SANTA MONICA, Calif. – The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) has found a bit of a sweet spot for its annual Critics’ Choice Movie Awards by holding them on the very night of the Oscar nominations. This evening marked the second such occasion after necessity forced the organization’s hand last year and ended up working out for them, and spirits were certainly high amongst the many Oscar nominees in attendance this time around.
“The Wolf of Wall Street” star Leonardo DiCaprio, who kicked the evening off with a win for Best Actor in a Comedy (beating out Christian Bale in “American Hustle,” who was nominated in the DiCaprio-less general Best Actor – go figure that one out), was beaming after sliding through onto a very contentious lead actor Oscar slate. He said his first call this morning, however, was to co-star Jonah Hill, also Oscar-nominated for his work in the film. DiCaprio was clearly psyched that they could go to the Academy’s big March bash hand in hand.
Team “American Hustle,” meanwhile, was noticeably ecstatic after sharing a field-leading 10 nominations this morning with “Gravity.” Amy Adams’ acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Comedy reflected someone truly elated at having picked up her first lead actress Oscar nomination, and certainly not one that was guaranteed. Producer Megan Ellison made her way back and forth between the “Hustle” and “Her” tables, a three-time Best Picture nominee at 27 years old, relishing the moment.
“Nebraska” star Bruce Dern could be seen offering heartfelt gratitude to the hard-working awards consultants of Paramount Pictures, who helped usher him to his first-ever Best Actor nomination. Harvey Weinstein was pleased his company’s “Philomena” pushed through to a Best Picture nod (and delighted in knocking New York Post reporter Kyle Smith’s well-publicized bone-headed assessment of the film). Matthew McConaughey was jacked on the love, and delivered a great acceptance speech for the evening’s Best Actor prize. And team “12 Years a Slave,” despite maybe coming up a touch shy of the nominations mark many may have expected, went from happy to happier throughout the evening as first Lupita Nyong’o picked up the Best Supporting Actress prize (delivering an absolutely exceptional speech) and, ultimately, the film won Best Picture.
But there comes with an evening like this the danger of being all dressed up with seemingly nowhere to go after the show. Daniel Brühl put on a brave face. The “Saving Mr. Banks” table was easily the loudest and most raucous of the bunch. It’s a mixed bag, but what is in the air is the aroma of the morning’s news, and as such, the BFCA would do well to keep the show on this date going forward.
That having been said, there remains something unfortunate about the way certain awards are announced. I was incredibly hard on the organization last year for presenting certain honors – screenplays, animated feature – during commercial breaks, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors trying to get speeches out over the dull roar of a crowd not exactly content with staying seated as The CW pays some bills. Such criticism was taken to heart as early meetings with studios this year brought with them an apology from BFCA president Joey Berlin for things having played out that way.
But simply announcing award winners like the screenplay categories (in particular) and the crafts (which has been a tradition since they were instituted a few years back) remains in lesser taste. I imagine Spike Jonze was left wondering why he bothered to show up if he wasn’t going to take to the stage to accept his Best Original Screenplay honor, and I feel sorry for T Bone Burnett, who had no idea his category (Best Original Song) was going to be announced via commercial bumper until he heard the words “Let It Go.”
The problem is the recent addition of genre categories, and on one hand, you can understand the organization’s plight. Having fields like sci-fi/horror, comedy and action in addition to the typical main categories allow for, say, three of the year’s top tier Best Actress players – Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett – to accept prizes. It allows for a number of films to be recognized that have most likely been seen by the CW audience that is tuning into the show. But is that the identity to chase, a hybrid of People’s Choice and Golden Globes that doesn’t seem reconciled even within itself. (For instance, “Gravity” won Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie while Bullock won Best Actress in an Action movie and “Lone Survivor” won Best Action Movie in a category that didn’t even see “Gravity” nominated.) It reeks of stacking the deck and, therefore, comes across disingenuous. With all the knocks this crowd takes as it is, do they really want to provide one more angle for justified criticism?
It’s a problem I’m glad I don’t particularly have to solve, and really, maybe it’s not a problem at all. I personally cringe at knowing jabs from talent accepting awards (like Bullock’s jokes about her being an action star or DiCaprio’s refrain of somehow being a comedian). Not because they aren’t funny but because they’re part of an overall erosion. But maybe the ratings are fine and the show is glitzy enough that these become minor issues in some bigger picture. I don’t think the BFCA needs to aim for stuffy prestige but the right balance isn’t being struck. Not yet.
Nevertheless, it’s a well-positioned ceremony and at least in the room, seemed to be paced at a clip. Though hostess Aisha Tyler seemed to be bombing both in the room and on television (to go by Twitter reaction). I love her but she seemed ill at ease, to say the least. Whatever the case, it’s my seventh of these in the books and it’s been interesting to see it try to find itself. Trial and error. Trial and error.
Will “12 Years a Slave’s” win be duplicated at the Oscars? I wasn’t at all surprised that it won, given that it has dominated the regional critics landscape with over 20 Best Picture prizes. The BFCA has a pretty good track record of predicting the Oscars because, unlike the other critics organizations, it has a vast membership. And like the Academy, those sort of numbers start to find consensus. But the film showed some weaknesses in the nominations announcement this morning. If it wins the PGA, then I’m on board. But I’m still waiting and seeing.
Check out the full list of Critics’ Choice Movie Award winners here and feel free to offer up your thoughts on the show, if you managed to catch it.