Across town, as President Barack Obama was drawing every celebrity not in contention for awards this season, the 15th annual Hollywood Awards Gala was taking place at the Beverly Hilton. All of the Oscar hopefuls who agreed to show up to accept an award were there in their Monday finest as this was a place to be seen if you want an ego boost at this early point in the season.
With 19 above- and below-the-line categories to plow through, this was a surprisingly fun show that, if it didn’t already exist, Hollywood would have to find some way to invent. Billed as the “official” kickoff to awards season (if you don’t count all those film festivals we’ve just been through), The Hollywood Awards were created — and basically chosen — by executive director Carlos de Abreu, who, with Janice Pennington, founded the gala and accompanying film festival. They are the result of a months-long negotiation between him and the studios and distributors, who are using this early opportunity to get key positioning for the players they hope to advance during the long awards season leading ultimately to Oscar. The only caveat is that to get the award, you have to agree to show up.
This year, de Abreu has his pulse on some real contenders and handed out acting awards to — among many others — Michelle Williams, George Clooney and Christopher Plummer, who all could realistically be considered close to frontrunners in their respective categories.
A real highlight of the show was when Marilyn Monroe’s Oscar-nominated Bus Stop co-star Don Murray showed up to present Hollywood Actress of the Year to Williams, who plays the iconic star in The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn. “I’m the last of the the on-screen lovers of Marilyn Monroe, and I still just happen to have a body that actually works, ” the 82-year-old actor said to much laughter. “Michelle re-created moments I was so intimately familiar with as I spent 14 months working with Marilyn. There’s not one thing in this film that’s not truthful. It was a revelation. Michelle’s performance made me appreciate Marilyn Monroe so much more.”
Williams, noticeably nervous, said her friends always wanted to see her win a award so she could basically sweat through the experience. She did well though, closing with a touching perception about Monroe. “It seems to me that all Marilyn Monroe wanted was to be taken seriously as an actress, and she studied so hard and never really got there,” she said, adding that it was ironic Williams herself could get this kind of recognition that so eluded the star she played.