Presenter Jamie Foxx briefly defended Quentin Tarantino for recent controversial statements negative to police (“You are boss — you are absolutely amazing. Keep speaking the truth and telling the truth and don’t worry about none of the haters”), and Vin Diesel delivered not one but two heartfelt tributes his late co-star Paul Walker. Amy Schumer got so X-rated we can’t repeat what she said on a family website. Stars like Robert De Niro, Jane Fonda, Will Smith, Carey Mulligan, Benicio Del Toro, Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton and the casts
of Straight Outta Compton and The Hateful Eight all got to make Oscar warm-up acceptance speeches. Johnny Depp, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal and others showed up as presenters. Studio heads like Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, Sony’s Tom Rothman and Focus’ Peter Schlessel were there. And all this for Sunday night’s Hollywood Film Awards — which dubs itself “the official launch of the Awards Season” — at the Beverly Hilton, an extremely early kudos event the studios and Oscar consultants continue to prop up because anything at this point is useful in order to bring attention to your big contenders, even if no one has seen them yet.
Organizers even invited Academy members to attend, and several Oscar voters were spotted in the room, perhaps being influenced — or not.
But the jokes about the validity of these awards come fast and furious every year. This is the 19th time around for the event, started by Carlos de Abreu, who often gets thanked from the stage by honorees. He sold the show to dick clark productions two years ago who then secured a TV deal with CBS no less, where it aired for the first and only time last year (CBS head Les Moonves told me at the time he wanted to be in the movie awards game and would be patient).
The ratings were abysmal though, and the production was panned. The network dropped their option for a second year.
The “winners” are all negotiated with the studios and distributors and picked by de Abreu and a mystery board whose names are not disclosed. But still the show goes on and actually the loose, anything goes vibe in the room at the Beverly Hilton Sunday night at least made it kinda fun to watch. No one takes it seriously (except perhaps The Hollywood Reporter which breathlessly live blogged every moment as if it were the Oscars – of course THR owner Guggenheim also owns Dick Clark Prods). The fact that it was a fun night might be due to the open bar, free flowing wine and bottles of tequila at every table , plus James Corden as host. Someone should immediately snap him up for the Oscars or Golden Globes. He actually proved he could be as edgy (and beyond) as Gervais in many ways (“I wanted my Halloween to be truly terrifying this year so I took my son to the cinema to see Pan. I’m kidding. No one did that”.) He killed.
As he said in a hilarious opening monologue , “Here we are on November 1st , the final event of the Hollywood awards PRE-season. If someone had told me a year ago that I would be hosting the Hollywood Film Awards, I would have said ‘what are the Hollywood Film Awards?’ Even the name sounds like you are lying. If anyone says ‘have you ever won an award?’ you can say ‘yes I won a Hollywood Film Award! It’s above my fireplace next to my New York Play awards’.”
It is somewhat ironic that Corden , star of CBS’ The Late Late Show would be the host. He was exactly what the show could have used last year when it got its shot on his network (although some material would be way too much for the FCC) . “The beauty tonight is that we are not even on television. However I should say that tonight we are being viewed in 126 countries. That’s assuming those 126 countries have at least one person following Bruce Dern on Periscope right now…The Golden Globes will be held right here in just ten weeks time and many of you will be back here, not all of you that’s for sure. Actually a very small percentage,” he said to nervous laughs. “These awards should really be called the IMDb still in production awards, ” he also cracked recognizing the fact that many of the movies being honored in one way or another have yet to even open , or in some cases , even be seen. They just have to agree to show up in person to accept, so there were winners from December 25th releases , Joy (Robert De Niro for Career Achievement), The Hateful 8 (ensemble) , Concussion (actor for Will Smith) and other upcoming November/December releases like The Danish Girl ( director for Tom Hooper and Breakout Actress for Vikander), Youth (Supporting Actress for Fonda), Brooklyn (New Hollywood Award for Saoirse Ronan), The Big Short (Breakthrough Director for Adam McKay), Spotlight (Screenwriter) and so on. De Abreu and crew are able to hand out so many awards because they create so many odd categories, thus there can be a “Hollywood Ensemble ” award to Hateful 8 as well as a “Hollywood Breakout Ensemble” to Straight Outta Compton. Joel Edgerton won a “Hollywood Breakout Actor Award” for Black Mass even though he has been prominent for nearly 20 years. He will be competing at the Globes and Oscars for Supporting Actor so it’s good to be seen getting any award I guess. I was sitting at Del Toro’s table with his Sicario team and Lionsgate’s Patrick Wachsberger. Everyone seemed to be having fun and even though Del Toro’s Hollywood Supporting Actor award was the second one up, the actor stayed for the entire nearly three hour show and was having a good time. It used to be honorees would come in the front door , get their award and slip out the back . Now most seemed to stay. A nice touch of class in Del Toro’s acceptance was a shout out to two legends in the room, Fonda and De Niro. “They set the guidelines for how you should be in this profession,” he said.
In addition to Foxx’s supportive comments about Tarantino (who once got one of these awards for Foxx starrer Django Unchained even though he admitted he hadn’t even finished editing the movie yet) , Corden got off a timely line about the current controversy over equal pay for women in the business. “The Danish Girl is being honored tonight everybody, a fantastic film about a man’s harrowing transition into a woman. It’s so true to life that about halfway into shooting Eddie Redmayne had to take a pay cut,” he said to huge groans and laughs from the crowd about which he then commented, “it’s really great to see who’s making the decisions – and the women”.
Even though the value of these awards is questionable (to be kind) the evening did have several highlights , notably in the speeches from Fonda, Suffragette’s Actress winner Carey Mulligan, Will Smith (sitting in the center of the room and frequently acknowledged by participants on the stage) and De Niro, who also was mentioned by many during the evening. The reel that was shown for his Career Achievement Award was perhaps the best of its kind I have ever seen done for an actor.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the Hollywood Film Awards as it hits its 20th year. De Abreu , a nice guy who had the passion to keep this thing going says this year was his last HFA show. It will now be exclusively in the hands of Dick Clark Productions who will inevitably try to revive its TV potential (in fact last night’s show was produced as a wannabe TV special DCP will likely cut and try to sell somewhere after the fact). This is the kind of show which if it didn’t exist would probably be invented by the studios, but it is hard to imagine it without de Abreu, the guy who gave it whatever personality it has. And for DCP the perhaps insurmountable problem remains how do you interest a general audience in a show that is all about a lot of movies they not only haven’t seen , but that haven’t even been released. Still the turnout remains impressive but that is because it is largely a room FULL of winners. At evening’s end I caught a happy Inside Out director Pete Docter leaving with his Hollywood Animation trophy in one hand and a bottle of Tequila in the other. That’s the attitude, Pete! As Corden said of the HFAs , “What I am about to say should be said before any awards show, but especially tonight. If you’re here and you don’t win an award, you should fire your publicist.”