At the recent Los Angeles amFAR event James Corden was stung by criticism after making jokes about the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal and actually apologized. Tonight, as he was returning for the third year in a row to host the Hollywood Film Awards it was probably understandable that he avoided any hint of controversy or touchy subject matter when it came to his monologue or other material throughout the non-televised show that is among the first to hand out awards , mostly to movies that haven’t even opened yet. As I predicted a week ago after the Britannia Awards were held in the same Beverly Hilton ballroom this looks like a year where comedians hosting these events are going to tread lightly with their barbs, particularly about the ever growing sex harassment scandals. Too soon and loaded with peril.

Sunday night’s 21st annual event put on by Carlos de Abreu (who founded it) and Dick Clark Productions who bought it a few years ago gave Corden precious little to work with, or so it seemed by the muted , almost tired nature of his delivery of jokes, mostly aimed at the show itself  -and not in a good way.

In fact Corden, on clearly an off night, rehashed some material he has used here before. “Tonight you are all winners. There is no reason to be here if you haven’t won one. If you are here and haven’t won an award fire your publicist,” he said , exactly the same joke he said the first year he hosted when the lines were much fresher and more pointed. He opened the proceedings by noting, “Hollywood Film Award winners have gone on to win 110 Oscar nominations or statues, so rest assured it does get better than this”. He continued talking about the fact many haven’t even been able to see these achievements yet by saying, “tonight makes the election actually look fair and decent”. Almost all his stuff was aimed solely to awkwardly denigrate the very show he was hosting, as well as the value of the awards they were handing out. It seemed unfair to the recipients who seemed genuinely enthusiastic to get this award (or likely any award at this point in the season), even if some aren’t quite sure how they got it.  De Abreu and DCP’s  advisory board negotiates the winners with studios looking for a leg up in the Oscar race and announces them in advance. They must agree to show up in person to accept.

When Mudbound’s Breakout Actress winner Mary J. Blige left behind her award after making her speech, confusing Hollywood Actress winner Kate Winslet who followed to the podium, Corden zinged, “this is how much it meant to her. She left it here… she’s already on San Vicente”.  Ouch. The joke didn’t work that well since Blige was actually still in the room and stayed throughout the ceremony. What should have been funny came off more mean spirited this time around for Corden who has proven he is one of the best hosts out there on most occasions. Not on this one. And let’s face it , the fact HFA pulls such a strong star turnout year after year and can get a host like Corden must mean something.  Sometimes it is good to go first. None of the choices made here, however they are made, were undeserving.

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Corden aside, there was virtually no direct reference to the recent scandals engulfing Hollywood from any presenter or winner on stage, and barely any veiled reference. Trump was mentioned once when Corden talked of wanting to see the alleged “Donald Trump pee tape” if it is out there somewhere.  No, this quick paced ceremony appeared almost exclusively dedicated to providing a platform for the agreed upon winners to hone their speeches for a shot at future awards shows on the road to Oscar. And there were indeed some nice speeches including one  from Breakthrough Director Taylor Sheridan for Wind River which is about the gang rape and murder of a Native American woman. “Silence is the enemy and silence cannot be tolerated anymore,” he said. Andra Day who was on hand to sing the stirring winning song from Marshall, “Stand Up For Something” made the only mention of the tragic mass shooting in a Texas Baptist church that took 26 lives earlier in the day when she briefly referenced victims “in Puerto Rico, now in Texas, or in Vegas”.  Corden did send out condolences to those Texas victims as he closed the show but there was no other talk about it as the country seemingly has become numb to these recurrent shootings.

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Hands down the most heartfelt acceptance speech came from Hollywood Actor winner Jake Gyllenhaal in dedicating his award to Boston bombing survivor Jeff Bauman who lost both legs on that horrific day in 2013. Gyllenhaal portrays him in Stronger. ” We always seem to have a compulsive need for  a hero. Jeff Bauman never wanted to be a hero.  When he woke up and found he has lost both legs he had to become the embodiment of Boston Strong. Jeff knows I am full of shit and somehow he trusted me with his story and I stand here with every bit of myself to show up for him. If we can find in ourselves  the strength that Jeff found we just might not need heroes,” he said.

Hollywood Director winner Joe Wright of Darkest Hour admitted he had never heard of this awards show and thus didn’t think much about what to say, but after looking around at the impressive crowd he said he wished he had given it more thought.  He did well anyway. “I travel a lot around America , “said the British director of this film about a particular crisis that faced Prime Minister Winston Churchill.”I am amazed by the level of resistance. This is a movie about resistance. Here’s to resistance.”

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The best light moments were provided predictably by Kumail Nanjiani, accepting the Comedy Ensemble award for The Big Sick, and there was a nice exchange after Winslet started fawning in her speech over her love for Allison Janney (Supporting Actress winner for I, Tonya) and Janney came up to the stage to kiss her in return.  There was also a great tribute reel for Hollywood Career Achievement Winner Gary Oldman who proved once again he is the one to beat this year for Darkest Hour.  Oldman, receiving a standing ovation, also paid a nice compliment to one of his acting heroes Dustin Hoffman, who had earlier presented an award to his Meyerowitz Stories co-star Adam Sandler. Considering Hoffman had gotten some unwanted notoriety earlier in the week after being accused of sexual harassment in an incident decades earlier, the words of support to the legendary star took on extra meaning and were a nice touch by Oldman.  A portion of the proceeds from the HFA show will go to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.  Here is a list of all the winners:

“Hollywood Career Achievement Award”
Gary Oldman
“Hollywood Actor Award”
Jake Gyllenhaal for Stronger
“Hollywood Supporting Actor Award”
Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Montana
“Hollywood Actress Award”
Kate Winslet for Wonder Wheel
“Hollywood Supporting Actress Award”
Allison Janney for I, Tonya
“Hollywood Comedy Award”
Adam Sandler for The Meyerowitz Stories
“Hollywood Breakout Performance Actress Award”
Mary J. Blige for Mudbound
“Hollywood Breakout Performance Actor Award”
Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name
“New Hollywood Award”
Jamie Bell for Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
“Hollywood Documentary Award”
Sean Combs for Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Bad Boy Story
“Hollywood Ensemble Award”
I, Tonya cast including Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Mckenna Grace, and Caitlin Carver
“Hollywood Comedy Ensemble Award”
The Bick Sick cast including Kumail Nanjiani, Holly Hunter, Zoe Kazan, and Ray Romano
“Hollywood Breakout Ensemble Award”
 Mudbound cast including Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, Jason Mitchell, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, and Jonathan Banks
“Hollywood Song Award”
Common, Andra Day, and Diane Warren for “STAND UP FOR SOMETHING”  from Marshall
“Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award”
Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung for First They Killed My Father
“Hollywood Director Award”
Joe Wright for Darkest Hour
“Hollywood Breakthrough Director Award”
Taylor Sheridan for Wind River
“Hollywood Producer Award”
Broderick Johnson, Andrew Kosove, and Cynthia Yorkin for Blade Runner 2049
“Hollywood Screenwriter Award”
Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for The Disaster Artist
“Hollywood Animation Award”
Coco
“Hollywood Cinematography Award”
Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049
“Hollywood Film Composer Award”
Thomas Newman for Victoria & Abdul
“Hollywood Editor Award”
Sidney Wolinsky for The Shape of Water
“Hollywood Visual Effects Award”
Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Dan Barrett and Erik Winquist for War for the Planet of the Apes
“Hollywood Sound Award”
Addison Teague & Dave Acord for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
“Hollywood Costume Design Award”
Jacqueline Durran for Darkest Hour and Beauty and the Beast
“Hollywood Make Up & Hair Styling Award”
Jenny Shircore for Beauty and the Beast
“Hollywood Production Design Award”
Dennis Gassner for Blade Runner 2049