Steven Spielberg's newspaper drama "The Post" took a bow at a politically charged National Board of Review Awards where Robert De Niro lambasted President Donald Trump with an expletive-laden tirade and Meryl Streep took a moment in an awards season rife with gender politics to praise the men who have been her mentors and collaborators.
It was already decided that Tuesday night's gala at Cipriani's in midtown Manhattan would belong to "The Post." The National Board of Review announced the winners last month, with "The Post" taking best picture, best actress for Streep and best actor for Tom Hanks. But given that the film was unexpectedly shut out at Sunday's Golden Globes, Streep, Spielberg and Hanks were able to trot out the speeches they might have given days earlier.
"The men, I just think we can get through this moment," said Streep, referring to the "Me Too" moment and sexual harassment scandals that have coursed through Hollywood. "Here's the main thing I don't want to go away: the danger of making movies. How far you have to push stuff. How physically, emotionally dangerous it can be. How much we really need to trust each other. I don't want that to go away because that's where art lives."
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Streep has been a prominent voice regarding gender equality in Hollywood following the fallout of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, who distributed numerous films of Streep's. She's among the several hundred women in the entertainment industry who have banded together in an initiative dubbed Time's Up, to promote gender equality among Hollywood executives.
Streep concluded her remarks by quoting her character, Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, who strides forward at a crucial moment in the male-dominated 1970s newspaper industry to publish the Pentagon Papers in "The Post." ''And the time's up so let's go girls," said Streep. "Let's go, let's go, let's go."
But Streep also sounded some more optimistic notes about gender relations in Hollywood. The relationship of "The Post" between Graham and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks), she said, typified her working experience "in my 40 years making movies."
"I love men," said Streep, noting the speeches of Hanks and "Call Me By Your Name" star Timothee Chalamet, the breakthrough actor winner. "Yeah, I know it's the year of the woman and everything, but oh my god. The men. All my mentors have been men, even my sixth grade music teacher Paul Grossman, who let me sing five version of 'O Holy Night' in French, German and something else. And he became a woman, the first man in New Jersey to have surgery and become a woman."
It was a celebratory night for "The Post," which is seen as a major Oscar contender, but which nevertheless received no nominations from Tuesday's BAFTA Awards. Accepting the night's top award for best picture, Spielberg said he felt "a social imperative" to immediately make the script, by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, about a free press standing up to a corrupt White House under Richard Nixon.
"We are in a fight and it's a fight not just about alternative facts but it's a fight for the objective truth," said Spielberg. "President Obama said in a recent interview, 'It's not that democracy is fragile but it's reversible.' I wanted to do more than just sit down and watch television and complain to (wife Kate Capshaw) and my kids about what's happening to our country."
De Niro, who introduced Streep, was blunter, referring to Trump as the "jerk-off in chief" and numerous other foul-mouthed insults that drew cheers from the crowd.
The National Board of Review gala isn't televised, so some speeches were more free-wheeling than they might have been elsewhere. Others were more typically polished. Tina Fey introduced Hanks as such a national treasure that the president will soon "start drilling him for oil."
"When I hear the words 'stable genius,' I of course think of a smart horse that I once knew," said Fey. "And then I think of Mr. Tom Hanks."
"The Disaster Artist" director and star James Franco was in attendance to present his film's adapted screenplay award, even as another event distanced itself from him. The New York Times on Tuesday canceled a "TimesTalk" conversation with the filmmaker and his brother and co-star, Dave Franco, after actress Violet Paley and filmmaker Sarah Tither-Kaplan on Twitter accused Franco of earlier instances of sexual misconduct.
Franco didn't comment on the allegations Tuesday night.