterday” enthusiasm of Jeff. It’s a simple formula that does not need tinkering with.

It’s this film’s lightness that feels refreshing when there is a feeling in modern blockbusters to infuse itself with so much gravitas. Sure, there is some meaningless messaging about trusting humanity again by the object learning to be human, but also it’s nice to just have a robot accidentally press on the gas too hard when he is learning to drive. Classic comedy. It’s a type of movie – an adult family movie – that seems so few and far between in today’s movie landscape.

Finch Trailer

Finch is available to stream on Apple TV+

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

The Velvet Underground

Written by Patrick Hao

62/100

Todd Haynes is no stranger to deconstructive takes on legendary rock and roll stars. His short film Superstar, which sees Haynes depict the life of Carpenters singer, Karen Carpenter, using Barbie dolls put him on the map as a filmmaker to watch. He further deconstructs the life of a fictional version of David Bowie and Iggy Pop/Lou Reed hybrid in Velvet Goldmine. It seems particularly apropos that the title takes the word velvet from The Velvet Underground’s influence. With I’m Not There, Haynes deconstructs the persona of Bob Dylan through vignettes that represent his public persona.

All of these projects make Haynes particularly adept to handle a documentary about the esoteric 60’s rock icons, The Velvet Underground in the appropriately titled film, The Velvet Underground. Rather than making a traditional straight forward documentary on the band, Haynes uses the story of the band in order to explore the cultural landscape of downtown New York City in the late 60’s. This was an especially booming time for the arts scenes with folk singers, authors, artists, and filmmakers. It makes sense then that Haynes not only collects voices that knew the band well but also pulled in cultural critics like Amy Taubin and experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas to give their testament to the arts scene of the time.

Mekas’s appearance in the film looms large as this is his final appearance after his death in 2019. The film is dedicated to him not only in name but in the way that Haynes utilizes a lot of the same techniques Mekas used in his experimental films. Haynes tells the story of the band, its members, and their impact through an impressive array of collages and kinetic images to portray the vibes of the time.

Velvet Underground isn’t a hagiography of any sort in which everything presented is a testament to the band’s greatness. Rather, Haynes allows the music to play continuously throughout, underscoring the information presented. This presentation underlines how much the band was a presence of the time.

The film also presents the two faces of the band, seemingly opposite of each other. Lou Reed was the lyricist who wrote painfully personal songs about his personal depression and insecurity, it’s unclear if his self-destruction was done purposefully to gather material. On the other side is John Cale, the musical experimental impresario whose compositions still feel radical to this day.  

Obviously, the quiet hum of nostalgia, the abundance of artistic creativity, radiates throughout the film. Many of the characters who were there have long been gone. Lou Reed has been dead since 2013. Guitarist Sterling Morrison has been dead since 1995. Periphery figures that were important to the band’s image such as Nico and Andy Warhol have passed as well. But the film does not shy away from the unpleasantness of a mercurial figure like Reed, who would frequently drive the band apart with his demeanor. An all too brief section recounts the rampant sexism of the Avant Garde art scene of the Warhol Factory. If anything, The Velvet Underground is a bit too straight in its presentation as Haynes decided chronologically would be the best way to tell this story. But it seems that Haynes is not necessarily interested in the information presented with this documentary. Rather, he is out to capture a time of artistic creativity that can only become legend. Just as the Velvet Underground band itself has become legend.

The Velvet Underground Trailer

The Velvet Underground is currently available to stream on Apple TV+ and in limited theatrical release.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.