Hollywood Troubled by Trump at National Board of Review Dinner

Barry Jenkins

After sweeping several categories, director Kenneth Lonergan received top honors at the National Board of Review dinner on Wednesday night for the drama “Manchester by the Sea.” But as he took the stage at Cipriani 42nd Street to accept the award for best film of 2016, he opened the scope of his speech beyond the typical thank-yous.

“We are living in very troubled times,” Lonergan said, alluding to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “How troubled, we don’t know yet.” Then Lonergan offered a remedy in the form of inclusiveness. “We have to stop marginalizing each other,” he said.

It was a theme that resonated throughout the night. In the two months since the election, many have wondered how the mood in Hollywood would shift under a Trump administration. As that question is still being answered, a shadow has been cast over the typically jubilant awards season packed with free meals and cheerful Q&A’s.

But in an intimate setting among peers, the National Board of Review dinner offered an early glimpse of how Hollywood might resist a President Trump. And it also foreshadowed how this year’s Oscar ceremony, scheduled for next month, may reflect this unrest. The conversations at the tables weren’t confined to which movies people loved the most. Instead, A-list actors loudly chatted away about the hazards that a Trump presidency would bring.

Held one night after the New York Film Critics Circle, which saw many of the same winners, the audience of actors and industry members enthusiastically applauded at every win for “Manchester by the Sea” (which also picked up best actor for Casey Affleck and best script) and “Moonlight,” two of this year’s underdog favorites on the awards circuit. Another Oscar frontrunner, “La La Land,” didn’t receive any recognition from the enigmatic group of self-proclaimed film fans.

Early in the night, Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight”) said that he didn’t plan on revealing that he was the first black person to win the NBR’s directing prize, but it felt necessary. Jenkins, who was introduced by celebrated culture writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, said he went through the list of previous winners dating back to 1939.

“There were certain people who just weren’t considered for so long,” Jenkins said. “The country is changing. The world is changing. We are trying to ‘Make American Great Again.'” The Trump slogan drew nervous laughs. “As we ‘Make America Great Again,’ let us remember some inconsiderable things in our legacy, because there was a time when someone like me was just not considered.”

In presenting Jeff Bridges for best supporting actor for “Hell or High Water,” Maggie Gyllenhaal reminisced about the time he portrayed a president in 2000’s “The Contender.” “What would you give,” Gyllenhaal asked, “to have that fantasy be a reality now? I know he doesn’t have any political experience, but that doesn’t seem to be a prerequisite anymore.”

Bridges, for his part, kept the running political commentary going. He ended his speech by thanking the protestors at Standing Rock. “They are looking out for not only their own interests, but all our interests,” Bridges said. “I support them and I applaud them and I accept this award in honor of their behalf. We’re all in this together.”

Later, “OJ: Made in America” director Ezra Edelman, singled out for best documentary, made a pointed remark about journalistic filmmaking. “People want the truth,” he said. Seth Meyers, who introduced him, joked about how relieved he was that the NBR winners had been announced prior to the dinner. “It’s very traumatic to learn who won a thing the night of,” he said, with a nod to Hillary Clinton’s supporters.

Not every moment of the night, emceed by NBC’s Willie Geist, was so serious. Amy Adams, the best actress recipient for “Arrival,” apologized to her cinematographer. “I hit the camera a lot,” Adams said. She talked about her restless dreams as a young woman. “I would wake and wonder how I was going to get to my Colorado home to New York City,” Adams said.

Naomie Harris, the best supporting actress winner for “Moonlight,” said that Jenkins asked her if she had any experiences with addiction to play a crack-abusing mom. She said her worst vices were “dark chocolate and really bad reality TV.” She added: “I would like to dedicate this award to all the single parents out there, like my mother, who are struggling to raise their children under very difficult circumstances.”

The breakthrough-acting awards were handed out to Royalty Hightower (‘The Fits”) and Lucas Hedges (“Manchester by the Sea”). “I just wish that somebody would give Kenneth Lonergan $150 million to make whatever movies he wants to make,” said Hedges, 20. “It would be the greatest movie ever made.”

In an unscripted introduction for Affleck, Edie Falco said that being able to escape these dark times with a film like “Manchester by the Sea” offered her hope. “We’re going to be ok,” Falco said. “Movies like this are being made — it’s what’s going to save us.”

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  1. Bobbi says:

    Apparently Hollywood has turned into a bunch of Debbie Downers. SNL should do a special on their attitudes…except they’re not fun or funny anymore either.

  2. Steve says:

    So we’re gonna see an explosion of butthurt every time a celebrity says something anti-Trump? How tedious.

  3. kenfurman46 says:

    We know Trumps real
    Motive is to make America
    Grotesque. We must fight him and the
    GOP demons.

  4. Linda G. says:

    This is the best comedy of the year. Whining “celebs.” “Oh, we’ll be okay, because “in these dark times” movies like this make it all-l-l-l-l-l right!” Good Lord. Lol, this is some funny stuff.

  5. Vikki b says:

    Relax…. Smoke a joint. Screw your sister. What rhe hell, screw your brother too!! Try not to disturb the one functioning neuron bouncing in the void that use to be a brain. Please secede from the United States. Don’t want you. Don’t need you. GO AWAY. SHUT UP!!!!

  6. Chuck Hawkins says:

    Don’t really care what actors and actresses think…make a lot of money for playing a part but what do they do but pander to the liberal viewpoints because that is what will sell tickets???? This is a democratic republic so get over it. Hollywood and NYC cannot tell the entire country what to do about anything. Remember the Greek God’s, they became irrelevant just like Hollywood actors and actresses. Hurts doesn’t it!!!!!

    • Tim James says:

      Whereas you’ve done nothing and pander your deluded ignorance because you’re a coward afraid to grow up.

      I’ll take the talented people who know what they’re talking about over some craven hillbilly who has been irrelevant since birth.

  7. Val Dannson says:

    It is O.K. for now – when sentiment changes, on seeing what someone with real world experience can do instead of a “community organizer!” I suspect the Hollywood sycophants will be some of the BEST at playing a different part, a role where they favor President Trump…

    • Tim James says:

      Drumpf has never MET the real world, much less experienced it. That’s just what you’re into, trying to hide from anything but an imaginary past where you mattered.

  8. Phillip Ayling says:

    More Biz people would have been there whining about their concern for America, but they were off working in Serbia.

  9. Phillip Ayling says:

    More Biz people would have been there whining about there concern for America, but they were off working in Serbia.

  10. Go ahead and resist. The public will resist spending ANY money on the PC movies Hollywood is pumping out. Each time one of these actors or industry people open their mouths on politics. They just lower their profitability another notch.

  11. adam says:

    Matt Stone and Trey Parker could make a great parody out of this.

  12. mcgwynne says:

    Hard to imagine how a movie featuring a series of dysfunctional and disjointed vignettes about people who can hardly talk and who are supposed to be from a blighted Massachusetts lower middle class culture but don’t know that the town of Quincy is pronounced “Quinzy” is going to “save us”. Movies about stereotypical “white” people wrestling with impotent rage are surely not uplifting when it is now evident we ALL could use some unified raising of the spirit. Indulging in depression is not the way out of Hell.

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