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Michelle Yeoh Celebrates History-Making Win, Steven Spielberg Gets Standing Ovation at National Board of Review Gala

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 08: Steven Spielberg and Michelle Yeoh attend the National Board Of Review 2023 Awards Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on January 08, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for National Board of Review)
Getty Images for National Board

Awards season can be long and arduous to those on the quest for glory, but the novelty of recognition from Hollywood hasn’t been lost on Michelle Yeoh, who was honored at the National Board of Review Awards as best actress for A24’s indie blockbuster “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

“I feel like I’ve entered my own metaverse,” Yeoh said to thunderous applause at Sunday night’s gala, held at Cipriani 42nd in midtown Manhattan. “Usually when someone accepts one of these awards, they get up and say, ‘I can’t tell you how much this award means to me.’ But tonight I want to tell you honestly and exactly how much this award means to me.”

“I’m so incredibly proud to be the first Asian actress in 45 years to receive this honor,” she continued. “I hope it means that Hollywood and the filmmaking community recognizes what a watershed film this is and all the things I’ve stood for and tried to accomplish in my four-decade career.”

The star-studded affair, hosted again by Willie Geist, is one of the more laidback stops to the Oscars since the winners (selected by a group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers, academics and students) are announced in advance. It takes the pressure off the potential to lose and gives time for recipients to prepare speeches, which don’t have a time limit since the ceremony isn’t televised. The evening’s top prize for best film went to “Top Gun: Maverick,” with producer Jerry Bruckheimer delivering the night’s final speech since Tom Cruise wasn’t scheduled to attend and co-star Miles Teller was under the weather.

Steven Spielberg, who was lauded as best director for “The Fabelmans,” received a standing ovation as he took the stage to speak about making his most personal film. The semi-autobiographical drama depicts a film-obsessed teenager growing up in Arizona and Northern California.

“I realized for the first time that I couldn’t take cover behind a mothership or a T-Rex or a big mechanical shark that never worked,” he said, noting that reliving his childhood on-screen felt like “moving back in with my parents and my sisters.”

“You say you can’t go home again? Oh, no,” Spielberg said. “That’s wrong. You can go home again.”

Gabriel LaBelle, who plays a fictionalized version of Spielberg in “The Fabelmans” and received the breakthrough performance award, charmed everyone with a little profanity in his speech. “I’d never imagine I’d say this — because it’s Steven fucking Spielberg — but the great Steven Spielberg has changed my life.”

“I feel like I’m in debt, like I owe you my first born child or something,” he said. “I don’t know how I’ll ever pay you back.”

F-bombs became a recurring joke in the hours-long ceremony. “I’m old school,” Yeoh joked later in the night. “I’m not sure I know how to use the f-word.”

After Daniel Craig effusively praised his “Glass Onion” co-star Janelle Monáe, the best supporting actor recipient — “her delicious fabulousness is awe-inspiring,” he told the audience — she didn’t attempt to downplay her excitement.

“Are you kidding me? You guys got fucking James Bond?” Monáe said, injecting some necessary enthusiasm as the clock neared 10 p.m.

She continued, “There are so many people who have could been standing here tonight. So, I stand here in the biggest puddle of gratitude for this acknowledgment.”

Colin Farrell also energized the room as he took the stage twice, once to accept the best actor honor and another time on behalf of his “Banshees of Inisherin” scene partner Brendan Gleeson, who wasn’t in attendance. “I’m raging I can’t be there to celebrate,” Gleeson wrote in a note read by Farrell.

Farrell, an unapologetic film enthusiast, spent a portion of his speech recounting the euphoria of watching “E.T.” in theaters for the first time. He admitted the moviegoing experience felt more emotional than the births of his two children.

“I’m glad this isn’t televised,” Farrell joked.

With three awards, “Banshees of Inisherin” was NBR’s most decorated film. Writer-director Martin McDonagh, who was recognized for original screenplay, thanked the film’s distributor Searchlight for giving him “no notes on the script… which is probably why I’m up here tonight.”