After starting an hour late, last night's National Board of Review 2011 Awards Gala, which celebrates a slate of winners who were announced more than a month ago, blandly plugged along.
And then, around its midway point, surprise presenter O'Donnell took to the stage wearing what looked like a shiny drape to award the documentary "Crime After Crime" with the NBR Freedom of Expression Award.
The comedienne then launched into an assault on the National Society of Film Critics for naming "Melancholia" best picture of the year over the weekend ("If I had the choice between giving birth to a flaming child on the floor of an igloo, or watching that film again, I would choose the birth of my child"); trashed Denmark and Woody Allen in one swift coup ("I’m happy to hear that Lars von Trier is not here today. He’s from Denmark. Fuck it, I don’t know where that country is, I’ll never look for him, or Woody Allen. Pedophile? Who’s to say?"); and pissed off some, if not all, of the Board. ("I’m so happy that they were talking about the shit on the tables. Because I’ve learned there are no gift bags, it’s gonna be a fucking free-for-all… this is one crazy-ass black-tie dinner.")
Nothing upstaged O'Donnell's one-woman show; not even Best Actor winner (and frequent jokester) George Clooney, who was on his best behavior in accepting the award from his "The Descendants" director Alexander Payne.
Keira Knightley came close when she payed tribute to Michael Fassbender — the night's Spotlight winner and her co-star in "A Dangerous Method" — by saying: "If I had to be spanked by anybody, I'm glad it was by you." So did Best Actress presenter Frances McDormand who matter-of-factly stated that she didn't know who the National Board of Review was. She also didn't seem to care.
Elsewhere, Breakthrough Directorial Debut winner J.C. Chandor ("Margin Call") became visibly emotional after delivering a four-minute (!) speech, Breakthough Performance winner Rooney Mara sang praises of her "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" director David Fincher, despite him urging her not to do so via email a few hours earlier, and presenter Naomi Watts thanked her director on "The Ring," Gore Verbinski (there to accept the Best Animated Feature award for "Rango"), for teaching her how to scream.