Barry Jenkins, Viggo Mortensen Get Political at National Board of Review Gala
The National Board of Review annual awards gala is a night to celebrate the best in film, but it also happened to fall on the same night of President Donald Trump’s immigration speech.
As Trump’s immigration speech was being broadcast from the Oval Office across all the major networks on Tuesday, at the same time, stars like Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Viggo Mortensen, and Barry Jenkins were accepting awards in New York City — which meant many acceptance speeches were peppered with jabs at the commander in chief.
NBR’s 2019 ceremony — which announces the winners ahead of time — served as a big night for “A Star Is Born,” “Green Book,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and other Oscar hopefuls. A-listers including Steven Spielberg, Stephen Colbert, Meredith Vieira, and Trevor Noah packed the room at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Jenkins, who won best adapted screenplay for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” gave the most fiery speech of the night. As the filmmaker took the podium, he admitted he didn’t realize Trump’s speech was scheduled for the same time as the NBR gala.
“The president is talking right now. Literally right f—ing now,” Jenkins said in the middle of his acceptance speech. “So I can’t help but talk about the president and borders and walls.”
Jenkins juxtaposed Trump’s stance on immigration with many award season movies this year, including frontrunner, “Roma,” which hails from Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and stars Mexican actress Yalitza Aparicio.
“There’s a movie called ‘Minding the Gap’ by Bing Liu,” Jenkins went on to say. “The president doesn’t want Bing Liu’s family here. There’s a film ‘The Rider’ by Chloe Zao. The president doesn’t want her here. ‘Roma,’ the president want the people from that film here. He calls them ‘Los Hombres Malos.’ F— him! No walls. No borders. F— him.’”
Jenkins’ speech brought many in the room on their feet for a roaring round of applause.
Later in the night, frequent Trump critic Stephen Colbert introduced Lady Gaga, who won best actress for “A Star Is Born,” which Colbert said was his favorite movie he’s seen in a long time. “I’m so grateful to be here tonight partly because being here means missing the President’s stupid speech at 9 o’ clock,” Colbert said when he took the podium. “But mostly because I get to present this award to Lady Gaga.”
When Gaga came up, the audience laughed when she quipped, “Is Judge Kavanaugh still in office? And Trump is still president?”
Best documentary went to “RGB,” and when the filmmakers of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc accepted their award, presented by Vieira, they got a bit political.
“Making this doc during the Trump presidency and Me Too movement taught us how to overcome adversity,” they said. “Justice Ginsburg told us she never lets anger get the best of her. RGB is a role model during these divisive times. But when it comes to her friendship with conservatives…she’s not afraid to engage with and even love her opponents.”
By the time “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah introduced the cast of “Crazy Rich Asians” for best ensemble, Trump’s speech was over — and Noah made that clear.
“Trump is done now, so we’re good now,” he began. Then, the cast of the record-breaking romantic comedy thanked the industry for finally embracing Asian actors, encouraging more diverse storytelling on screen.
“Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu dedicated the award to “all people who are underrepresented,” and her co-star Gemma Chan said, “We don’t special treatment. We just want opportunity and a seat at the table.”
Michelle Yeoh echoed Chan’s statement, chiming in, “You don’t have to treat us special. Just give us equal opportunity,” she said. “Remember our faces because we’re not going away. Be seen. Be heard. Be proud. And be who you are.”
“Green Book” star Viggo Mortensen spoke of his film’s message of friendship, and called Trump “Agent Orange” at one point during his speech.
“One could argue we’re in the worst of times, globally,” he said, winning best actor at the NBR gala. “But the acts of kindness, the sincere apologies, the children and all things new in the world are there, if we pay attention to them. They’re there to contrast from the negative aspects of society and remind us of ourselves.”
Politics aside, the night turned into a big celebration for “Green Book” and “A Star Is Born” with Sam Elliott getting the only standing ovation of the night for his supporting actor honor. During Elliott’s speech, he praised Bradley Cooper, who was later introduced by none other than Spielberg, who heralded him as one of the great new directors in the business.
While Spielberg kept his focus on Cooper and away from politics, even the newcomer of the night got in a dig at Trump. Thomasin McKenzie, who won breakthrough performance for her work in “Leave No Trace,” won over the room saying we can’t have a kind world “if we build a wall to keep people out,” prompting the night’s emcee Willie Geist to joke the young actress had a “prebuttal to the president’s speech.”
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