Paul Giamatti, Bradley Cooper, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and More Celebrities at the National Board of Review gala

Paul Giamatti, Bradley Cooper, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and More Celebrities at the National Board of Review gala

On a not-at-all red carpet inside Cipriani 42nd Street in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday night, Da’Vine Joy Randolph was glowing.

“The fact that these people actually even seen my work is just mind-blowing,” said the actress, a star of “The Holdovers,” who was being honored with the National Board of Review’s best supporting actress prize at its annual film awards gala, just days after she had won her first Golden Globe on Sunday for her role in the film.

A few feet away on the gray carpet was Celine Song, who came to accept the prize for best directorial debut for “Past Lives.” She was sporting a tuxedo jacket, a long skirt and a bow tie.

“Because the movie is so personal, any time somebody connects to the film, I always feel less lonely; I feel very seen and understood and embraced,” said Ms. Song, who based the romantic film partly on her own experience with a childhood friend.

Just then, a clamor erupted: Paul Giamatti, another star of “The Holdovers,” who was also being honored at the film awards gala for his performance, had stepped onto the carpet.

Mr. Giamatti had also won a Golden Globe, for best actor in a dramatic film. But it was the In-N-Out burger he had consumed, oh-so-casually, during a post-ceremony stop at a Los Angeles area location after his win last week that people wanted to address.

“Were you making a statement?” someone shouted.

“No, I was just hungry,” he said. “I just wanted a burger.”

Ms. Randolph, Ms. Song and Mr. Giamatti were three recipients of 17 awards that the National Board of Review, a group of film enthusiasts, filmmakers and academics, handed out at the gala, which honored the best films and performances of the past year. Anne Hathaway, Amy Sedaris, Daniel Day-Lewis, Elizabeth Olsen, Ethan Hawke and Jessica Chastain all attended as presenters.

A traditionally irreverent gathering that is not televised, and for which the winners are announced in advance, the gala has become an annual East Coast stop for stars on the Oscars campaign trail. This year’s ceremony took on added significance because Oscar nomination voting opened on the same day.

Others honored by the National Board of Review were Mark Ruffalo, for best supporting actor for his role in “Poor Things”; Martin Scorsese’s crime drama “Killers of the Flower Moon,” for best film and best director, and Lily Gladstone, a star of “Killers,” for best actress. (Ms. Gladstone also won a Globe for best actress in a dramatic film, becoming the first Indigenous person to do so.)

A handful of actors were also honored for collective performances, including Zac Efron (best ensemble for “The Iron Claw”) and Andrew Scott (The Board selected “All of Us Strangers” as one of its top 10 independent films).

As Mr. Ruffalo and Mr. Scott chatted at their table — each one was topped with Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling dolls — Ms. Hathaway, wearing a glittering, strapless, black gown, posed alongside Ms. Olsen, who was wearing a ruffled white blazer. Ms. Chastain, dressed in a magenta-and-purple Vivienne Westwood gown, threw an arm around Justine Triet, the French director to whom she would later present the award for best international film, for the courtroom thriller “Anatomy of a Fall.”

After a dinner of seared ahi tuna with baby fennel and prime Wagyu sliced sirloin, the “Morning Joe” co-anchor Willie Geist kicked off the awards portion of the evening. Freed from the time constraints and censors on national television, remarks and speeches often exceeded the 10-minute mark and were occasionally sprinkled with profanity.

There were also moving moments: Michael J. Fox received the night’s first standing ovation as he came to the stage with Davis Guggenheim, the director of “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” which was honored for best documentary. The film charts Mr. Fox’s experience learning to live with Parkinson’s disease.

“Parkinson’s has been a gift,” said Mr. Fox who retired from acting in 2020 because his speech was becoming increasingly unreliable. “It’s been a gift that keeps on taking, but it’s given me an audience to talk about what’s possible.”

Later, while Ms. Hathaway was presenting the annual icon award to Bradley Cooper, the director and star of the Leonard Bernstein biopic “Maestro,” which the National Board of Review named one of the 10 best films of the year, she shared how their families had become friendly during the pandemic while sharing pizza Mr. Cooper had made.

Then Mr. Cooper shared his own highlight of the evening: Meeting Ms. Randolph for the first time, and getting the chance “to tell her how inspiring she is.” (“Did y’all just catch that Bradley Cooper knows who I am now?” Ms. Randolph quipped when she accepted her own award a few minutes later.)

Ms. Gladstone also received a standing ovation as she approached the stage in a long black dress that had lattice sleeves studded with silver circles.

“It’s a strange thing as an actor to speak your character’s language better than you speak your own,” said Ms. Gladstone, who has Blackfeet and Nez Percé heritage. She then shared a word in the Blackfoot language she had recently learned, which she said meant “I can feel the good in what you have done.”

An unexpected turn came when Ms. Sedaris, after presenting Mr. Giamatti with the best actor award, took a tumble while heading to the back of the stage. She ended up flat on her back. Though Mr. Giamatti hastened to help her up, it appeared not to be serious: She remained motionless on the floor throughout his acceptance speech as the room erupted in laughter.

Would Mr. Giamatti be celebrating with a late-night Shake Shack trip?

“Uhhhhhh, maybe,” he said. “I love In-N-Out. I’m not going to diss Shake Shack, but, I mean, if they had an In-N-Out here, I’d probably go.”

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