Jubilation comes to mind when describing the atmosphere of the 27th Critics Choice Awards—win or lose, all were celebrating being together in person this past Sunday evening, March 13. Airing live on The CW and TBS channels, this year, critics and talent table-hopped to chat, take selfies, and network during commercials. Hosted by Nicole Byer and four-time emcee Taye Diggs, the duo kept the show on pace with laughter in between. London's magnificent Savoy Hotel was chosen as a separate location to accommodate the many nominees who attended the BAFTA Awards earlier that day. Due to the Omicron surge, the CCA Awards, typically held at the beginning of January, were pushed back to March.
The generous portion of roasted pine nut and basil hummus, complemented by wine and bubbly Champagne, set a celebratory buzz. Having covered the event for the past eight years, I can say this one seemed special, as all looked to be having an extraordinarily great time. My husband, Bill Adamson, and I sat near the front of the room with lively cast members of the television show "For All Mankind." Seated next to us was the ever-busy "King Richard" table with the Best Actor of the evening, Will Smith.
The Critics Choice organization, based in Los Angeles, consists of broadcast, radio, and online critics—established journalists who review films and television. Some members of the group vote for only film awards, and some vote only for television awards, while others vote for both.
My evening began two hours before the show on the Red Carpet near the beautiful Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel entrance, a new venue for our event. The mild sunny day was pitch-perfect for talent to speak with journalists while parading the latest fashions.
Adele Lim, co-writer of Disney's "Raya and the Last Dragon" nominated for Best Animated film, started my interviews; she talked about growing up in Malaysia and her childhood versions of warriors and dragons. "We did have female warrior characters that America didn't have at that time, so to be able to create Raya, a kick-ass female warrior who is groomed for leadership, was a thrill. Asian dragons aren't all fire-breathing or creatures to be feared; they are mystical and charming; with Awkwafina as the voice of Sisi, the dragon, she is lovable as well."
Next, I spoke with Danny Strong, the creator, writer, producer, and director of the limited series "Dopesick," centered on the opioid epidemic. On a personal note, my younger sister, Yale School of Drama graduate Susan Knight, an actress, has a powerful scene in Episode 8. She carries her deceased son's ashes into the courtroom. Strong commented on her performance, saying, "She did an amazing job, wasn't she incredible, weren't you just so proud of your sister?" I told him I was and that her performance brought me to tears.
Strong said that he was grateful to Hulu for stepping up and giving him such a great budget to work with and that no one in Hollywood wanted to make it. He said, "They helped us bring awareness to the crimes of Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family and to see it with our own eyes; the deception, manipulation, and deceit of the narcotics and all the victims; it still haunts and horrifies me."
Of course, I asked about Michael Keaton, the Best Actor in a Drama Series. Strong said, "He's literally the coolest star I've ever met, just a great guy, fabulous actor, and you know many actors wouldn't have considered playing the part, yes, he's the primary character, but it's more of an ensemble series."
"Encanto" co-writer and co-director Charise Castro Smith spoke with me about her inspiration for her animated film. "It's based on family, the joys and complexities of family, and everything in-between. It's the story of growing up in a huge multigenerational family, their lives, and their relationships. In talking about Disney films in general, I asked what Smith appreciated about them. "I love it that I can not only watch them with my four-year-old daughter, I can also watch them with my mom, and there are different nuances and messages that we each gain from the films."
The Netflix South Korean series "Squid Game" won the Best Foreign Language Series award, and Lee Jung-jae won Best Actor in a Drama Series; I spoke with cast members HoYeon Jung, Park Hae-soo, and writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk via an interpreter at times. The series is very violent and physically demanding; I asked if they had a massage therapist on set? They all laughed, and Park Hae-soo said, "No, I wish! We took plenty of hot baths and massages on our own." We talked about the violence in the series and the difficulty of acting under those circumstances. Park Hae-soo told me that they all had the scripts and knew what was coming, but she was very shocked when she finally watched it on TV for the first time.
Hwang Dong-hyuk said that he wrote the series in 2009, saying, "I watched so many shows on survival games, I just wanted to be a part of that, and the huge amount of money they won because I needed the money. During an earlier Zoom Q&A discussion in December with the cast, and writer/director Hwang Dong-hyuk, said, "I don't think people were ready years ago or would be accepting of the series, so much has changed since that time, I decided the time was finally right."
Producers Tim White and Trevor White, brothers and creators of “King Richard,” told me how the idea for the movie came along. Tim was playing tennis in the junior leagues and knew of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena, and saw a sign he was holding up in the stands that said, 'I told you so.' We didn't know about the mom's influential role when the script started, saying, "That was a true discovery, this entire project has been a labor of love, and I'm going to miss all the discussion. I hope that the movie serves as a legacy to the Williams family."
Wrapping up my red-carpet interviews was a 17-year-old senior in high school, Layla Crawford, who played Lynn Price, a sister of Serena and Venus Williams, in the film "King Richard." Her father in the film was also determined to make an extraordinary tennis player out of her. She said that her proudest moment of being part of the film was that so many of her friends and family saw the film and loved it. Crawford continued, "We all knew of the Williams' tennis stars, but we didn't see where they came from, how they were practicing, how their dad and mom coached and supported them, so I believe that the film shows us no matter what you are going through if you keep believing in yourself, and listening to your parents because they know what's best so you can achieve your goals."
Upon locating my table, ten minutes before the show's start, the cast of "For All Mankind" welcomed me and began pouring Champagne and taking photos. Hosts Nicole Byer and Taye Diggs' opening monologue garnered plenty of laughs while reassuring all of a great evening to follow.
Accepting the award for Best Ensemble for “Belfast,” Jamie Dornan stated that the award was totally unexpected; he then garnered a laugh by saying, "Critics usually aren't very nice to me, so this is a change." He continued on a serious note, "As someone from Belfast, I can't emphasis enough the importance of telling a story through a family that lived through the crisis, and through this way, we can all identify with the story as it is similar to the hardships with the families that are now living it in Ukraine."
The SeeHer award, established in 2016, is always a favorite moment in the show. The goal is to recognize a woman who embodies the values set forth by the SeeHer movement. It's given to women who 'push boundaries, defy stereotypes, and acknowledge the importance of authentic portrayals of women and girls across the entertainment landscape.'
Issa Rae of the TV Series "Insecure" presented the SeeHer Award to Halle Berry, the first and only Black Actress to receive an Academy Award for Best Actress. Rae said, "She has fought for herself and others to be seen and heard."
Berry's passionate, insightful acceptance speech was beautiful. She summed up her career by stating her life lessons and giving advice for all women.
She began by talking about her directorial debut for the film "Bruised" and recalled a male's reaction to the film, saying, "He said the film was hard to watch as a woman being is being beaten and battered. At that moment, I knew exactly why I needed to tell that story because if he had a hard time watching and the film made him feel uncomfortable, imagine being that woman living that story. This is the power of storytelling; it can raise our conciseness and help us think outside of ourselves and our individual circumstances. We need to see others' realities so we can stop judging and pointing fingers, but rather find compassion and empathy for others."
"This is why I am so grateful to be standing and living in this moment where women are standing up and telling our own stories. We will write, we will produce, we will direct, and if we're brave enough, we will star in it all at the same time. We will use our emotional intelligence, and we will tell stories that don't fit preconceived notions.”
She continued to say that it's time to see and create stories for women in which audiences see us fully in all our multitudes and contradictions because we are confident and we are scared. We are vulnerable, and we are strong; we are beautiful, and we are abused. We are everything and all of that, and all at the same time.
Berry concluded her statements by dedicating the award to 'every little girl who feels unseen and unheard. This is our way of saying to you, we love you, and we see you, and you deserve every good thing in this world.' The audience stood and cheered; it was a powerful moment.
Jimmy Kimmel presented Billy Crystal with the Lifetime achievement award. Crystal began by saying to the critics group this may be the only time we actually agree on something. “I dedicate this award to the family in my living room that let me tell them jokes when I was five years old and allowed me to make them laugh,” he said. “This is a Lifetime Achievement Award, so I called my doctor and said, do they know something that I don't know? To me, this is a Creative Achievement Award because my Lifetime Achievement Award is for my family. I have loved what I've been able to do, and I can't wait for what I'm about to do. I leave you with a quote from one of the most amazing persons I've ever met in my life, Muhammad Ali, saying, ‘If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it, then I can achieve it.’”
In chatting with talent between breaks, I spoke with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, writers and stars of "Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar." I told them how much I enjoyed viewing their film as I love comedy and women's stories. I asked them both what they would like to say about their movie, and hysterically, they spoke simultaneously as they do in the movie, saying that 'we all need to laugh more and we need more comedy.' We also talked about Jamie Dornan and his talented singing abilities. I'd have to say that meeting both Wiig and Mumolo, the Academy Award-nominated writers of "Bridesmaids," was a highlight for me as I agree, we need more comedies in our realm.
The last award of the evening, Best Film, was awarded appropriately by Sean McVay the LA Rams Super Bowl winning coach and his finesse Veronika Khomyn, who was born in Ukraine. McVay started by saying, "Before we announce Best Picture, Veronika would like to say a few words about her home country Ukraine." Khomyn said, "I proudly stand with my fellow Ukrainians, and I admire their strength. There is no place in this world for this kind of violence, and our prayers go out to all of the lives that had been lost."
CRITICS CHOICE AWARDS FULL WINNERS LIST
BEST PICTURE: "The Power of the Dog"
BEST DIRECTOR Jane Campion – "The Power of the Dog"
BEST ACTOR: Will Smith - "King Richard"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Ariana DeBose – "West Side Story"
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Kenneth Branagh – "Belfast"
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Jane Campion – "The Power of the Dog"
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Ari Wegner – "The Power of the Dog"
BEST HAIR AND MAKEUP: "The Eyes of Tammy Faye"
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "No Time to Die" – "No Time to Die"
BEST SCORE: Hans Zimmer – "Dune"
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: "Dune"
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: "The Mitchells vs the Machines"
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: "Drive My Car"
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS: Jude Hill – "Belfast"
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE: "Belfast"
BEST COMEDY: "Licorice Pizza"
BEST DRAMA SERIES: "Succession" (HBO)
BEST DRAMA ACTOR: Lee Jung-jae – "Squid Game" (Netflix)
BEST DRAMA ACTRESS: Melanie Lynskey – "Yellowjackets" (Showtime)
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTOR: Kieran Culkin – "Succession" (HBO)
BEST DRAMA SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sarah Snook – "Succession" (HBO)
BEST COMEDY SERIES: "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
BEST COMEDY ACTOR: Jason Sudeikis – "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
BEST COMEDY ACTRESS: Jean Smart – "Hacks" (HBO Max)
BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTOR: Brett Goldstein – "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
BEST COMEDY SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hannah Waddingham – "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)
BEST LIMITED SERIES: "Mare of Easttown" (HBO)
BEST TV MOVIE: "Oslo" (HBO)
BEST LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE ACTOR: Michael Keaton – "Dopesick" (Hulu)
BEST LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE ACTRESS: Kate Winslet – "Mare of Easttown" (HBO)
BEST LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Coolidge – "The White Lotus" (HBO)
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE SERIES: "Squid Game" (Netflix)
BEST ANIMATED SERIES: "What If…?" (Disney+)
BEST TALK SHOW: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" (HBO)
BEST COMEDY SPECIAL: "Bo Burnham: Inside" (Netflix)