Going into tonight’s Hollywood Film Awards, there were many questions about the ceremony, as addressed in my colleague Tim Gray’s excellent column earlier this week. But the most burning question being asked before the show was televised for the first time: How big of a train wreck would the show be?
Well, it was pretty shocking. Just ask Johnny Depp, who didn’t even attempt to hide his apparent inebriation while slurring through his presentation. Or host Queen Latifah, who opened with a tasteless bit about “remembering your first time” before quickly abandoning the gag. Or presenter Robert Downey Jr. who delivered the first of many rambling speeches (something about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?) of the night when presenting to “The Judge” co-star Robert Duvall.
The Hollywood Film Awards have always been a questionable affair, but one that was tolerated like the drunk uncle who can’t help himself at holiday dinners. Insiders snipe and laugh about it, but everyone shows up.
Some criticize it publicly. Just today super-producer James L. Brooks Tweeted his disdain, beginning with: “First, no kidding, facts.1. CBS airs Hollywd Film Awards tonite. 2.Awards are the result of a vote of 12 anonymous people. I swear it’s so.”
But the stakes were raised when founder Carlos de Abreu sold the show to Dick Clark Productions, securing a televised awards show this year. And the stars showed up—from Angelina Jolie to Kristen Stewart, the biggest names in showbiz made their dutiful appearances.
But at what cost? Clearly, nobody took things seriously. How can you, when the “breakout performance” winner was Shailene Woodley, an actress who clearly broke out with 2011’s “The Descendants”? Or when Ben Affleck accepts the best picture award for “Gone Girl”—a film that might not even score an Oscar nom—by quipping, “I was told there were no other nominees, so I was cautiously optimistic.” Clearly, people know the show is a joke, and they want us to know they’re in on it.
I suppose there’s no harm to be had in getting Hollywood together to pat each other on the back–that’s what the whole season is about, really? But there was something about the entire affair that just felt more like an infomercial than a celebration. Maybe it was the packaged clip reels that felt like they were lifted directly from a press kit or the speeches that felt a little too calculated (in fairness, they did know they were winning) yet still managed to run overlong.
One of the biggest criticisms of the Hollywood Film Awards is their tendency to award films that haven’t even been seen yet—as when Quentin Tarantino accepted in 2012 for “Django Unchained”—a film still being finished. He made light of it, joking that if he was arguing with his editor he could say, “Hey, you want to take a line out of my award-winning screenplay?” While that was improved somewhat this year, the loudest round of applause went to actress winner Julianne Moore, whose film “Still Alice” doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 5.
There are still many burning questions the show didn’t answer. We may never know who the mysterious 12 people are who decide on these awards—they are kept secret to “protect their privacy.” Because nobody wants to suggest this is a show whose integrity could ever be swayed.