2004 NBR AWARDS CEREMONY
that the best dinner? I didn't have lunch,
so that helped. That fishy thing...it was
so good, and it was easy to eat with one
hand, allowing you to shake hands with
the other. I was blown away."
those encomiums referred, of course, to
the elegant meal served to approximately
550 attendees at the NBR Awards Gala.
But who was it that said such things?
Was it our proud President, Annie Schulhof?
Was it me (it certainly could have been:
those desserts!!)? Or was it the Tavern
on the Green's chef, in a boastful mood?
was, in fact, Jeremy Irons, during his
presentation speech to Annette Bening
for Best Actress, and he added, "I ate
it all, and so did Annette." He was sweet,
casual and self-deprecating, with that
endearing Boris Karloff lisp. It was another
memorable weave on the loom, hundreds
of which combined to make the event the
colorful fabric we enjoy year after year
in one of New York's most festive settings.
11th was the earliest we've ever thrown
this shindig. And yet we had good weather.
I don't remember it ever being so mild.
The perennial throng of photographers
flanked the entrance as vehicles arrived
and guests made their way in. NBR's Executive
Director Bob Policastro and the organization's
Managing Director, Carol Rapoport, were
on the move at all times; attentive NBR
aides, mainly students from The School
of Visual Arts and Marymount College,
kept the stream of humanity moving along
the corridor of mirrors toward the pre-dinner
rooms, where cocktails and hors d'oeuvres
flowed generously and a few celebrity
faces made their appearance.
7:00 P.M. came, and we all moved into
the two dining rooms, where tables were
situated in a less cramped configuration
than last year, allowing for more space
to travel to and from the podium –
not unlike the new legroom one
gets on American Airlines between aisles
13 and 30. At this point it became clear,
as it always does at about this time in
the evening at an NBR event, that we were
knee-deep in luminaries. It was a toss-up
between eating and gawking. Fortunately,
my wife chose to gawk, allowing me to
swipe her dessert!
8:00 P.M. Annie Schulhof took the podium,
not an enviable slot in the evening lineup
due to the fact that the crowd was still
in food-epilogue mode, chatting enjoyably
and not focused on the dais. But Annie
handled her audience with aplomb, rattling
off a tongue-twisting script co-penned
with Historical Consultant John Gallagher
in which every celeb in attendance was
somehow connected to Kevin Bacon by fewer
than six degrees of separation. It was
a clever intro, got everyone thinking,
and Annie was smiling as she left the
stage, to be followed by the evening's
Master of Ceremonies, Jon ( Swingers
, Made , and Host of IFC's
"Dinner For Five") Favreau. He was an
inspired choice, as it turned out. There
was no doubt that he was at the top of
his game as he led off with "In the interest
of time, let's have the first ten winners
come up and get their awards." After the
laughter settled down, he trumped himself
with "We honor the 'Best Film Without
Jude Law In It'."
up was the Animated Feature Award, presented
to The Incredibles by
Thelma Adams. After the director accepted,
Favreau added, "It was a great film and
hopefully someday, these films will be
commercially viable as well."
Forster, the director of Best Film Finding
Neverland , gave the music award
to Polish composer Jan A. P. Kaczmarek
. Then Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber presented
the Female Breakthrough Award to The
Phantom of the Opera' s leading lady,
Emmy Rossum. He looked up at the over-the-top
décor of the Tavern and said, "The National
Board of Review makes you feel at home.
I thank them for renting out these chandeliers."
That got a big laugh. Emmy, alabaster-skinned
and visually perfect (the ideal Dario
Argento 'giallo' heroine, which I mentioned
to her before the meal started, and she
seemed intrigued), accepted in a tactful-yet-sexy
Foxx got Best Actor but was unfortunately
a no-show. Accepting was his co-star,
Kerry Washington, who played Mrs. Ray
Charles. She won us over by saying, as
she admired the award, "We'll see if he
William K Everson Award for Film History
went to Richard Schickel and was presented
by previous Everson Award winner, and
newly elected NBR Board of Directors member,
Jeanine Basinger, who chided Favreau for
mispronouncing her name. Schickel, who
recently was involved in the restoration
of Sam Fuller's The Big Red One ,
recalled, "Bill was a kindly and generous
man." And about Everson's lifelong devotion
to film, he acknowledged, "In those days
it must have been a very lonely passion."
Which made me recall a day at the School
of Visual Arts decades ago when Everson
was teaching his film history class, and
a student asked if it would be all right
if, on the following week, he didn't show
up because it was a Jewish holiday. Everson
assured him that it would be all right
but added, "To me, the only true religion
Forman received the Billy Wilder Award
for a career in directing. A sweet presentation
was made by his producer, Saul (One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Unbearable
Lightness of Being, Amadeus) Zaentz,
who related a Wilder story: Billy was
playing poker with five friends, all of
whom were attacking an absent filmmaker.
Finally, Billy tapped the table and said,
"Enough. Let's not even bother to ignore
who had presented the award eleven years
earlier to Wilder the first time it was
given (Sidney Lumet was the recipient
on Wilder's behalf that evening), acknowledged
two writers in the audience – Jean
Claude Carriere and Robert Lans.
Rosie Perez took the podium to present
the Best Original Screenplay Award to
Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine
of the Spotless Mind. She had been
in the film made from Kaufman's screenplay
Human Nature and gushed first
about his work, and then about him. She
yakked and yakked, explaining how sexy
Kaufman was on the set, not despite, but
because of, his horrible beard, flannel
shirt and socks with earth shoes, all
of which alchemized somehow into sex personified.
"If I was single, I would do this man
in a hot second."
came quietly forth and said, "Jesus, if
I'd only known." His economical response
to her stream of consciousness was great
screenwriting. I never had more appreciation
for his work than I did at that moment.
And Favreau one-upped both of them with
his final appraisal: "Those of you who
had Charlie Kaufman in the over-under
pool, you're looking pretty good for the
for the Freedom of Expression Award, our
emblematic prize. It was presented by
teacher/historian Annette Insdorf, who
was quick to point out that Valmont
was not in the selection of clips
used to illustrate Milos Forman's career.
She also said, "A film never ends on the
screen, it's when you talk about the film
afterward, when you argue, and when a
motion picture forces you to take a position,
to define how you see life and yourself,
and not just the way people are telling
you to do so." It was Annette at her eloquent
best. She presented to cinematographer
Caleb Deschanel for The Passion of
the Christ , Michael Moore for Fahrenheit
9/11 , and to John Deery for Conspiracy
lumbered up. "I hope this award helps
me to express myself freely in the future."
He related an interesting piece of his
past in which, as a teenager, he started
and ran an art house, using 16mm projectors,
showing impossible-to-see-in-Flint Ingmar
Bergman films, etc. And he ended with
a provocative tale, which seemed to support
his bizarre thesis that "I wouldn't be
a filmmaker if it wasn't for the Bush
Special Achievement in Filmmaking, reserved
for those multifaceted creatives who essay
more than two roles in a production –
Billy Bob Thornton and Mel Gibson having
been recipients in the past – went
this year to Clint Eastwood, for Directing,
Producing, Starring in, and Scoring Million
Dollar Baby. John Gallagher's rhapsody
of six degrees refocused itself as Favreau
introduced Kevin Bacon himself, as Eastwood's
presenter. Bacon took the podium with
loosened tie and quipped, "Apparently
on his next film he's also gonna be catering."
laconic and cool in his green sport jacket,
blue-gray shirt, and gray tie, allowed,
"It's great to follow Michael [Moore].
We have a lot in common." After the laughter
died down he continued: "Actually, we
do. I believe in freedom of expression
very much. Very glad to be in a country
where we can do that. [beat] But Michael,
you ever show up in front of my door with
a camera...you're dead meat, man. Dead meat!"
misquoted headlines were spun out of this
in the press, but the truth is that Clint
spoke in good-natured fun, and Moore took
it entirely in the right spirit.
Quaid presented the Male Breakthrough
Performance Award to Topher Grace for
In Good Company and P.S.
Referring to Eastwood's earlier
declaration that anyone under 50 was a
young actor, Quaid offered, "Thank you,
Clint, I'm 50; I guess that puts me right
on the cusp." And Grace, when his turn
at the microphone came, generously thanked
his co-star thusly: "I never went to an
acting class, but actually acting with
Dennis and Laura [Linney] for three months
straight, I got schooled."
Deschanel received the NBR Career Achievement
in Cinematography Award, and his climb
to the dais was preceded by a beautifully
assembled video montage, as well as a
presentation by Walon Greene, the screenwriter
of The Wild Bunch, and for me
one of the most exciting celebs of the
night. "I'd like to praise his work tonight
openly," he began. "It's a chance to say
things in a public forum that I would
never do in private, out of deference
to his modest nature, and my own inability
to convey true sentiment." Also, a lovely
observation was made about what distinguishes
Deschanel's work: "Tradition that goes
back to the classical Greeks. True art
communicates not only information but
modest Deschanel acknowledged The
Passion of the Christ and Being
There , aligning these disparate
films by stating, with droll intent, "I
like characters that can walk on water."
Adapted Screenplay went to Sideways,
presented by Virginia Madsen and
Thomas Haden Church to Jim Taylor and
Alexander Payne. Deference was paid to
Milos Forman, whose Taking Off
and Firemen's Ball influenced
Irons presented to Annette Bening, but
then that's where we came in. Annette
thanked many people, with her usual grace
and charm. I remember Ms. Bening when
she was young, green and sweet, at a screening
of the Robert A Harris film noirproduction,
The Grifters . What a long way
Best Documentary Award went to Born
Into Brothels, presented by the
father of the modern documentary, Albert
Maysles, who was soon to embark on his
latest documentary about Christo's work,
this time the orange curtains in Central
Park. (Maysles recently appeared at a
documentary symposium presented by the
NBR.) When Zana Briske and Ross Kauffman
ascended the dais, they confessed to having
snuck into the Tavern during the opening
night party for the Lincoln Center Film
Festival's Pulp Fiction.
actor distinction went to Thomas Haden
Church, presented by director Payne. Church,
a friendly guy with a sculptured face,
gave generous thanks to Paul Giamatti.
Debut went to Zach Braff for Garden
State. George C. Wolf presented and
picked up a previous thread by affirming
that "...you're correct, Mr. Irons. The
fish was amazing."
Supporting Actress went to Laura Linney
for Kinsey. Bill Condon, former
NBR winner of best film for Gods and
Monsters, accepted in her absence,
reporting that Laura was in Vancouver,
devastated at not being there, and had
stressed that Condon send her love to
Clint, whom she considers a surrogate
Achievement in Producing went to Jerry
Bruckheimer. This is an interesting award,
flying in the face, as it does, of Oscar's
uncomfortable tradition of having the
producer accept the Best Film award, leaving
the bewildered TV audience to wonder why
this person is up there instead of the
director. The past century is strewn with
brilliant producers whose mark can be
found on the films they helped create
(often in the very veneer of the production,
a sign that the director and his
team were protected, coddled, and respected).
Sam Spiegel, Alexander Korda, Bert Schneider,
Saul Zaentz, Dino de Laurentiis, Howard
Gottfried, Pierre Spengler, Darryl Zanuck,
Robert Evans, to name but a few producers
of great distinction.
was a wonderful choice, highly visible
because of his successful mainstream product,
much loved by creative people in the industry,
and by the NBR. It was one of the warmest
sequences of the evening. Clips were shown
from Pirates of the Caribbean, Blackhawk
Down, Beverly Hills Cop, Thief, and
CSI. Those alone would have
merited award recognition, but his list
goes on and on. Presenting was Nicolas
Cage, former NBR winner for Best Actor,
who can be relied on to give an articulate
speech. In this one he mentioned the indelible
mark Bruckheimer has made on all the popular
art forms – film, TV, and music
– over four decades, and that, remarkably,
he has never lost his enthusiasm. Thirty
Academy Award nominations have come his
way. Bruckheimer modestly thanked his
Weaver, who left her speech at home but
aptly labeled it "a terrifying view of
romance and relationships," presented
the Ensemble Award, another of the NBR's
cannier ideas, to the foursome from Closer.
Clive Owen accepted, thanking Mike
Nichols for giving them "...the most safe
place to explore that material..."
five Best Foreign Language films were:
The Motorcycle Diaries , Les
Choristes, Maria Full of Grace, Bad Education
and, for Best of the Year, The
Sea Inside. Javier Bardem,
who copped the Best Actor award in 2000
for Before Nightfall , presented
to director Alejandro Amenabar, who remembered
the NBR Q&A screening fondly, as did
the directors of Brothel and
Garden State. .
in Filmmaking Honorable Mentions were
announced by Kyra Sedgwick, who was sporting
dazzling red lipstick under a mane
of blond curls. One of them was for The
Woodsman , a strong vehicle for Ms.
Sedgwick's husband (K. Bacon).
Mann received the Best Director award
for Collateral , one of the best
films of the year in this writer's humble
opinion. Dais-shy Daniel Day-Lewis, former
NBR Award winner (and Hawkeye in Mann's
The Last of the Mohicans) presented.
Day-Lewis was visually mindboggling in
a dark plaid beret and green plaid sport
jacket, underneath which was a
rose sport shirt and a pink ascot. Not
to mention the single gold earring. As
part of his presentation, he noted of
Mann, "His mind belongs to that of a bygone
age when the arts and sciences were indivisibly
part of the same adventure of discovery."
He then doffed his hat to the director.
Mann in return, "Daniel does not like
to appear in public, so I really appreciate
it." And he acknowledged one of Day-Lewis's
analogies about the film. "It was a nocturne."
Film went to Finding Neverland, along
with a well-chosen clip. Presenting was
John Irving (former recipient for Best
Adapted Screenplay for Ciderhouse
Rules ) to Richard Gladstein and
Nellie Bellflower. Irving recounted his
experience receiving the NBR award with
Lasse Hallstrom, tying the story into
an explanation of what a producer does.
final award, for Career Achievement, went
to Jeff Bridges. Clips featuring Bridges
were shown, dating from1950, as a baby
in The Company She Keeps, all
the way to 2005's The Door in the
Floor. It was a beautifully chosen
and scored compilation. The presenter
was Joan Allen (who co-starred with Bridges
in The Contender and Tucker
). Slender and so pretty, blonde
and radiant, she told a wonderful story
about a Cherokee grandfather and two wolves.
getting kinda late," Bridges led off.
He made loving reference to his parents,
and to "My beautiful wife, Susan, who
I've been with for thirty years now."
He also praised the creative film experience:
"Collaboration, man, that's the high for
the party ended, and throngs streamed
out of Tav ern on the Green to the strains
of Phantom of the Opera , carrying
a pile of souvenirs from the tables: CD
scores from Phantom , Finding
Neverland, and The Aviator; Incredibles
memorabilia.; as well as the latest
film books. And, of course, the NBR Award
Ceremony journal, the loveliest yet produced.
article originally appeared on Roy Frumkes'
website and was reprinted with his permission.