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Decoding the Critics' Choice Awards: 7 Moments and What They Mean

Jesse Eisenberg
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Beneath bright smiles and perky words, stars at the Critics' Choice Awards revealed more than they actually said. Here are seven charged moments and what they could really mean.

Accepting his inevitable best actor trophy, Colin Firth said that after what he termed "this moment of love," "Tomorrow is going to be open season again, and as we all enter the fray again, I'll wear this award around my neck to remind me that it happened."

But awards shows are also moments of seething envy, no refuge from the Oscar campaign fray. The Social Network's quadruple Critics' Choice victories crushed The King's Speech and dampened its best picture odds while improving Firth's likely lock on the best actor Oscar. Even moments of love were suspect: when Christian Bale left the press tent stage as Firth was entering and companionably patted Firth's shoulder seven times, it was nice, and also part of his image-repair, as were his castmembers' many testaments to how easy he was to work with. Every moment of the race is open season on the age of reason.

"The out front part of it is the same bedlam as any awards show," Robert Duvall told me on the red carpet, where Quentin Tarantino (who says he's "just finished my first Western, sort of a spaghetti Western" and a scholarly essay on Douglas Sirk) waved at beauties shrieking his name and Tilda Swinton's rep held her arm so she didn't trip over the bumpy carpet while speed-walking to get to the Hollywood Palladium entrance before the show went live, answering on my questions on the fly:

"Tarantino says I Am Love was inspired by Douglas Sirk, only with all the overwhelming emotion packed into the end --it devastated him," I said.

"Yeah, we kind of started off with the premise that we wanted to end with tragedy but we wanted to go through melodrama, so Douglas Sirk was definitely an influence. And Hitchcock!" she said over her shoulder.

Here are six other significant moments of the night:

1. Andrew Garfield arrived late, after Arnold Schwarzenegger began the intro, so they made him stand, fuming, with a dozen others cooling their heels outside because parting the curtains would let in light and mess up the broadcast. With one firm whisper, the newly-minted A-lister got escorted to a side entrance. What it Means: Is he tough? Listen, bub, he's got radioactive blood.

2. Nicole Kidman said she was more focused on the film she's making now than on the race. "Rabbit Hole's my baby right now, so it feels like the baby's getting attention." What it Might Mean: She's detached from the fray that so concerns others. It would be beneath an Oscar winner to fret about a Critics' Choice award, or the fact that while she may get Oscar nom'd again, she's unlikely to win. Only art is on her radar, darling, not shabby career concerns. But...isn't her metaphor unfortunate, since the film's about a dead child?

3. I asked Helena Bonham Carter, who did her Oscar-possible supporting role as Firth's husband in moments stolen from her main movie, Alice in Wonderland, "Have you ever done anything this good this fast?" She said, "Have I ever done anything this fast? I mean, yeah, look, I've done films in 13 days...fast is good. Fast is good. It's easier to act when you've got no time." What it Might Mean: Of course she should get an Oscar for weekend work! How many days was Mark Ruffalo on The Kids Are All Right? Like six? It's all about The King's Speech, since Alice's is one rabbit hole no Oscar voter will ever take a tumble for.

4. Aaron Sorkin said on camera that the girl who tells Zuckerberg he'll always be an asshole in the film was wrong about the real Zuckerberg. “Rooney Mara’s character was wrong. [Zuckerberg] grew up to be a leader and altruist to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.” Backstage, Sorkin said when you're writing a biopic, "You're not gonna play fast and loose with real people's lives." What it Means: He's doing damage control for news reports indicating that, despite using more fact-based material than most biopics, he did play fast and loose with crucial facts about Zuckerberg's character and personal life. Which is why his script is nonpareil, guaranteed an Oscar nom, and probably the winner.

5. Jesse Eisenberg said in the backstage press room he was glad Social Network was "not only [liked] by people who like movies, but something that's culturally substantial." What it Means: He's saying The King's Speech is insubstantial fluff, irrelevant retro piffle, and that's why we've blown it away in every critics' poll or contest on the planet. It could happen on Oscar night. Though pundit David Poland has yet to hear an Academy member say they loved The Social Network. And an Oscar vote is always a "moment of love."

6. Everybody's headline touted Network's win, but the actual top-scoring winner was Inception. Best action movie, cinematography, art direction, editing (which is so much more important than people give it credit for -- moviemaking is montage, people!), visual effects, and sound. And Christopher Nolan is the only director nom'd for DGA, WGA, and PGA awards. What it May Mean: Maybe we Gurus o'Gold poll pundits were right to raise Inception from #7 to #5 in the latest poll, and idiots to lower Nolan from #3 to #4 for best director.

7. Melissa Leo and Amy Adams were conspicuously huggy in the backstage press room, giggling and taking questions with arms around each other, reminding me of H.L. Mencken's quip, "When women kiss it always reminds one of prize-fighters shaking hands." What it May Mean: They are actually rivals in mortal combat for supporting actress, and tonight was Melissa's moment, ominously not Amy's. It was also a good night for Best Young Actor/Actress winner Hailee Steinfeld, Amy's and Melissa's supporting Oscar rival. BFCA is a good Oscar predictor. Though Christian Bale came to their table to wish Amy Adams good luck before the prize was announced -- awkwardly right in front of Melissa -- when Melissa won, everybody was suddenly kissing her, not Amy. Except for David O. Russell, who pointedly kissed Amy. Melissa's speech boldly revealed she's turned 50, and noted that her career only took off after 40. She's the Josh Brolin of women, and it's a lot harder for actresses to bloom late. The Oscar is hers to lose at this point. And she reminds me of another Mencken quote: "No man ever becomes as wise as a woman of 48."

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