HAMMOND: Do Critics Choice Awards Mean 'The Artist' Is Heading For Oscar?

The Artist’ Best Pic, George Clooney, Viola Davis Top Actors At Critics Choice Awards

Trying to bring a little more clarity to a confusing season, the 17th Annual Critics Choice Movie Awards, presented by the 250-strong Broadcast Film Critics Association, spread the wealth in a way that still gives most contenders a little hope. A record 19 different films scored at least one win over the 24 categories. This group found something to like about almost everything and  just about everyone in the room got something along the way Thursday night,  but it was still The Weinstein Company’s The Artist, the black and white silent movie which continues to defy expectations that  clearly has cemented its front runner Oscar status  with a leading 4 awards including Best Picture and director for Michel Hazanavicius. Hazanavicius also won for hardest name to pronounce. Presenters are living in terror of screwing it up. Muppets star Jason Segel was sitting right in front of moi and kept asking me how to say it as he practiced “ahhvv-nahhvv-a-shoosh” over and over.  He pulled it off in style, unlike Donald Glover who butchered it in the screenplay category.

Based on recent history the four major acting winners George Clooney,Viola Davis, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer just saw their Oscar chances increase ten-fold.  The BFCA membership has a strong correlation with Academy voters , particularly in acting categories where for the past two years the group has been on a roll and  gone four for four in predicting the eventual Oscar winner. The critics  group (of which I am a member) usually gets Best Picture right too but missed last year with The Social Network which won over eventual Oscar winner The King’s Speech. Harvey Weinstein didn’t leave nearly as happy then as he did tonight.

Certainly there is always an air of anticipation at these awards as they are the first big televised movie awards of the year (on VH1) even if hosts Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel called it only the “9th most exciting  night in Hollywood”.  Everyone walks in feeling they still have a shot. And with its strategic airdate just days before the Golden Globes  the star and industry turnout is impressive. I sat at Harvey Weinstein’s  table with nominees Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams and Kenneth Branagh, a real center of action right near the stage. As the clever opening comic film bit unspooled , a takeoff on the motion capture process that earned Andy Serkis a supporting nod for his role as an Ape, Streep winced and said , “this is the thing that will end my profession”. I asked her if she would ever consider doing motion capture and she vehemently said ‘No way, Never’.

Disney chairman Rich Ross came over to pay hommage to Williams. “I always like to talk to nominees who are also making a movie for us,”  he told me and said Williams is terrific in  Oz: The Great and Powerful which will be released next year. Steven Spielberg , at the next table , also came over to sing her praises right after she lost to Davis for the film his company produced.

After winning her supporting actress award for The Help Spencer, looking completely overwhelmed, came straight  to Streep to tell her she was her “inspiration”. The Weinstein Company’s David Glasser told me the long-awaited screen version of August, Osage County should be getting underway around September as both Streep’s and Julia Robert’s schedules seem to be clearing for then. John Wells is going to direct and Glasser said the script by playwright Tracy Letts is fantastic. Another Weinstein Oscar contender for 2013?

Streep seemed to be having a good time even though she lost Best Actress to her former Doubt co-star Viola Davis. When Davis’ name was called Streep stood up and seemed genuinely thrilled. “Oh my God,”  she said. After the show Davis made a beeline for the table and gave her a huge bearhug. In a similar show of class Clooney went over  to fellow nominee Brad Pitt after he was named Best Actor for The Descendants. Earlier in the show Clooney presented the Joel Siegel Humanitarian award to Sean Penn who accepted via satellite from Haiti on what was the exact second anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake there.

These early award shows are great places to try out your potential Oscar speeches and judging from the response in the room Davis took Best In Show after winning her second trophy of the evening for The Help (the first was as part of  the ensemble). “The two most important days in a person’s life  are the day you were born and the day you discover why you were born. I considered it my honor  to pay homage to these women at this time period who were not allowed to dream and not allowed to find their purpose but thank God, praise God they gave birth to me and my mother,”  she said in an eloquent speech that made a great impact and ended by saying “even despite the atrocities of the past, friendship and love can help us find our way”. Cameras caught Spielberg in the audience looking like he was blown away by it.

82 year old Christopher Plummer (who  keeps picking up supporting actor prizes from  critics groups  for his touching work in Beginners ) also won big points with his acceptance. “Being honored by critics is like being on a three week binge with the enemy. I feel terribly young. I’m completely turned on. You  have brought back my youth,”  he said to big applause.

Following the broadcast Bridesmaids producer Judd Apatow, winner for Best Comedy, was lingering in the back of the big Hollywood Palladium main floor accepting congratulations from Young Adult’s Jason Reitman among others. His speech was basically bleeped out by VH1 censors  right up to his last line, “Jerry Lewis was quoted as saying that women couldn’t be funny. So with all due respect , fuck you.”

Highlight of the show was a performance from Bob Dylan as part of a Music + Film tribute to Martin Scorsese. Lowlight was Scheer and Huebel introducing a table of people clad only in their underwear as well as an interview with a “drunk” dude in a ‘tree of life’ costume. During that bit Weinstein cracked the guy will probably be at the door taking tickets next year. The game hosting pair, did have some bright lines inluding one passing Iron Lady off as the sequel to Iron Man and some funny stuff including a Charlie Rose -style interview with the horse from War Horse.

With one show down there’s no rest for this crowd. The AFI Awards lunch, LA Film Critics Awards and Golden Globes all come up this weekend. You can just feel presenters everywhere are frantically trying to learn  how to say Hazanavicius.



  1. Ok, 1. is ‘Oz’ about to get an earlier – probably Holiday – release date because at the moment it is slated for March 2013 ? and 2. I really hope they won’t make a big deal out of Meryl Streep’s Serkis/Motion Capture – comment.

    1. RE 2) the statement is ironic, coming from her…an actress who transforms herself for nearly every role she has tackled.

  2. wow–I’m so happy for The Help. I know people on here hated it, but I loved it. Great acting, they deserved ensemble acting . Thrilled Woody Allen won for screenplay.I hope these winners carry through for the Oscars. Not so thrilled about the Artist winning best film. It was ok , not great. But if they award was for the dog , thats a different story

  3. Probably no two lists of award winners will be the same in this most competitive year.

    The BFCA choices are all quite valid and, certainly, will be reflected in future awards.

    Works for me.

  4. i said it. They have finally found a black actress that is worthy of an oscar. Its sad that it took ten years to find but now we know that the race is between Viola and Meryl( yes, Meryl yet again but she’s just too damn good, so there). But, i think it might go to Viola so that the academy can look good in the eyes of the ethnic groups after last years “white out”. But, then again you never know,that is what is so fantastic about this award season, that the standards are so much higher, that there isn’t a clear cut winner.

      1. Are you kidding? THe movie centers around Aibileen (Viola’s) character. I don’t give a shit how many lines or scenes she was in; it’s still a lead role.

  5. As for the Artist, a silent , black and white film in this part of the century, what do you expect, of course the critics will go gaga for this. This is an omage to the old days.

  6. Any film that depends so heavily on animal reaction shots should automatically be disqualified from Academy consideration. The Artist is simply Air Buddies, but with slightly better production values.

  7. The Artist is a wonderful film and frankly the competition, how did someone described it here “in this most competitive year” made me laugh. The movies being pushed with their millions of dollars in Oscar campaign money are horribly mediocre. It’s been a shocking slew of really average screeners. Who deserves best picture? I haven’t seen anything in the running that was exceptional. That little silent film everyone likes to disparage could and may very well deserve to take the gold man home.

  8. After the debacle of The King’s Speech last year, is the academy going to give BP to another foreign production? I doubt it.

  9. It’s like the critics are TRYING to be more disconnected from mainstream audiences. Hurt Locker and now The Artist? The Artist’s whole conceit is ‘well you probably don’t GET it.’

    Hey Chris Nolan, even though TDKR will be the best movie possibly of the decade, the Acad will go for some CASABLANCA-style throwback.

    Not that it wasn’t good, but…I think storytelling has evolved for a reason. It’s kitschy, but that’s not what should be considered the best film of the year.

    That said, it’s SUCH a weak field. Moneyball? Hugo? War Horse? Dragon Tattoo? Last year saw some quality cinema, this year…I’m so meh on everything.

    1. @Who Asked You Anyway: BEST PICTURE EVER??????????????!!!! what are you smoking? It’s The Emperor Has no Clothes.. overhyped & overrated, with what amounts to a gimmick — black & white in 2011.The story is a pastiche of other REALLY classic films like Singin in the Rain, Star is Born except in this instance the characters have no depth.The lead (male) is a spoiled, sort of misogynistic(really nasty to his wife) self-centered jerk, I had no idea why the actress-who-becomes-a-star was so enamored with him.
      I get that the critics are falling over themselves but if this wins Best Picture it will trump The Hurt Locker as the lowest grossing film in the history of best pictures. Quite a distinction.
      The dog is the best thing about it.

  10. Streep winced and said , “this is the thing that will end my profession”. For the record, Streep is 62 and her comments reflect a generational divide, an antipathy towards new kinds of filmmaking. Actors have been wearing masks for centuries, Streep often wears prosthetics to transform but if the mask is made of pixels then it is apparently something to be feared rather than embraced. Sad to see such closed-mindedness from such great artists.

  11. Joe – I totally agree with you on the Artist on both accounts. I’m so glad someONe shares my opinion. And hopefully more, esp. Academy members.

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