In what could be a preview of the awards season ahead, “Boyhood” swept the New York Film Critics Circle Awards in downtown Manhattan on Monday night. The drama by Richard Linklater, which took 12 years to make, picked up best picture, director and supporting actress for Patricia Arquette; more prizes than any other film.
Timothy Spall won lead actor for “Mr. Turner,” Marion Cotillard received lead actress for her dual leading performances in “Two Days, One Night” and “The Immigrant,” and J.K. Simmons was named supporting actor for “Whiplash.” The winners, who were announced in advance, were on hand to accept their prizes at a seated dinner at Tao Downtown from presenters such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Bill Murray and Jon Stewart, who gave “Boyhood” the top prize.
“Why am I here?” Stewart asked. “When you win this many awards, you run out of people.” Stewart then offered a ringing endorsement of “Boyhood”: “A coming-of-age film will no longer be relevant unless we see that individual come of age.”
Earlier in the night, Linklater accepted his directing award from Hawke (his acting partner on eight films). “I’m having quite a moment here,” Linklater said. He dedicated his prize to his favorite film critic — the late George Morris, who wrote for Film Comment. Linklater met Morris in Austin in the ’80s as a young filmmaker. “He opened my eyes to so much cinema,” Linklater said. “He really taught me you could live a life in film.”
Spall, a character actor who headlines the latest Mike Leigh drama as British painter J.M.W. Turner, wasn’t shy about showing how much he appreciated hearing his name called. “It’s really, really f—ing lovely to get an award,” he said, noting that the life of an actor is full of setbacks. “In your career, you get a lot of kicks in the a–. Sometimes you don’t work, and that’s worse than being ignored. We all know, as actors and directors that rely on collaborators, not working is awful. You’re a painter, you can paint. You can’t walk around the room acting — it’s embarrassing.”
One of the highlights of the night came courtesy of Murray. He made a surprise appearance at the dinner to introduce his pal Adrienne Mancia, who received an honorary award for her long career as a film curator. “Adrienne said, ‘I never showed anyone’s films in MoMA who was either a friend or a lover,’” Murray explained. “None of my films are at MoMA.”
Cotillard confessed that she tries not to seek out her own reviews. “Not that I’m scared to read them,” she said. “I’m open to constructive feedback. I just feel that it is healthier to avoid reading things about myself.” But inevitably, she said, a publicist will slip her some lines from a rave. “I must confess, it is fulfilling to hear the voices of people who love movies as much as us actors do.”
Ellar Coltrane, the boy from “Boyhood,” gave the award to Arquette. “Thanks for sharing with me your childhood and your chickenpox,” Arquette told her co-star, who grew up with her onscreen. She singled out critics for shining a light on her indie film, which grossed $24 million over the summer. “There’s no doubt in my mind, we couldn’t have reached our audiences, nor would we be here tonight, if it weren’t for your genuine support,” Arquette said. “When you’re competing with a $150 million movie, it’s very difficult to find your audience these days.”
Simmons, considered the Oscar front-runner for his role as a violent band teacher, thanked his young director Damien Chazelle. “This character was on the page,” Simmons said. “I was certain all I had to do was lift it off and not get in the way of what Damien had written.”
The organization’s chairman, Stephen Whitty of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, emceed the event, which dates back to 1936. He opened with a string of zingers, telling the audience that the dinner wasn’t like the Oscars (since there would be alcohol) or the Golden Globes (since nobody would be videotaped acting drunk). But he saved his best lines for the National Board of Review, which hosts its dinner on the night after the NYFCC. “We’re not the National Board of Review, because we’re actually a board of reviewers,” Whitty said. “I don’t know who those people are. I don’t know anyone who has actually met one.”
Here are some of the notable moments from the evening, via the Twitter feed of Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas: