To get in character for “House of Gucci,” Lady Gaga spent the better part of last year inhabiting the mind, body and spirit of Patrizia Reggiani, the Italian socialite who was convicted of hiring a hitman to kill her former husband, Maurizio Gucci. Though the film wrapped production and opened in theaters last year, Gaga did not officially shed the role until Thursday at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to art because you learn so much about yourself,” she said, getting increasingly emotional during her lengthy, 13-minute speech for best actress. “But I will cherish this award like it was handed to me by my ancestors.”

The annual gathering, bringing together A-list actors and filmmakers and the writers who critique their work, marks Gaga’s first and last stop on the awards trail since she was snubbed by the Oscars. “I only get to do this once,” Gaga joked.

In celebrating her work, she told NYFCC voters, “you have recognized all of the women in my family.” Gaga, an Italian girl from New York, may not have been born in Italia like Reggiani, “but I am a Germanotta,” she notes. “Italians. We’re hard work and big feelings — and meatballs.”

Guillermo del Toro appeared via video to introduce Gaga, saying “in 2018, a star was born fully formed before the eyes of the world.”

“Lady Gaga is not in ‘House of Gucci.’ Lady Gaga is ‘House of Gucci,’” the director said to applause.

Compared to other awards season fetes, the New York Film Critics Circle is relatively laid back because winners are revealed months in advance, removing any anxieties about going home empty handed. The intimate event, held at Tao Downtown in Manhattan, brought out luminaries like Jane Campion, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson (whose coming-of-age story “Licorice Pizza” won for best screenplay), and rising stars including “Licorice Pizza” actors Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman.

Others who made an appearance include Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose unsettling drama “The Lost Daughter won best first film, and Joachim Trier, who was honored for best foreign language film for “The Worst Person in the World.” Presenters on hand were Peter Sarsgaard, “Broad City” co-creator Abbi JacobsonBenny Safdie and “The Worst Person in the World” star Renate Reinsve, who told the crowd, “I’m here to tell you subtitles are fashionable.”

Benedict Cumberbatch and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who were named best actor and supporting actor, respectively, for “The Power of the Dog,” as well as Kathryn Hunter (best supporting actor for “The Tragedy of Macbeth”), were not in attendance because they were filming other projects. And Phil Lord and Chris Miller, producers on best animated feature winner “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” sent a video from a New York City hotel room as they isolated with COVID-19. But those absences did little to trim the ceremony’s three-hour length; NYFCC members gave long-winded tributes whether or not honorees were in the dimly lit room.

Scorsese, presenting Campion with best director for “The Power of the Dog,” was visibly touched as he was greeted with a standing ovation (“It’s wild,” he said referring to the audience’s reaction to his very presence) and joked he’s rarely allowed out these days. On stage, he went into great detail about elements in “The Power of the Dog” — the “extraordinary performances” and “uniquely expressed” direction — that impressed him. “For example, the slow pan of the rolling hills cuts to rolling cigarettes.”

“It’s a precious thing to have an artistic voice as powerful as Jane’s developing over time. It’s like a great ongoing conversation, and it’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Scorsese said.

Campion, brought to tears by Scorsese’s remarks, thanked the New York critics for bringing attention to “The Power of the Dog,” a revisionist Western which has since been lauded by every major awards group. “Your support raised our spirits, as it raises them tonight,” Campion said.

Former Vice President Al Gore also made a surprise appearance to give a special posthumous award to film producer Diane Weyermann, who championed Gore’s 2006 climate change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” He then presented the best nonfiction film award to “Flee” director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, calling his work “stunningly beautiful.”

“I’m a country boy from Denmark. To be here with Al [Gore] is unreal,” Rasmussen said while accepting the honor.

“Drive My Car” director Ryusuke Hamaguchi took home the final award of the night for best picture. “Everything is so unreal to me,” he said. “I’m really not understanding what’s going on because there’s Lady Gaga first and now Jim Jarmusch is giving me this award.”

Watching a film might “not necessarily change the world,” said Hamaguchi, who was joined on stage by a translator. “But maybe [it will] change ourselves a little bit at a time.”