TORONTO — With talk of the dual Hollywood strikes looming in the background, three Oscar winners gathered at the TIFF Tribute Awards on Sunday to celebrate cinema and receive honours for their own contributions to the movies.
Actress Patricia Arquette and directors Spike Lee and Pedro Almodovar were the main attractions at the annual gala fundraiser held as part of the Toronto International Film Festival. The evening's proceeds go towards funding TIFF's various film initiatives.
For Arquette, showing her support was essential, particularly at a time of great uncertainty that has left her feeling uneasy about the movie industry.
"Where's the next quicksand pit," she posed after listing some of the seismic technological changes and mega-mergers that have pressured Hollywood in recent years.
Arquette received the TIFF Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award for her decades-long screen career that includes a supporting actress Oscar win for "Boyhood."
She's at TIFF with her feature directorial debut "Gonzo Girl" which she said received waivers from the actor's union to participate in the festival. She said the film's producers agreed to respect the terms of the agreement that is ultimately reached with the union.
"Film festivals have celebrated film for so long," she said of TIFF's importance while on the red carpet outside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.
"(Festival) programmers (are the first) people who see ... these little gem movies that were made on shoestring budgets and end up going on to win Oscars."
But Arquette has used her time in Toronto to support the strikes. On Saturday, she joined dozens of actors and writers outside the Canadian headquarters of Amazon and Apple, who both operate TV streaming services and are among the companies in a standoff with the unions.
Almaldovar and Lee decided to dodge any potential questions about the strike on the tribute awards red carpet. They hugged and posed for photos before slipping past reporters without talking about their honours.
Some of the onlookers dazzled over Lee's gold high-top sneakers with black lettering on the sides of the soles reading: "BlacKkKlansman," the 2019 film that won him the Academy Award for adapted screenplay.
Even though Lee didn't stop to talk, he took the bait from one person who dared to bellow to the notorious New York Knicks fan: "Spike, how do you feel about the Raptors?"
"The what," Lee fired back with a chuckle.
But even the prospects of a debate of warring teams couldn't stop Lee in his tracks. He simply added a quick nod to the team colours of his beloved Knicks as he walked away, shouting: "Orange and blue."
Lee received the Ebert Director Award, which celebrates his influence, including his groundbreaking 1989 film "Do the Right Thing."
Almodovar was given the Jeff Skoll Award in Impact Media, which recognizes leadership in uniting social impact and cinema. He directed the Oscar-winning "All About My Mother," and presents his new short film "Strange Way of Life" at this year's festival.
Several other stars with movies at TIFF showed up at the event, including Willem Dafoe who co-stars in Arquette's film. He quietly made his way down the carpet only pausing to offer his signature raised eyebrow.
Ethan Hawke and his wife greeted Canadian actress Devery Jacobs whose queer cheerleading film "Backspot" is among the buzzworthy homegrown titles. And Viggo Mortensen swooped through for photos in the wake of strong reviews for his directorial effort "The Dead Don't Hurt."
Other TIFF award honourees of the night included Montreal-born, "Free Guy" director Shawn Levy who received the Norman Jewison Career Achievement Award.
"It's humbling and it's really gratifying," he said.
"It means the work that I've been putting into the world is connecting and is adding up to something. That's every storyteller's dream."
"Fear the Walking Dead" actor Colman Domingo and "Phantom Thread" actress Vicky Krieps both received this year's performer awards.
Proceeds from the TIFF Tribute Awards this year go towards supporting the Viola Desmond Cinema campaign, which includes plans to rename the main cinema at TIFF's headquarters after the Canadian civil rights pioneer.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2023.
David Friend, The Canadian Press