What a joy to attend the Critics Choice Awards on the heels of the female-driven Golden Globes Awards earlier in the week, as women across the globe were inspired by Oprah’s Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech. The mood Thursday evening, January 11, was exciting to say the least. Everywhere you looked, women−whether celebrities or critics—were beaming. Yes, the room was euphoric in celebration, as finally our voices are being heard.
The accomplished Critics Choice Awards host for the evening, Olivia Munn, is an actor, author, and activist that kept the evening lively while maintaining a light touch with the pacing. Munn will next be seen in the action thriller “Hummingbird,” and starring in Shane Black’s “The Predator” opposite Keegan Michael Key and Sterling K. Brown. She will also appear in “The Buddy Games,” Josh Duhamel’s directing debut and recently finished shooting the second season of the History Channel’s “Six.”
The Red Carpet saw a change as white, pastels, and splashes of color were replaced from the blackout of the Golden Globes. If the color black appeared, it was complemented with self-assured accessories, as in the case of Grae Drake−the tall, dazzling, senior editor of RottenTomatoes. She donned an elegant black long-sleeve, one-shoulder, knee-length dress paired with a sparkly rounded Kate Spade purse with the word “Caviar” complete with a handy tiny spoon. She, among others, set the tone of the evening, confident and fun-loving with a ‘power of the purse attitude,’ if you know what I mean.
Brooklynn Prince (seven years old), the darling of “The Florida Project” and winner of the Critics Choice Best Young Actor/Actress Award that night, made her statement with a cute pint-sized Wonder Woman purse. The independent dressmaker, Sheri Hill, made Brooklynn’s red dress exclusively for her. Brooklynn told me she loves the dress, but loves her Wonder Woman purse even more.
Brooklynn stole everyone’s heart that night with her tearful yet on-target acceptance speech, just as she did with her riveting portrayal in the film playing a poverty-stricken girl named Moonee. I told Brooklynn’s parents on the Red Carpet that whatever she says during her acceptance speech, the audience will love her. I recalled Jacob Tremblay’s speech at the 2016 awards I attended, telling her he said, “This is the best day of my life. I know where to put this—right on the shelf beside my Millennium Falcon.” They both smiled and chuckled. I have a feeling these involved yet protective parents knew what Brooklynn was going to say, however, I’m sure they, like myself, were surprised just how heartfelt it would be.
Visibly shaken when her name was called, tears began streaming down Brooklynn’s face. By the time she reached the stage, she was sobbing; there was never any doubt how much the award meant to her.
She began as she was crying, "Wow, it’s such a big honor, all the nominees, you know, you are great. You guys are awesome. We should all go and get ice cream after this!" Of course the room erupted in laughter, cheering her on with awws and applause.
Her gratitude continued as she thanked everyone (between sniffles) involved with the film, her family, the awards voters, and God.
But nope, she wasn't finished yet. Brooklynn mentioned the people in the world who are struggling to make it, just like her on-screen character and the girl's mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite).
"I'd like to dedicate this award to all the Halleys and Moonees out there," she said. "Guys, this is a real problem. You need to go out there and help!"
Other powerful speeches were given by Gal Gadot, the recipient of the #SeeHer Award bestowed to a woman who embodies the values set forth by the #SeeHer movement—to push boundaries on changing stereotypes and recognizing the importance of accurately portraying women across the entertainment landscape. Gadot’s iconic “Wonder Woman” role allowed her to use her influential voice advocating for women’s fairness and parity across genders.
Gadot was introduced by “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, and immediately received an exuberant standing ovation as she walked onto the stage. She too was misty-eyed while she began speaking about the parallels between the world of her superhero character and the role of an actor, tethering Wonder Woman’s mission with the recent events in Hollywood.
“As artists and as filmmakers, I believe it’s not only our job to entertain, but our duty to inspire and educate for love and respect,” she said.
“In the past weeks and months, we’ve been witnessing a movement in our industry and society, and I want to share this award with all the women and men who stand for what’s right: Standing for those who can’t stand or speak for themselves. My promise and commitment to all of you is that I will never be silenced, and we will continue to band together to make strides, uniting for equality.”
Upon Gadot’s conclusion, the room was in an uproar as both men and women applauded and cheered; yes, the lively, robust mood continued throughout the evening.
As a critic attendee, I always look forward to chatting with my fellow critics, whom I typically see once a year, finding out which celebrities I’ll interview on the Red Carpet, and who I will meet by chance during the commercial breaks in the show.
My coverage of the event has always been full of surprises. This year, I fortuitously interviewed writer and director Stephen Chbosky for the film “Wonder,” Chbosky and I had met in 2012 while he was promoting “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” As fate would have it, I’ve been asked to present a teaching lesson to fifth-graders in the Chicago area on the topic of adapting the book “Wonder” into a screenplay, and in this unique instance, the theme of “bullying.” Chbosky had plenty to say about bullying and simple kindness, addressing my soon-to-be audience directly.
Having visited London numerous times over the past years, I’ve developed a fondness for Winston Churchill, and met Gary Oldman backstage after he had just won the Best Actor in a Drama Award for his portrayal of Churchill in “The Darkest Hour.” We talked about the Cabinet War Rooms in London, which are now named The Churchill War Rooms, a main setting of the film. He was grinning and truly grateful to receive my compliments on his fantastic acting.
Reese Witherspoon is another person I was surprised to meet and chat with. She’s taking an active responsibility in creating more women’s roles in Hollywood with her production company, Pacific Standard, and with her newly formed digital company Hello Sunshine. With the huge success of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” mini-series, the status of the show changed from a mini-series to now a regular series, with the actress among other cast members signing on for another season. It’s always thrilling for me to meet someone I truly admire, and in chatting with Reese, she was all I’d thought she’d be. First and foremost; down to earth, gracious, and pleasant. Her smiley attitude was very indicative of the night. She beamed when talking about her projects and the women authors many of the projects are based on.
A noticeable missing celebrity was James Franco—yep, a no-show. In light of the recent breaking news of sexual harassment allegations, he wasn’t there to accept his Critics Choice Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Film.
All in all, despite the fact that the awards were on my husband’s birthday this year, he was still able to have some Champagne while enjoying the lively, upbeat crowd. We both stayed a bit afterwards to chat with my fellow critics and talent, who surprisingly lingered awhile.
And the winners are:
Best Picture: “The Shape of Water”
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro, “The Shape of Water”
Best Actor: Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Young Actor/Actress: Brooklynn Prince, “The Florida Project”
Best Acting Ensemble: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Best Hair and Makeup: “Darkest Hour”
Best Production Design: “The Shape of Water” (Paul Denham Austerberry; Shane Vieau, Jeff Melvin)
Best Score: “The Shape of Water” (Alexandre Desplat)
Best Visual Effects: “War for the Planet of the Apes”
Best Animated Feature: “Coco”
Best Action Movie: “Wonder Woman”
Best Comedy: “The Big Sick”
Best Actor in a Comedy: James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Best Actress in a Comedy: Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Best Sci-Fi or Horror Movie: “Get Out”
Best Foreign Language Film: “In the Fade”
Best Drama Series: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
Best Actor in a Drama Series: Sterling K. Brown, “This Is Us”
Best Actress in a Drama Series: Elisabeth Moss, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: David Harbour, “Stranger Things”
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
Best Comedy Series: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon)
Best Actor in a Comedy Series: Ted Danson, “The Good Place”
Best Actress in a Comedy Series: Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Walton Goggins, “Vice Principals”
Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Mayim Bialik, “The Big Bang Theory”
Best Limited Series: “Big Little Lies” (HBO)
Best Movie Made for TV: “The Wizard of Lies” (HBO)
Best Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series: Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series: Alexander Skarsgård, “Big Little Lies”
Best Supporting Actress in a Movie Made for TV or Limited Series: Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Best Talk Show: “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (ABC)
Best Animated Series: “Rick and Morty” (Adult Swim)
Best Unstructured Reality Series: “Born This Way” (A&E)
Best Structured Reality Series: “Shark Tank” (ABC)
Best Reality Competition Series: “The Voice” (NBC)
Best Reality Show Host: RuPaul, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”