Live from the beautiful Santa Monica Civic Auditorium last night was the 14th annual Critics Choice Awards! It aired on VH1. And excitement was in the air, my friends! It truly was a special night, and I have a full recap for you, including some fantastic photos. Straight from my Blackberry! The show this evening will be opened by none other than Jason Alexander! Now, for those of you who have never seen or heard of the Critics Choice Awards, it is the official kickoff to awards season. Nominees for the awards, which honor the finest films from the past year, were announced back in December. The winners are selected by the 200 film critics that make up the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Here is your complete list of categories that presented awards last night: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Acting Ensemble, Best Director, Best Writer, Best Animated Feature, Best Young Actor/Actress (Under 21), Best Action Movie, Best Comedy, Best Picture Made for Television, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Documentary Feature, Best Song, and Best Composer. I will break down each category, giving you the list of nominees, the winners, a recap of the winner’s acceptance speech, and of course plenty of personal commentary! So let’s not waste any more time! On to the evening!
I would not be giving you a complete recap of the evening if I did not start with the red carpet entrances. The atmosphere was electric as some of the biggest stars in Hollywood made their way down the red carpet. It was truly an exciting time! It would be easy for anyone to be overwhelmed by all the flashing lights, noise and commotion. But I had to shake that off, because being overwhelmed even for a second, would make you miss something special. There were so many big names there: Aaron Eckhart, Josh Brolin, Kate Beckinsale, Mickey Rourke, Clint Eastwood, Brendan Fraser, Marisa Tomei, Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie, and so many more! It was amazing, and I consider myself truly lucky to have been there.
Once everyone made their way into the beautiful Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the ceremonies began. One part of this job, working for a movie blogging web site, is that I get to critique movies and put my opinion out on the web for anyone to see. So I consider myself a critic, on a lesser level than the 200 members of the B.F.C.A, but still a critic. And the show opened with a wonderful homage to film critics everywhere. It was a video presentation compiled of numerous critics discussing their “job.” They touched on the things people most frequently would think about when thinking of film critics: How hard is the Job? How do you rate movies? Do you even consider this a real job? It was a unique personal insight into the minds of the people who tell us whether or not we should watch a movie. It even had it’s humorous moments. I found myself watching it and reassuring my belief that I really am a film critic. I could relate to many of the things they said. I found myself agreeing, shaking my head, laughing an “I’ve been there” laugh. It was a nice way to open the ceremony.
What followed was an opening set by Jason Alexander. If you don’t know who that is, shame on you, go watch some Seinfeld! He was charming and funny, as most good hosts are. His “bit” basically involved giving everyone a sample of how his mother “reviews” the latest films. It was good for a laugh or two, nothing special. He stopped to involve several celebrities in this bit, including Clint Eastwood, Kevin Bacon, Frank Langella, Mickey Rourke and Marissa Tomei. He ended this “bit” with Hollywood’s latest third world child adopting power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. This was the highlight of the routine, as Jason included Dakota Fanning in an adoption joke, as well as himself. It was a nice little way to help everyone in the room understand and appreciate the need for film critics. And with that, the show moved on to the first category!
Best Comedy – The presenters for Best Comedy were Josh Brolin and Kate Beckinsale. The nominees for the category included: Burn After Reading, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Role Models, Tropic Thunder, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The critics selected the winner, Tropic Thunder. Accepting the award was writer, producer, director and star Ben Stiller. What I found interesting during Stiller’s acceptance speech was a shot of Christopher Mintz-Plasse (whom you may know as McLovin) in the audience. He was in another comedy that was nominated, Role Models. And he did not look too pleased that his movie lost. Interesting.
Best Acting Ensemble – The presenters for the category were Corbin Bleu and Amanda Bynes. The nominees were: The Dark Knight, Doubt, Milk, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and Rachel Getting Married. This is a loaded category. So many good films, so many more good actors. If I had a vote, it would be so difficult to choose a winner. But I don’t have a vote, lucky me. The critics selected Milk. Accepting the award was Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch. But curiously enough, Sean Penn was nowhere to be found. Backstage, Brolin and Hirsch were asked directly where Penn was, but could provide nothing more than a joke for an answer. Later in the evening, the “mingle cam” caught Penn at his table.
Best Young Actor/Actress – The presenters were Eva Longoria Parker and Common. The nominees included: Dakota Fanning (The Secret Life of Bees), David Kross (The Reader), Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionare), Brandon Walters (Australia). And the critics chose Dev Patel. Accepting the award for Patel was his Slumdog costar Freida Pinto. This award was followed by a quick rundown of the nominees for Best Picture by Rosemary DeWitt. More on Best Picture later!
Best Writer – The presenters were Sally Hawkins and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. I found their introduction to be terrible. But then again, I guess I should expect a rapper turned actor to be bad at this early point of his “acting” career. Anyway, the nominees were: Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon), Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and John Patrick Shanley (Doubt). The critics choice was Simon Deaufoy. And Slumdog takes another one!
Best Action Film – The presenters were Jason Segel and Kristin Bell. Let me just say that Jason Segal is hilarious and deserves more big comedy roles. Anyway, the nominees were: Wanted, The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull, Quantum of Solace, and Iron Man. And the winner was: The Dark Knight. Accepting for TDK was Christopher Nolan, and Executive Producer Thomas Tull. It was nice to see Nolan win, and the room certainly was pleased with the choice, as it erupted in some of the loudest clapping and cheers so far.
Best Composer – The presenters were Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Katy Perry. Their introduction was very funny, and actually helped me to gain a lot more respect for Mr. McLovin. The kid was funny. The nominees: Alexandre Desplat (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Clint Eastwood (Changeling), Danny Elfman (Milk), Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight), and A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire). And the winner was A.R. Rahman.
Best Song – Mintz-Plasse and Katy Perry stayed on stage for this one. The nominees were: “Another way to die” (Quantum of Solace), “I thought I lost You” (Bolt), “Down to Earth” (Wall-E),“Jaiho” (Slumdog Millionaire), and “The Wrestler” (The Wrestler). And the winner was “The Wrestler” from the movie of the same name. The award was accepted by director Darren Aronofsky. The winning song was written and performed by rock and roll icon Bruce Springsteen.
Best Documentary Feature – The presenters were Marissa Tomei and Melissa Leo. The nominees were: I.O.U.S.A, Man on Wire, Wanted and Desired, Standard Operating Procedure, andYoung at Heart. The critics chose Man on Wire. Accepting was co-producer Maurine A. Ryan. The winning documentary was the story about the “daring yet illegal” wire walk between NYC World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974. The interesting side note here is that all of the documentaries nominated seemed like really interesting stories. Not enough time to go into them all, but if you enjoy documentaries, I suggest you take a look at the list of nominees, which you can find here.
Best Supporting Actor – The presenters were Laura Dern and Aaron Eckhart. Two fantastic actors who were in two of my favorite movies (The Dark Knight and Jurassic Park). Anyway, the nominees were: Josh Brolin (Milk), Robert Downey Jr (Tropic Thunder), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), James Franco (Milk), and Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight). And the winner was: Heath Ledger. No doubt in my mind who the winner would be. The presentation of this award, accepted by director Christopher Nolan, became one of the loudest and most emotional presentations of the evening. It was set in front of a large picture of the late Heath Ledger. It was an amazing moment, one that filled the room with emotion. One thing in particular that stuck with me, was the shot of costar Christian Bale during Nolan’s acceptance speech. You could see the sadness in his eyes. I am glad that Ledger is being recognized for his talent. The world is a sadder place without him.
Best Foreign Film – The presenters were Virginia Madsen and Chris Noth. Their intro referenced the porn section at a video store. It was a joke, but an unfunny one. The nominees were: A Christmas Tale, Gommora, I’ve Loved you so long, Let the right one in, Mongol, and Waltz with Bashir. And the winner was Waltz with Bashir. Accepting the award was director/writer Ari Folman. I’ve never seen or heard of the film, but it looked very good. And it received a nice ovation from the audience.
Best Supporting Actress – The presenters were Angela Basset and Kevin Bacon. And the nominees were: Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Vera Farmiga (Nothing but the Truth), Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Marissa Tomei (The Wrestler), and Kate Winslet (The Reader). And the winner was Kate Winslet. Kate couldn’t make the show, so the presenters accepted the award on her behalf. I will say this about this category: I have not yet seen any of these movies, but I want to. They all look interesting. And Kate Winslet is a fine choice, she is a very talented actress.
Best Animated Feature – The presenter was Amy Adams. And here are your nominees: Bolt, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Waltz with Bashir, and Wall-E. And the critics choice was Wall-E. Accepting was director writer Andrew Stanton. I have to say that I really disagree with the critics choice on this one. I have two small children, so I see a lot of animated movies. I’ve seen all of the films in this category except for Waltz with Bashir, which doesn’t exactly look like a kid movie. So I can call myself an expert on these films. And the one that I enjoyed the most, the same film that my kids enjoyed the most, was Kung Fu Panda. No contest here. This was an animated kids film that I didn’t hate sitting through. That’s an award winner in my book.
What followed was a special presentation of a special award. The Joel Segal award, given to actor’s and actresses’ who are being recognized for their charitable works outside of the world of movies. Someone who “understands that the true value of being a celebrity is an enhanced platform to do good works for others.” The presentation, read by Diane Lane, was a moving tribute to the acts of kindness of Mr Richard Gere and all of his hard work attempting to make the world a better place. The room erupted into loud cheers and applause. Gere’s acceptance speech was real, it was powerful. You felt that this man really feels the way he is saying he does, that he truly wants to make the world a better place. Plus, there was some Bush-bashing. All in all, it was a moving and heart felt speech.
Best Picture made for Television – The presenter was Sarah Silverman, of “I’m F*ing Matt Damon” fame. I hear that a lot of people think she is funny. I am not one of those people. The nominees were: Recount, Coco Channel, andJohn Adams. The critics selected John Adams. Accepting the award was director Tom Hooper.
Best Actress – The presenter was previous award winner Ben Stiller. His brief intro was funny, I’ve always been a fan of him (even though I’m not always a fan of his movies!). The nominees were: Kate Beckinsale (Nothing but the Truth), Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Anne Hathaway (Rachel getting Married), Meryl Streep (Doubt), Melissa Leo (Frozen River), and Angelina Jolie (Changeling). The critics choice for best actress was, shockingly, a tie! Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep, accepted by Anne Hathaway and Streep’s costar Viola Davis. This shocked me. Not that it was a tie, but that it was a tie between Meryl Streep (great actress) and Anne Hathaway (?). Perhaps someone could tell me if she is worthy of this. I have never seen her “winning” performance, so I don’t know, but Meryl Streep is a fantastic actress. I’m surprised name value alone didn’t put her in sole possession of “first place.” But, to her credit, Hathaway was very humble. So even though I never saw the performance, her acceptance leads me to believe that she is a truly deserving person, even if the performance doesn’t warrant it.
Best Director – The presenters were Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Banks. It was an interesting introduction, providing a brief glimpse into the background of the nominated directors. They were not announced with a formal video presentation. The nominees were: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), David Fincher(The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), and Gus Van Sant (Milk). And the winner was Danny Boyle. Personally, I thought Nolan deserved a nod here. But I don’t get a vote.
Best Actor – The presenter was Kristen Scott Thomas. This category is full of Hollywood heavyweights. The nominees include: Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Richard Jenkins (The Visitor), Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler), Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Sean Penn (Milk), and Clint Eastwood (Gran Tourino). All of these men would make fine choices. The critics selected Sean Penn. He finally made it on stage to accept an award. The crowd seemed very pleased. I have no qualms with that decision. Penn continues to amaze me with yet another strong performance in a line of strong performances over the last several years. He was truly deserving.
With Best Actor out of the way, there is only one category left. The nominees are made up of the top ten films of the year as chosen by the members of the B.F.C.A. Without further ado, the “biggie.”
Best Picture – The presenter was two time Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman. The nominees included: Slumdog Millionaire, Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Doubt, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Wall-E, The Reader, and The Wrestler. If you watched the broadcast you may have noticed that VH1 put up a little graphic showing the results of an online poll which asked the fans which film should win. Apparently, 56% of the fans chose The Dark Knight. And that should come as no surprise to anyone, given how much money the film made. Don’t forget about all the buzz that was created about the film too. But we are not watching the People’s Choice Awards! We want to know what the critics thought! So, can we get a drum roll please… And the winner of the Critics Choice Award for Best Picture of 2008 goes to… are you ready for it?… Slumdog Millionaire. Well, given the rest of the nights results, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Slumdog won. Best Picture was the fifth award for the film of the evening. It was clearly the big winner of the night. All of the awards that were given to this film have only further encouraged me to see it.
So the awards have been shelled out, the champagne is gone, and the ceremony is over. What are my final thoughts? Well, the big winner was Slumdog Millionaire. The film won 5 times and was nominated 6 times. The only loss was in the Best Song category. It was an impressive showing. Conversely, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the big loser of the evening. The film was nominated a shocking eight times, coming away with zero wins! I guess maybe the power of Brangelina is waning… That can only be considered a good thing. Milk also received eight nominations, yet that film at least won twice. I was glad to see Heath Ledger win as Best Supporting Actor. The ceremony as a whole was very entertaining. Overall, it was an amazing evening. I consider myself luck to have been there. Hopefully you all got to see and enjoy the ceremony as well. What are your thoughts? Don’t forget to let us know your choices, especially if you disagree with the critics!