11:43pm PT by Scott Feinberg
People Magazine Awards: 'Cake' Star Jennifer Aniston Wins First Film-Acting Prize of Career
Sure, the inaugural People Magazine Awards, which took place on Thursday evening at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and was televised nationally on NBC, was a blatant "pseudoevent," in the sense that it only existed as an excuse to generate attention for those associated with it: People, the 40-year-old weekly fan magazine; Entertainment Weekly, its sister publication; and whatever celebrities they could get to show up and accept prizes and/or perform in person.
(As was the case with November's Hollywood Film Awards — also put together by Dick Clark Productions, which shares a parent company with THR — there weren't nominees for the various awards, but rather just predetermined winners, and the process by which they were selected kept deliberately vague.)
But, even so, for those who were chosen and did show up and happen to also be in the hunt for Oscar nominations, the evening offered a nice opportunity to get a little free publicity before the town shuts down for the holidays — in the midst of which nomination voting will begin, on Dec. 29.
The most prominent Oscar hopeful in the room was fan favorite Jennifer Aniston, the former Friendsstar-turned-serious dramatic actress, whose performance as a woman suffering from chronic pain in the indie Cake — for which she has already been recognized with best actress SAG, Golden Globe and Critics' Choice noms — was celebrated with the Movie Performance of the Year Award (Actress).
After accepting the prize from her friend, the actor John Krasinski, to a standing ovation, Aniston, who had never previously won anything for her acting in a film, addressed the crowd. She opened by quoting the kid in the YouTube video "David After the Dentist": "Is this real life?!" Then, she continued more seriously, "I have really now experienced what a labor of love truly means. This movie was nothing short of that, and being a part of it was just extraordinary." She further credited Cake's director, Daniel Barnz, "for taking a chance, for trusting me when not all people would, and going the sort of unusual, unexpected route."
The evening also featured a rousing performance by two other Oscar hopefuls, best original song contenders Gwen Stefani (who also collected the Style Icon of the Year Award) and Pharrell Williams. The duo are actively promoting the song "Shine" from the movie Paddington, but performed Stefani's new single "Spark the Fire," which Williams produced and also features.