Donald Glover wagged his tongue at Charlize Theron, George Clooney talked Naugahyde leisure suits, Patton Oswalt drank scotch, and a pair of Muppets chimed in via satellite as "The Help" and "The Artist" cleaned up at the 2012 Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
Funnymen hosts Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer jokingly called it "the ninth most exciting night in Hollywood," but while it may not be as prestigious as the Academy Awards, the Critics' Choice Awards are traditionally the strongest indicator of who will get Oscars. All four winners from the major acting categories last year — Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo — later won Oscars.
"The Artist" won Best Picture and earned Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius, who noted, "There are so many beautiful people here, I have to force myself not to ask [for] autographs." And he wasn't kidding. The beautiful people on-hand included Clooney, Theron, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst, Michelle Williams and countless more stars from the screen and behind-the-scenes.
Broadcast live on VH1 from the Hollywood Palladium, the Critics' Choice Awards included three wins for "The Help": Best Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Acting Ensemble. Clooney won Best Actor for his role in "The Descendants." The awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, made up of more than 250 television, radio and Web critics.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison, widow of late Beatles guitarist George Harrison, presented the Music + Film Award to DiCaprio's longtime collaborator, filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Bob Dylan, whom Scorsese called "the great one," performed. Fitz and the Tantrums were present throughout the night, playing as the house band in and out of commercial breaks. Sean Penn accepted the Joel Siegel Award live via satellite from Haiti, where he's been continuously busy with the type of humanitarian work for which he was being honored.
The show kicked off with a sketch featuring Huebel and Scheer as "inanimate object actors," as folks like Jon Favreau, Michael Bay and Ray Liotta satirically praised their green-screen work as lamps, guns and spare tires in movies like "Transformers" and "Horrible Bosses." The bit included a cameo from Martin Starr, who astute observers/ comedy fans love from "Party Down" and "Freaks and Geeks."
The hosting pair emerged onstage looking like the "Men in Black" with matching suits and launched into a monologue and faux Q&A that took lighthearted shots at the show itself ("there are no technical awards, because they are boring"), Vin Diesel and Adam Sandler. "Since this show started," Scheer said, "seven more movies with Ryan Gosling have been released."
Dunst and Owen Wilson offered a toast to film critics ("Your words influence millions of movie lovers everywhere," Dunst said) before presenting the first televised award of the night. Octavia Spencer was visibly moved as she accepted Best Supporting Actress. "Well, I'm not prepared. I wasn't a Girl Scout," she said. "Oh my God, this is kind of crazy. Whoo!"
Wilson and Dunst returned ("Do you think the critics bought our toast a minute ago?" Wilson said dryly) to hand Best Supporting Actor to Christopher Plummer for his role as a gay man who comes out late in life in "Beginners." "I'm completely turned on," the 82-year-old screen legend said. "I feel terribly young tonight suddenly, and at my age, I need all the help I can get in that department. Thank you!"
Next came a word from the "BFCA presidents" — Statler and Waldorf from "The Muppets"! The curmudgeonly duo from the Muppet Theater balcony said the show thus far "has more of a plot than 'Tree of Life' " and "three times the laughs of 'Contagion' and 'The Descendants' put together!"
During her first acceptance speech, Spencer had said, "I guess the operative word here is 'Best Supporting,' because I was truly supported by the most amazing cast and crew." And not long after, she was elected by her castmates to speak as they accepted the Best Acting Ensemble Award together, which was presented by "Bridesmaids" costar Maya Rudolph and newcomer Elizabeth Olsen.
Director Gore Verbsinski accepted the Best Animated Feature award for "Rango." "Having never made an animated movie before — it is so incredibly difficult," he acknowledged. "My respect and admiration for my fellow nominees this evening is tremendous."
Patton Oswalt, whose role in "Young Adult" had put him up against Plummer in the Best Supporting Actor category, swigged from a small bottle of scotch when he took the stage to introduce Best Comedy. He implored the audience not to feel sorry for him, however. "There are plenty of nuanced roles for schlubby actors out there. And the ones that [Paul] Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman don't take are all mine!" Producer Judd Apatow dropped two F-bombs as he spoke on behalf of the team behind Best Comedy "Bridesmaids."
"Jerry Lewis once said that he didn't think women were funny," he pointed out. "So I would just like to say, with all respect: F--- him!"
The next section of the show saw Best Foreign Film awarded to the Iranian movie "A Separation" and a sketch parodying Steven Spielberg's "War Horse," complete with an "interview" with the horse from the movie and a scene featuring Michael Cera. Later in the night, the hosts saluted "fictional characters we lost in movies," including (spoiler alert!) "this girl" and "some ninjas" in movies like "13 Assassins," "Shark Night," "Fast Five" and "Scream 4" as a montage that played to the sounds of Boyz II Men's "Say Goodbye to Yesterday."
Paul Rudd presented the award for Best Young Actor/Actress to Thomas Horn from "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." "Thank you film critics," the former "Jeopardy Kids" champion gushed, "This is amazing!" Former child actor DiCaprio gave a long introduction to his friend and collaborator Scorsese before a series of clips from the filmmaker's classic movies played. DiCaprio was joined by Harrison, and then Marty took the stage himself, shouting out the Hot Club of France, whom he listened to growing up in New York City in the '40s.
NBC sitcom stars Donald Glover ("Community") and Mindy Kaling ("The Office") gave out both of the screenplay awards. Kaling professed her adoration of versatile actor Michael Fassbender ("This is why I came here tonight, to meet him") and Glover acted out what making out with Charlize Theron might look like. Best Adapted Screenplay went to "Moneyball." Best Original Screenplay went to Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris." "We accept this award on his behalf," Kaling said of the absent Allen. "That's awesome!"
Muppet revivalist Jason Segel called all the guys in the Best Director category "my future directors" and told all of them, "I was really honored to learn that I'll be making films with all of you this year" before he handed out the award to Hazanavicius for "The Artist."
"It feels like 'The Help' table is having more fun than us. Here's a fun transition," began Clooney, as he began to talk about continuing earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. "Very few have committed themselves as completely to the people of Haiti as Sean Penn. And he didn't just dip his toe into the humanitarian pool, he dove in. ... Sean isn't here tonight because he's in Haiti, but we have him live by satellite."
Penn thanked "the example" of Joel Siegel and of Clooney. "I was reminded that great filmmaking is truly a humanitarian act," said Penn, referencing the earlier Scorsese montage. "The people of Haiti embrace the work that the committed among you do."
Penn's ex-wife Robin Wright called 2011 "definitely the year of the woman" as she introduced the Best Actress category. "Everything beautiful and complicated about us was onscreen this year," she said. Davis said she was "absolutely so humbled" by her win.
Clooney hugged one of his competitors, buddy Brad Pitt, on the way up to accept his award from Dustin Hoffman, before sharing a story with the crowd about the time his father reminded him of his grandfather's work as a sharecropper, which included a mention of the Naugahyde leisure suit his mother made for him in the sixth grade. "If you're not proud of what you're doing, then do it better," Clooney said his father told him. "I have to say that I am very proud to be in this film."
After "The Artist" won best picture, Heubel and Scheer said their goodbyes. With a wide grin, Scheer advised: "Now let's all get on Twitter and see who's ripping us apart!"