The Critic’s Choice Awards at Century City’s Fairmont Hotel were a noisy affair as everyone with a stake in the outcomes roared for their favorites. The A24 gang at the front to the side of the stage erupted loudly when Ke Huy Quan won yet again (as “Elvis” star Austin Butler and many others stood and applauded) for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and then again and again as it went on to win a total five awards including Best Director, Original Screenplay, and Picture for directing duo Daniels.
It was the A24 table all over again when Brendan Fraser wept to another standing ovation as he accepted his award for his moving performance in “The Whale.” At night’s end, as the room cheered them on, Daniels thanked A24, “the most supportive studio of all time.” These winners have strong momentum going into the SAG Awards, BAFTAs, Indie Spirits, and the final destination, the Oscars on March 12.
Not getting that boost: Steven Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans” (which won Best Young Actor for Gabriel LaBelle) and Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin,” which will likely do better at the BAFTAs.
At my table, “Titanic” star Suzy Amis was rooting for her husband of 23 years, Jim Cameron. His Best Picture contender “Avatar: The Way of Water” cost $350 million, per the night’s ace host Chelsea Handler, while rival Sarah Polley “had to film ‘Women Talking’ in a barn.”
Each movie settled for one award, for VFX and Adapted Screenplay, respectively, although you’d have to watch the screen like a hawk to see those announcements flash by. The three-hour CCA Awards sped along, but the organization of more than 600 national media (including me) honored both television and film, so not all the awards were presented live.
India’s S.S. Rajamouli had a good night, as “RRR” won Best Foreign Film and Song (“Naatu Naatu”) — a category awarded on the red carpet ahead of the show. At evening’s end, Cameron went over to tell Rajamouli how much he admired “RRR” (which Rajamouli posted on Twitter, natch).
Actor Stephen Lang, at “The Way of Water” table along with dazzled young breakouts Trinity Jo-Li Bliss and Jack Bright and producer Jon Landau, had fun parsing the winners’ speeches (“You got to rehearse!” “Time to stop!”). Getting points from Lang were Fraser (“get to your feet and go to the light, good things will happen”) and supporting players Sheryl Lee Ralph (“Abbott Elementary”), Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), and Jennifer Coolidge (“White Lotus”), who nabbed the room’s warmest reception by far. “It’s not over ’til it’s over,” she told the room. “It’s not over ’til you’re dead.”
The energy in the room was palpable. “We are here to have fun and keep the vibe high,” instructed Handler at the start. The stars turned out for the CCAs, more than the tepid Globes, from a beaming Julia Roberts and tributees Janelle Monae and Jeff Bridges to presenters Miles Teller and Anya Taylor-Joy and winner Cate Blanchett, who gave stealth Oscar candidate Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”) a mention as she won Best Actress for “TAR,” which also won Best Score for Hildur Guðnadóttir (it’s not eligible for the Oscar).
“I dream of doing a ‘Chucky’ with each and every one of you,” cracked presenter Aubrey Plaza.
COVID made no-shows of Michelle Pfeiffer and Globes attendees Jamie Lee Curtis, Colin Farrell, and Brendan Gleeson, none of whom won. (“Did they know in advance?” cracked Lang.)
Cameron held court with well-wishers during the commercial breaks, who included winners Ruth Carter (Costumes, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), Giancarlo Esposito (Supporting Actor, “Better Call Saul”), Rian Johnson (Comedy and Ensemble, “Glass Onion: a ‘Knives Out’ Mystery”), and his old pal of 33 years, Guillermo del Toro, who gave him a shout-out when he won yet again for Best Animated Feature for “Pinocchio” (he will repeat on Oscar night). Cameron was visibly moved. “With ‘Pan’s Labyrinth,’ I took a new story and tried to make it eternal,” said del Toro. “With ‘Pinocchio’ I took an eternal story and tried to make it new again.”
The show played well in the room; on air, it was hosted by low-rated the CW. As presenter Seth Rogen pointed out: “I’m not saying the CW is bad. What I will say, it is the one network to receive zero Critics Choice nominations — you are saying it’s bad. We’re on your least favorite network. How did that happen? Nominate yourselves next time, you’d have won. No one will think it’s weird, they’ll think it’s fine.”
Will the awards show, which historically boasts meager ratings, ever catch up with the better-branded but rickety Golden Globes? Last year, the CCAs nabbed a Sunday-night slot in January when the Globes were down for the count. This year the show hung onto the spot while the Globes had to settle for a Tuesday night and miserably low ratings.
The fate of the Globes on NBC is to be determined; the SAG Awards transition over time to Netflix. But for the CCA Awards at least, there’s nowhere to go but up.