The French took the spotlight on Saturday evening at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards dinner at the Century City Interncontinental Hotel. Organizers noted that it was the 50th anniversary of the French New Wave. Fittingly, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo joined the festivities during the four hour-plus event along with other honorees including Mo'Nique, Christophe Waltz, Jason Reitman, Kathryn Bigelow and more. Jeff Bridges, honored for best actor for "Crazy Heart," upped the tempo of the otherwise somewhat stiff proceedings with an energetic country tune. New York Times critic Manohla Dargis stood in the back with a wide smile and the occasional "Whoooh!" along with others sitting in the beige ballroom in round tables eating a salad, chicken, side potato and vegetable dinner.
"Occasions like this are a wonderful opportunity to thank everyone and also a chance to blow it... Did anyone go last night and see my big faux pas?" At the Critics Choice Awards the previous night, Bridges mistakenly called "Crazy Heart" director Scott Cooper by the wrong name. So, to make up for it, Bridges lavished compliments on the director. "This guy never directed a high school play, and he wrote this story in 24 days. As an actor I never felt rushed. Not only did I have a good time working with wonderful actors like Maggie Gyllenhaal and everyone. My sister said to me, 'It's so wonderful you're winning this award, especially on dad's birthday...' So I have to thank the old man."
One of the best lines of the night actually came from LAFC member, Jean Oppenheimer who noted a little dark contradiction when introducing the group's Best Suporting Actor choice, Christoph Waltz ("Inglourious Basterds").
"How ironic - a Jew presenting an award to a Nazi," she said to howls from the audience.
Waltz himself launched into a bit of a metaphor describing the interplay of art and commerce. "The way I see it, to make a great drama, it takes three players... Adam & Eve and a snake - or in this case, the filmmaker, the audience and the critic..."
And as she did last night at the Golden Globes, "Precious" star Mo'Nique gave the best acceptance speech of the night, accepting her honor for Best Supporting Actress. Mo'Nique explained that she had not seen footage of the film during shooting and not aware of how her performance until she received a call from director Lee Daniels who gave a rather folksy way of giving a compliment.
"Lee said to me, 'Bitch!' I mean, he said to me, 'Biiiiiitch! You gave me far more then I could have ever expected..." She went on to thank her "number one critic," her husband and Daniels. "As long as it was good for your, it was good for me," she said.
While the evening rolled along, beginning to give out awards even before the main course was served on most tables, nevertheless ended after 10:30pm, so 4 1/2 hours after its official start time - though the first hour was basically drinks (cash bar for non-members) in the foyer. Jean-Paul Belmondo joined the event during drinks along with his stunning date. Belmondo received LAFC's Career Achievement Award, which often might have meant a long keynote speech. Belmondo, who walks with a caine, stood near his table and gave a friendly thank you in French, and then the evening went on.
"The Hurt Locker" took the major prizes, with Kathryn Bigelow receiving Best Director and the feature taking Best Picture.
"This is an incredible honor," Bigelow said taking the stage. "The critical process after you make a film is the insight that gives perspective. The critics help to contextualize. When you're an independent movie, you're at great risk that you won't be able to show the movie..."
Full list of winners:
"The Hurt Locker"
(Runner-up: "Up in the Air")
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
(Runner-up: Colin Firth, "A Single Man")
Yolande Moreau, "Seraphine"
(Runner-up: Carey Mulligan, "An Education")
New Generation Award
Neill Blomkamp, "District 9"
Best Supporting Actor
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
(Runner-up: Peter Capaldi, "In The Loop")
Best Supporting Actress
(Runner-up: Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air")
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
(Runner-up: Michael Haneke, "The White Ribbon")
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"
(Runner-up: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, "In The Loop")
Christian Berger, "The White Ribbon"
(Runner-up: Barry Ackroyd, "The Hurt Locker")
Best Documentary/Non-fiction Film
"The Beaches of Agnes" and "The Cove"
Best Foreign-Language Film
(Runner-up: "The White Ribbon")
Best Animated Film
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, "Crazy Heart"
(Runner-up: Alexandrew Desplat, "Fantastic Mr. Fox")