A night at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Posted by · 8:20 am · January 13th, 2012

I haven’t watched the telecast of last night’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on VH1 yet, but to hear it from cranky New York Post critic Lou Lumenick, it was the worst piece of produced television in the history of God and heaven and love and death and everything else.

From my spot on the floor, though, it seemed like a pretty good step forward for the show, which is aiming to compete with the Golden Globes as THE televised precursor film awards ceremony of the season (shoot for the stars, so to speak). The move to the Hollywood Palladium in 2009 was a smart branding play, taking it out of Santa Monica (which the Indie Spirits have long-called home) and into slightly more unique waters. And in its third year at the venue, the steady progression of ambition and creativity in how the show is put together on the floor is noticeable and exciting.

The winners of the awards themselves? Not so exciting. Guy has already given that rundown, but I’ll say that I was surprised at how well “The Help” did, kicking things off with a big win for Octavia Spencer.

Speaking of which, the “Help” table was right behind mine. And George Clooney wasn’t lying when he quipped about how great a time they were having. But all I could really think about was finding a moment to let Allison Janney know that I felt she gave the greatest fleeting cameo performance (in “Margaret”) that anyone will likely ever give.

Silly me, the moment I picked was right after Viola Davis had won the Best Actress prize, just as Janney was wiping tears out of her eyes due to the emotional wallop of Davis’ speech. She nevertheless gave me a heartfelt “thank you” and talked about how glad she is that Kenneth Lonergan’s film finally came around after waiting for its cue for six years.

Speaking of “Margaret,” I’m kicking myself this morning for not at least bringing that film up with Martin Scorsese (who was at my table, or I should say I was at his, along with producer Graham King and Leonardo DiCaprio, who presented the director with the Music+Film Award). You’ll recall Scorsese called an earlier cut of Longergan’s film a “masterpiece.” But I did enjoy spending a few choice moments talking to him purely about the use of Harry Nilsson in “Goodfellas.”

Scorsese was appreciative of the essay I wrote for the program, particularly of the many specific examples brought up throughout. But it was a pleasure to go revisit those titles and crank that out, I told him, because let’s face it: growing up with Scorsese movies means you grow up with a music education. They’re inseparable.

“This award has a very special significance to me, so I’d like to begin with a special ‘thank you’ to Django Reinhardt, Stéphane Grappelli and the Hot Club of France,” Scorsese said upon accepting the award. “That was the music I used to hear when I was growing up in my apartment in New York, even before we had a TV, in the mid-to-late 40s. Before anything for me, there was music and conversation, and for me they were both the same thing.”

On that score, I was adamant with BFCA President Joey Berlin at the after-party that there are three people on the top tier when it comes to an honor like the Music+Film Award, and they’ve knocked out two of them already (Scorsese and last year’s recipient, Quentin Tarantino). Next year simply has to be Cameron Crowe (who was in the running this year), but we’ll see what happens. There are other names in the mix, too, but I don’t think there’s a question here. And I really dig that award, too.

Bob Dylan, by the way, spent more time honing and rehearsing that one-song tribute than just about anything else he’s done, including the Grammys, where he changed up the key at the last minute and was just all around more loose about it. It meant a lot to him, to honor Scorsese in this way, and you could tell the living legend was having a great time on stage as he rambled through “Blind Willie McTell.”

And one more note about my table: DiCaprio called “Bridesmaids” for Best Comedy before Patton Oswalt even read the name off the card! OMG! See? Anyone can do it. Dude should TOTALLY be an awards blogger if this whole acting thing doesn’t work out.

Anyway, at the pre-show reception I had a nice long chat with “War Horse” cinematographer Janusz Kaminski (who truly is fine whether his films win awards or don’t — trust me, after interviewing the guy a few times over the years, he really doesn’t care). He did, however, win an award last night in the evening’s only tie, with “The Tree of Life” cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who Kaminski expects to win both the ASC award and the Oscar). Mainly he’s focused on his next film as a director, “American Dream.”

I didn’t really get up and meet and greet like usual, though. It’s kind of hard to wiggle out of your chair during commercial breaks when rubberneckers are swarming with their cell phone cameras out to snap a photo of DiCaprio and Scorsese. Shameless. (And, one can only hope, not BFCA members — but I wouldn’t be surprised.)

So that was the 17th annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards. The winners were predictable for the most part, but I’m personally hoping this makes it two years in a row the BFCA’s choice for the year’s best doesn’t turn the trick for Oscar. It’s looking more and more like that’s a futile crossing of the fingers, though.

Check out the full list of BFCA nominees here and the winners here. And before ducking out, here’s Dylan’s musical tribute to Scorsese, in case you missed it:

For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.

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