"The Artist" won Best Picture honors, George Clooney and Viola Davis nabbed Best Actor and Actress awards and "The Help" won three acting awards as the 2012 Critics' Choice Movie Awards were broadcast live on VH1 from the Hollywood Palladium.
Comedians Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel hosted the festivities, which they called "the ninth most exciting night in Hollywood." The movie about movies -- "The Artist" -- won top honors in the picture and director categories, while "The Help" took CCMA for Best Actress (Davis), Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) and Best Acting Ensemble.
That latter film also won an onstage shout-out from George Clooney, who said, "It seems like 'The Help' table is having the most fun" when he took the stage to present an award.
Christopher Plummer won the Supporting Actor award for "Beginners," and said "being honored by the critics is like being on a three-week binge with the enemy ... but I'm cool with it."
Although "The Help" won three awards and "The Artist" won four, the voters spread the wealth around. Overall, the 24 categories resulted in awards to 19 different films. One category, cinematography, resulted in a tie between "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse."
Another sign of how open the field was: the night's two top winners both lost in the writing categories to films that won no other awards. "The Artist" was beaten in the Original Screenplay category by Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," while "The Help" lost to "Moneyball" in the Adapted Screenplay race.
Thomas Horn from "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," meanwhile, was named Best Young Actor/Actress, even though another nominee in his category, Shailene Woodley for "The Descendants," had received a (non-age-dependent) Supporting Actress nomination. And "Bridesmaids," a comedy that did not receive a screenplay nomination, beat "Midnight in Paris" as Best Comedy, despite the fact that the latter film won the screenplay award.
In other awards, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" won for both makeup and sound, while "The Muppets" did not split its vote by having three of the five nominees in the Best Song category. The film's music supervisor, Flight of the Conchords singer-songwriter Bret McKenzie, won for "Life's a Happy Song."
"Rango" was named Best Animated Film, "A Separation" took the Foreign-Language Film prize, and Martin Scorsese's two-part HBO documentary "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" was named Best Documentary.
Scorsese was also given an honorary award, the Music + Film Award, for the way he has used music in his films. Leonardo DiCaprio and Olivia Harrison (the widow of Harrison) presented the award to Scorsese after Bob Dylan performed a slow, emphatic version of his mid-'80s song "Blind Willie McTell."
"The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius was named Best Director shortly after the Scorsese presentation, and began his speech by saying that he didn't know what the phrase "best director" meant. "After seeing a clip of Martin Scorsese's work, and passing by Steven Spielberg's table, I think it's stupid," he said.
Sean Penn also received the Joel Siegel Award for his humanitarian work. The award was presented to Penn -- who appeared live via satellite from Haiti -- by Clooney.
The Critics' Choice Movie Awards awards are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, a group of more than 250 television, radio and Internet critics. It is the nation's largest organization of film critics.
The CCMA generally match the Oscars fairly well, with voters agreeing with the Academy on four of the last five Best Picture winners. The one case in which they did not agree was last year, when "The Social Network" won the CCMA and "The King's Speech" the Oscar.
Last year, all four acting winners – Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo – went on to win Academy Awards. Overall, 12 of last year's Critics Choice winners (out of 20 overlapping categories) won Oscars; the year before, 13 did so.
The 2012 Critics' Choice Movie Awards winners:
Best Picture: "The Artist"
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius -- "The Artist"
Best Actor: George Clooney -- "The Descendants"
Best Actress: Viola Davis -- "The Help"
Best Suppporting Actor: Christopher Plummer -- "Beginners"
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer -- "The Help"
Best Young Actor/Actress: Thomas Horn -- "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"
Best Acting Ensemble: The cast of "The Help"
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen -- "Midnight in Paris"
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian and Stan Chervin -- "Moneyball"
Best Cinematography: (tie) "War Horse" and "The Tree of Life"
Best Animated Feature: "Rango"
Best Action Movie: "Drive"
Best Comedy: "Bridesmaids"
Best Foreign-Language Film: "A Separation"
Best Documentary Feature: "George Harrison: Living in the Material World"
Best Song: "Life's a Happy Song" from "The Muppets"
Best Art Direction: "Hugo"
Best Editing: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Best Costume Design: "The Artist"
Best Makeup: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
Best Visual Effects: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"
Best Sound: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
Best Score: "The Artist"
Joel Siegel Award: Sean Penn
Critics' Choice Music + Film Award: Martin Scorsese