The 27th annual Gotham Awards appeared headed for a sweep for Jordan Peele's social thriller "Get Out," but the sensual coming-of-age tale "Call Me By Your Name" swooped in to take best feature film at the first major soiree of Oscar season.
Luca Guadagnino's film about a 17-year-old's first love in northern Italy also scored best breakthrough actor for newcomer Timothee Chalamet. The wins, following the film's box-office success in limited release over the weekend, confirmed "Call Me By Your Name" — co-starring Armie Hammer and scripted by James Ivory — as one of the year's top independent film candidates for the Academy Awards. The last three best feature winners at the Gothams have gone on to win best picture at the Oscars: "Moonlight," "Spotlight" and "Birdman."
"Above all, `Call Me By Your Name' is about compassion and transmission of knowledge," said Guadagnino, accepting the award.
But "Get Out" was equally triumphant Monday night at the star-studded ceremony, held at Cipriani Wall Street in Lower Manhattan. It came in with a leading five nominations, including best feature, and it left with the largest haul. Peele, a comedy veteran but first-time feature filmmaker, won for best screenplay and breakthrough director. The film also took the audience award.
"It's so important that we support these voices from the outside," said Peele, accepting the screenplay honor. "If you help tell these stories, they will resonate."
While early, this year's awards season has been especially slanted toward independent film, with a few notable exceptions. Analysts consider "Call Me By Your Name," "Lady Bird," "The Florida Project," "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," "Mudbound" and "The Darkest Hour" as among the leading favorites.
But also among the front-runners are Christopher Nolan's World War II summer blockbuster "Dunkirk," and "Get Out," which has grossed $254 million worldwide for Universal Pictures. The Gotham Awards, presented by Independent Filmmaker Project, also honored with a tribute award "Get Out" producer Jason Blum, the successful horror-film producer of Blumhouse Productions.
Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced former co-chairman of the Weinstein Co., has long been one of New York's most powerful figures in independent film. His absence — and the avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations that have followed those made against the movie mogul — was noted occasionally Monday but didn't drive the proceedings. In opening remarks Joana Vicente, executive director of IFP, thanked those who have spoken up about sexual harassment in Hollywood and the journalists who have told their stories.
"You are helping us make a better future," Vincente said. "This room represents the stories that our society so badly needs to hear."
Best actress went to Saoirse Ronan for her leading performance in Greta Gerwig's "Lady Bird." In more of a surprise, James Franco took home best actor for his performance as the infamous Tommy Wisau, maker of the cult film "The Room," in "The Disaster Artist."
"As Tommy said at the premiere of his movie, `This my movie. This my life. Be cool,"' said Franco.
Several of the top contenders in each acting category, including Frances McDormand ("Three Billboards") and Gary Oldman ("The Darkest Hour"), weren't nominated at the Gothams, which are selected by a handful of juries.
A special jury prize was awarded to the ensemble cast of Dee Rees' Jim Crow epic "Mudbound," a Netflix release. One of the film's cast members, Mary J. Blige, turned out to be the night's most frequently thanked personality — a title that at many award shows previous has gone to Weinstein. Peele, Chalamet and actor Michael K. Williams, who was honored for his commitment to New York, all paid homage to the R&B singer.
The night included tributes to Nicole Kidman, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Coppola, cinematographer Ed Lachman and Al Gore. The former vice president, who this year released a sequel to his climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," was introduced by Dan Rather. Gore quickly zeroed in on two luminaries in the front — Kidman and Reese Witherspoon — whom he called his "Nashville peeps" before praising their HBO series "Big Little Lies" as "awesome."
Kidman accepted her award, introduced by Witherspoon, barefoot and pleading for the ceremony to loosen up and "get a little wilder." Noting her age, 50, Kidman said she hoped the award didn't signify any slowing down.
"I feel like I'm only beginning," Kidman said. "Sometimes these tributes make it seem like it's over, but I hope it's at least in the middle."
The night's winners were consistently multicultural. Donald Glover's "Atlanta" won best long-form TV series. Yance Ford's "Strong Island," about his investigation into the 1992 murder of his brother, took best documentary.
Hollywood's awards season heats up considerably this week with annual awards coming Tuesday from the National Board of Review, Thursday from the New York Film Critics Circle and Sunday from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.