I had a wild time at the 25th Annual Critics Choice Awards on Sunday night. The ceremony was held for the 5th consecutive year (and 7 of the last 8) at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, CA.
This was CCA #8 for me. Most suspense was saved for the final 10-minutes (a Best Director TIE and surprise Best Picture win), but the evening was packed with entertainment, celebs and memorable moments from the red carpet to the final speech. And, as always, I was right in the middle of it all.
Oscars Best Actress favorite Renee Zellweger (“Judy”) couldn’t believe how big the Critics Choice ceremony had gotten since she won for “Cold Mountain” 15 years ago. “This thing used to be in a [small] room… before you were born.” She also won her only Oscar for that performance.
Best Director and Original Screenplay Academy Awards contender Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) told me he was thrilled with the film’s recognition from the CCAs. He also appreciated that I saw the movie in Hollywood last Summer in 70mm.
I got to quickly says hello to “Joker” Best Director Oscar nominee Todd Phillips and “Harriet” Best Actress and Original Song nominee Cynthia Erivo (there are so many celebs in the room and so little time to interact!). I also briefly chatted with “Parasite” Best Director winner Bong Joon-ho and “Jojo Rabbit” Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Taika Waititi. Both are solid contenders to pick-up Oscars in a few weeks. Waititi agreed with me that Scarlett Johansson gave one of the best performances of the year (she’s up for Supporting Actress, but her odds trail behind Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) and Margot Robbie (“Bombshell”).
It was great catching-up with DreamWorks director Dean DeBlois. His “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a solid Oscar contender in the Best Animated Feature category. I’d never had the chance to talk with Best Supporting Actress nominee Florence Pugh (“Little Women”) before this night. I congratulated her on that film – and the terrific, but little-seen “Fighting with My Family”, in which she was outstanding.
Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominee Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”) said, “If I can do it, I will” when I asked him about a sequel. Diane Warren, nominated for her 11th Academy Award for the “Breakthrough” song “I’m Standing with You”, gave me a hug after remembering me from the Critics Choice Documentary Awards a few years ago.
Several Critics Choice nominees who were on hand didn’t make the cut when the Oscar nominations were announced the following morning. But they were all in great spirits Sunday night, including Awkwafina and Zhao Shuzhen (“The Farewell”), Lupita Nyong’o (“Us”) and Adam Sandler (“Uncut Gems”). The Sandman congratulated me on recently graduating from college. “You’ve been having a pretty good life”, he told me. I told him he’s been having a pretty good one, too!
Chrissy Metz (“Breakthrough”, “This is Us”) is grateful for one of her best years yet. Young actress Thomasin McKenzie (“Jojo Rabbit”) is “still processing” all the attention she and the film have been receiving. The same goes for Dean-Charles Chapman of “1917”. Noah Jupe (“Honey Boy”) is looking forward to everyone seeing the upcoming “A Quiet Place: Part II”. He can’t share many details on it yet. He does promise one thing: “It’s quiet.”
I enjoyed catching-up with awards analyst Dave Karger and meeting film critic legend Leonard Maltin for the first time. I also had quick chats with Niecy Nash, Scott Wolf pre-show and, at their tables, Olivia Wilde and the dynamic duo of Jennifer Lopez & Alex Rodriguez.
“The Unicorn”’s Walton Goggins chuckled as I shared my comparison of his character and the show with Danny Tanner/“Full House”. He told me about how he and the show’s creators wanted to present both honesty and sentimentality. CBS liked all of it, and that’s why they greenlit the series. At the end of our conversation, Tim Blake Nelson popped-in to say hi to Goggins, and I was able to tell Nelson how much I enjoyed “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”.
J.B. Smoove and I chatted about the new season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” actor Kevin Pollack said one of the funniest things of the night: “Maybe when this Fleabag thing is over, we can go back to winning awards.” And Sterling K. Brown was impressed that I knew all about his voice sessions for his new Netflix animated series “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts”. I had just interviewed the show’s director and executive producer the week before.
“The Wall” and “Taking Dead” host Chris Hardwick and I talked for five minutes about his hilarious Nickelodeon animated series “Back at the Barnyard”: “I can’t believe you remember it!” I told him I grew up on it. He explained how he and the cast recorded all their lines together AND that the show was cancelled after three seasons because the merchandise wasn’t selling. Still, he’d totally be game for a reboot.
Alex Borstein was surprised that “The Lizzie McGuire Movie” was the first film I saw in a theater, at the age of 4 1/2. She said, “That’s what dreams are made of” (!). – I asked if her character, Miss Ungermeyer, would return for the Disney+ “Lizzie” reboot. “I don’t know if that makes sense”, she said. “She was only her chaperone.” When I assured her that everyone would love seeing Miss Ungermeyer again, she replied, “If you write it, I’ll do it.”
Finally, “The Irishman” Best Ensemble Critics Choice winner, and one of the biggest names in comedy, Sebastian Maniscalco, was a lot of fun to chat with. He’s performing in my neighborhood, Albany, NY, in April. Originally, it was only supposed to be two shows. But tickets sold-out so quickly that they keep adding more. In total, he’s now got so many performances in Albany (6 over 3-days) that he joked, “I’m gonna have to buy an apartment.”