What a week! Thursday morning started early at the Academy with the Oscar nominations and ended late with the Critics Choice Awards, held at a chilly hangar at the Santa Monica Airport. Some 250 broadcast and online pros vote for these awards, and they often match up with the Oscars. With a changed calendar this year, this first broadcast awards show of the Oscar season--days ahead of the Golden Globes--went live on the CW the afternoon of the Oscar nominations, so that was the hot topic of the night. (Full winner's list below.)
People debated the reasons why directors Kathryn Bigelow, Ben Affleck and Tom Hooper were left out by the Academy directors' branch, as well as why "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Amour" did so surprisingly well. (Sexism, director still earning his stripes, and varying reactions to "Les Mis" were contributing factors, along with the glaring math of having nine best pictures and five best directors.)
Most insiders agree that three films are now in contention for best picture: Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," Ang Lee's "Life of Pi," and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook." All three won prizes at the Critics Choice Awards. It was fun to watch grinning "Beasts" director Benh Zeitlin, who was sitting near my "Life of Pi" table, going over to meet Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis. (And no, Ang Lee has not yet read Eric Roth's script for "Cleopatra. It isn't finished.)
The surprise of the night was "Argo" winning the 2013 Critics Choice Awards, for both director and best film --producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov joined onstage the Oscar-snubbed Ben Affleck, who quipped, "I want to thank the Academy..."
The Critics' Choice and Golden Globes offer Oscar contenders a chance to practice their acceptance speeches. After getting a standing ovation, Best Actor winner Daniel Day-Lewis was witty and charming, calling Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner "fearless Sherpas," and said that making "Lincoln" was "one of the greatest unforeseen privileges of my life."
Oddly, Jennifer Lawrence was competing in three categories, for not only best actress but actress in a comedy and action film. She charmingly accepted awards in the latter two categories for "Silver Linings" and "Hunger Games," respectively. "I love critics," she said. "I am the happiest I've ever been in my life."
"Silver Linings Playbook" got another boost for its Oscar campaign by winning best acting ensemble and best actor in a comedy for Bradley Cooper, who thanked David O. Russell for "a real script. He got all of us to be real." The film also won Best Comedy; Russell clarified, "it's' a comedy and a drama," and thanked his son, who inspired him in making the film.
Jessica Chastain, winning her first award, she said, took home best actress for "Zero Dark Thirty." "It was a great honor to play a woman defined by herself and not her male counterpart," she said. Both Lawrence and Chastain are expected to win in the separate comedy and drama categories at the Globes.
Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis had a very good day with a best actress Oscar nomination and a win as best young performer at the Critic's Choice Awards, where she read her acceptance speech off a pink smart phone, and later danced joyfully at the after party.