Hollywood Film Awards: A Parade of Stars Vying for Oscar (Analysis)

Sandra Bullock Hollywood Film Awards H 2013
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The 17th Hollywood Film Awards, the first awards show of the 2013 film awards season, took place on Monday night at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. (Full disclosure: Dick Clark Productions, which shares the same parent company as THR, has an undisclosed investment in the event.)

The recipients of the Hollywood Film Awards are determined by founder and executive director Carlos de Abreu and an advisory committee. Thanks to the disclosure of this year's recipients in the weeks leading up to the gala ceremony, every big-name honoree showed up -- among them Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Jake Gyllenhaal, Julia Roberts and Harrison Ford -- and many came with famous friends -- such as Robert Downey Jr., Jane Fonda and Sean Penn -- to present them with their awards. And some arguably advanced their case for even bigger awards to come by making the most of their moment on the red carpet and at the podium in front of a huge industry crowd.

Here is a recap of some of the night's most memorable moments.

PHOTOS: THR's Awards Season Kickoff Party 

  • The first award of the night, the Hollywood Breakout Director Award, was presented to 12 Years a Slave helmer Steve McQueen -- by none other than rapper Kanye West, who said that he flew in for the event from San Francisco on his girlfriend Kim Kardashian's 33rd birthday because he felt it was so important to honor McQueen's achievement. "I've always admired Steve's work," West said, noting that he has attended exhibits of his video art and enjoyed his past films (Hunger and Shame), but was particularly impressed by 12 Years: "It was extremely moving."  (According to reports, West immediately flew back to San Francisco and made up his brief absence to Kardashian by proposing to her.) McQueen, for his part, chuckled, "I've arrived!" before adding, more seriously, that he made 12 Years with the goal of helping to reach a "reconciliation with the past in order get to a brighter future."
  • Hollywood Actor Award recipient McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), who received his statuette from costar Jennifer Garner, had the audience wrapped around his fingers with a folksy acceptance speech. He acknowledged the many other people in the room with whom he has worked over the past 20 years; emphasized how his decision to "recalibrate" his career and recommit to acting a few years ago -- which led to his appearances over the past two years in the films Magic Mike, Killer Joe, Mud, the forthcoming The Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club -- has been such a personally (if not financially) rewarding experience for him; and teased his film's plot and release date in an organic way. In short, he nailed his talking points, won over the room and looked like a plausible winner up on the stage.
  • Coldplay's Chris Martin, en route to accepting the Hollywood Song Award from singer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds on behalf of his band for their song "Atlas" on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire's soundtrack, joked that the film is based on a true story before giving a solo performance of the song -- the first he has ever done publicly -- to a considerable ovation.
  • August: Osage County's Roberts took the stage barefoot, after a playful introduction by friend Penn and a clip of a raucous scene from the film, to accept the Hollywood Supporting Actress Award and joked, "Well, Jesus, how the fuck do I say anything after that?" She then admitted that she had initially been "scared" to take on the part -- "because I'm that paradox of a person who wants to be Lucille Ball but also wants to be invisible" -- but was grateful that she did because it offered her the chance to realize her "personal dream" of working with Meryl Streep. Streep was not present at the ceremony, but most of the rest of the film's cast were on hand to collect the Hollywood Ensemble Award later in the show from Roberts' Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall, who remarked, "I'm not sure if anyone has ever seen such an all-star cast." (Two of the film's supporting actor and supporting actress Oscar hopefuls, Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale, respectively, spoke on behalf of the others.)
  • Hollywood Breakout Performance Award winner Jared Leto, who dropped 40 pounds for the part of a transsexual in Dallas Buyers Club for which he was being honored, was back in fighting shape to collect his award from pal Downey, who complimented him for bringing to his performance "humanity and will." Leto, noting that he's been acting for years, said he was very grateful for the honor because "I've actually never received an award for anything I've ever done onscreen," and added, "To get a Breakout Award at the ripe young age of 41 is pretty incredible."
  • 12 Years a Slave newcomer/scene-stealer Lupita Nyong'o received a great build-up from fellow actress Angela Bassett -- who called Nyong'o's portrayal of a particularly put-upon slave "a breakthrough performance that you will not soon forget" -- before taking the stage, in a bright yellow dress, to collect the New Hollywood Award. She then had the audience enraptured as she tearfully thanked her mother, her collaborators on the film and the director: "Steve, I will never forget this opportunity you gave to me. … I am so proud to be a part of 12 Years a Slave." It was one of the best-received speeches of the night and only further solidified her standing as a top contender for the best supporting actress Oscar.
  • Oscar winner Octavia Spencer sang the praises of Hollywood Actress Award recipient Sandra Bullock (Gravity), who befriended her on the set of the 1996 film A Time to Kill, in which Bullock starred with McConaughey and on which Spencer and Tate Taylor, the man who would later director Spencer to an Oscar win for The Help, were working as production assistants. Bullock then took the stage, wiped away a tear and then brought the house down with her acceptance speech. Improvising off of a remark that McConaughey had made in his own speech about his wife's advice that he "sac up" and do his best at things, Bullock thanked the Hollywood community for all of its support over the years. "It's allowed me to grab my sac, and pull my sac up high and walk forward with that sac." She expressed gratitude for continued great opportunities, noting, "The Hollywood I know has allowed me to keep trying and not send me out to pasture. I don't want to go to pasture -- it's cold, and I'm allergic to grass and the cows are mean!"
  • Fonda and Forest Whitaker, two of the stars of Lee Daniels' The Butler, were introduced to hearty applause and then presented Lee Daniels with the Hollywood Director Award. Daniels noted the irony of his award featuring the word Hollywood in its title because his film was made without the interest or support of virtually any Hollywood studio, noting that it was the late Laura Ziskin who is most responsible for making it happen: "On her deathbed we were rewriting the script. Literally." He also thanked his mother, whom he said he used to tease when he was a kid for having false teeth. One day, on an election day when he was in his 20s, she asked him if he had voted, and when he said that he had not because he had to study for exams she responded with outrage: "Boy, I got my teeth knocked out so you could vote." He said, "This movie is dedicated to her."
  • 42 writer-director Brian Helgeland presented the Hollywood Career Award -- the last award of the night -- to that film's supporting actor Oscar hopeful Ford, who is unrecognizable as the late Dodgers owner Branch Rickey in the film. Ford took the stage to the night's sole standing ovation from the audience, which included Dodgers legend Don Newcombe and present-day star Yasiel Puig. Ford, the star of many of the most critically and commercially successful films of the last 40 years, spoke in a soft voice as he thanked Hollywood and the many people who have supported him over the years for giving him "a useful purpose to make of my confusion, my interest, my wonder, and my passion." He said, "It's given me opportunities I never would have imagined for myself," before emphasizing, "There's a lot that I still want to do."
  • Viola Davis presented her Prisoners co-star Jake Gyllenhaal with the Hollywood Supporting Actor Award for his portrayal of the lead detective in a mysterious kidnapping case in the hit film. Gyllenhaal remarked, "I wanted to do the movie because it's so balls to the wall … it's not a storybook version."
  • Jack Black presented the Hollywood Screenwriter Award to his School of Rock and Bernie collaborator Richard Linklater and Linklater's Before Midnight co-writers and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. After noting that Midnight -- the third installment in the Before series, after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset -- is the best-reviewed film of the year, so far, Black cracked, "I'm not a f---ing award-winning writer, I'm just a dude who wants to be in the next installment, Before the Eclipse." As the honorees stumbled over each other's words at the podium, Linklater joked that this is why "People think that the movies are very improvised. They're actually entirely scripted." Hawke then got big laughs by joking that the film's success was owed less to the script than the actors, who he wished to thank.
  • The Book Thief's supporting actor Geoffrey Rush presented the Hollywood Spotlight Award, which recognizes up-and-coming talent, to three people: Fruitvale Station's Michael B. Jordan, who noted of his film, "It's so timely right now"; Lee Daniels' The Butler's David Oyelowo, who, in a Nigerian accent, imitated his father's long-ago advice to him that his decision to pursue acting was "a terrible, catastrophic idea," and then thanked Daniels, who "took me and believed in me and put me in two films back-to-back [The Paperboy and The Butler] in which I became a better actor and a better man"; and Rush's 13-year-old Book Thief costar Sophie Nelisse, who said, "I think it's so cool to get an award on the same stage as so many great artists" and said, "This is the kindest welcome I could ever imagine from Hollywood -- I'm really touched to be here."
  • Captain Phillips supporting actor Oscar hopeful Barkhad Abdi presented the Hollywood Producer Award to Michael De Luca, who co-produced that film and many others including The Social Network and Moneyball. The Somali-born actor, who was a complete unknown prior to the release of the hit film, called De Luca, "Someone who truly helped change my life." De Luca, in turn, acknowledged his producing partners Scott Rudin and Dana Brunetti and heaped praise on the film's director, Paul Greengrass: "I am standing here because of all the work he did."
  • Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, two of the stars of the forthcoming American Hustle, presented the film's costume designer Michael Wilkinson and production designer Judy Becker with the Hollywood Costume Design Award and Hollywood Production Design Award, respectively.
  • Sean Hayes presented the Hollywood Animation Award to Monsters University director Dan Scanlon.
  • Pacific Rim star Robert Kazinsky presented the Hollywood Visual Effects Award to the film's visual effects supervisor, John Knoll.
  • Bruce Willis presented the Hollywood Legend Award to producer Jerry Weintraub, saying, "I love him to death." Weintraub, in turn, said, "I'm not gonna talk long 'cause I want a vodka."
  • Olivia Munn presented the Hollywood Movie Award, which was determined by fan voting, to Star Trek Into Darkness.

THR also had exclusive access to the backstage green room, which was often overflowing -- literally -- with A-listers. Among the fun sights and sounds there:

  • Abdi excitedly approached McConaughey and said, "Nice to meet you -- I watch your movies a lot!"
  • When Hawke entered the room he marveled aloud, "You got McConaughey here! You got Jack Black here!"
  • When Leto entered, Downey, before presenting him with his award, greeted him by patting his stomach and saying, "You are your actual size!"
  • Downey, Leto and Renner were chatting when Roberts entered the room and came in for kisses with each one of them.
  • After watching the clip of highlights from Nyong'o's performance on a closed-circuit monitor, Spencer clapped and said, "She's so great."
  • After Nyong'o's tearful speech, the actress returned to the green room and was still emotional as she received hugs and congratulations from friends and well-wishers.
  • Fonda watched intently as the highlight reel of Ford's career played and then cheered enthusiastically as he was introduced.

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg

Pictured below: Kanye West and Steve McQueen in the green room at the Beverly Hilton. Photo Credit: Scott Feinberg.