Diverse Oscar hopefuls were well represented on Monday night in New York at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, with Moonlight taking home a leading four honors and real-life interracial marriage drama Loving nominated for two awards.
The Gotham Awards are traditionally seen as the start of Oscar season and months after #OscarsSoWhite, Academy member David Oyelowo, who criticized the organization in January for its all-white acting nominees, was optimistic about this year's contenders.
"I think everyone's hopeful and pretty sure that it won't be what we've had in the past two years, which is a good thing," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet ahead of Monday night's Gotham Awards. "My hope is that we won't get complacent and think that this denotes a sea change, because I don't think it does. I think it's just a coincidence. We've just got to find a way whereby we don't find ourselves where we've been in the last two years in subsequent years."
Going into this awards season, Loving director Jeff Nichols said, "I just hope people keep seeing the film. I just want Richard and Mildred Loving's story to get out to the world and hopefully being in this conversation helps people hear about the film and go see it."
Manchester by the Sea director Kenneth Lonergan was similarly humble about his film's prospects. The Amazon Studios movie, starring Casey Affleck, was nominated for four Gotham Awards and won one.
"I'm glad for anybody who buys a ticket or likes the movie, and anything beyond that it would be foolish to dwell on," Lonergan said of his awards-season hopes for Manchester.
Just weeks after the presidential election, politics were still on the minds of many of the evening's attendees. Loving castmember Nick Kroll said the film has continued to be timely.
"When we were talking about doing the movie, it was a couple weeks before the Supreme Court was weighing in on marriage equality, so it felt like that was a real contextual point for the film," he explained. "And then over the last year, between the police shootings and the racial tensions and the Trump candidacy and everything around that … and now that Trump has won, it's sort of a different story and a similar one. I like to think of it as a hopeful story about what people can do on a day-to-day basis as individuals, about how they choose to live their life and who they choose to love and how they go about their lives. It's about how people choose to live their lives each day and how that affects what kind of country we live in."
Nichols added, "I think a lot of people see hope in [Richard and Mildred Loving's story]. They see the power of the individual and their ability to make change in the country outside of the system."
Read more: Gotham Awards: The Complete Winners List
Meanwhile, best documentary nominees Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg saw the subject of their eponymous Anthony Weiner film return to the spotlight this fall, well after their doc was completed. While they aren't interested in further chronicling the disgraced ex-Congressman, Kriegman said of Weiner being back in the news this year, "It was definitely a really stunning turn of events. It was something that we didn't and I don't think anybody could have anticipated or predicted. But you know Anthony's story has always been about the nature of politics today and how much is driven by spectacle and sensationalism, and I think that's what we see unfolding today with our presidential politics."
In addition to the competitive prizes, the Gotham Awards also handed out tributes to Amy Adams, Ethan Hawke, Oliver Stone and New Regency's Arnon Milchan.
Milchan, who said he was "relaxed," going into the evening, not having to deal with the anxiety of being nominated for a competitive award, also took a few minutes to talk about the performance of Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply, which opened to just $2.2 million over Thanksgiving weekend.
"I'm very disappointed," the New Regency founder told THR of the $27 million film's first weekend box-office performance. "I think that Warren did a really good movie. But we are in an age in which unless you have a Marvel explosion or you start doing well on the first weekend. … On one hand, you've got Howard Hughes. The kids have never heard of him. On the other hand, it's a love story."
Praising the movie and saying he thought Beatty should at least receive a best actor Oscar nomination, Milchan admitted that it might've been a mistake to open Rules in 2,382 theaters as Fox did: "I think in hindsight I wish we'd opened in fewer theaters, like we did with Birdman [and other movies]. We just opened too wide and spent too much money. It's a smaller kind of movie. … I feel sorry that we tried so hard to help and had a lot of people invested in it. … Having said that, it's not over until it's over. I'm hoping it will get discovered."
Additional special awards were given to the New York City Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, Aziz Ansari and Judith Light.
When asked what her "Made in New York" award means to her, Light was effusive, saying, "Everything. It's one of the greatest honors I've ever received. I love this city. This is my town. This is my place. This is where everything that has happened to me has changed my perspective on my world and my life."