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Critics Choice Awards Kick Off Big Weekend

The first event on a crowded Hollywood weekend could honor tougher films than the Golden Globes

Before the Globes, there’s another awards show this weekend. Like the Globes, the Critics Choice Movie Awards, which takes place Friday night at the Hollywood Palladium, is voted on by journalists; like the Globes, it’ll be televised, and attended by a bevy of stars.

It’s the kickoff for what will be a crazy weekend of parties, get-togethers and ceremonies, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards Nominees Brunch, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts/Los Angeles annual tea party, and pre- and post-Globes soirees thrown by Paramount, Lionsgate, NBC Universal/Focus Features, HBO, Fox, Warner Bros./In Style and the Weinstein Company, among others.

And when the dust clears on Monday morning, will the Oscar picture be any clearer? Not really.

But a few films do stand to gain from the Critics Choice Awards, which are voted on by the Broadcast Film Critics Association, more than 200 television, radio and online critics. The awards normally have a better correlation with the Oscars than do the Golden Globes.

(And I don’t just say that because I’m one of the voters.)

“The Hurt Locker,” for instance, is widely seen as being too tough for the 84 star-struck members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who are likely to honor the friendlier “Up in the Air” or the juggernaut “Avatar.”

So if Kathryn Bigelow and her film have a good showing on Friday night with the critics, it’ll help them coast through Sunday without too much damage.

On the other hand, if “Avatar” sweeps away everything in its path, it could strengthen its hand as an unstoppable force of nature.

Jeff Bridges or longshot Jeremy Renner could pick up momentum as well. Carey Mulligan could come out looking like a serious contender to Meryl Streep, or Streep could start to seem unstoppable. (She’s all but guaranteed a Globe for Best Actress – Comedy or Musical, making the Critics Choice Awards the weekend’s key battleground where she and Mulligan can face off.)

With 25 categories, most of them mirroring Oscar categories, the Critics Choice Awards will likely spread the wealth around and keep a lot of hopes (and campaigns) alive.

The host is Kristin Chenoweth, the band Death Cab for Cutie will perform the Simple Minds song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” in a tribute to the late director John Hughes, and presenters will include Streep, Susan Sarandon, Emily Bunt, Zac Efron, Tobey Maguire, Bradley Cooper, Vera Farmiga, Adam Lambert and Zoe Saldana.

It’ll be on VH1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. I’ll have a report at the end of the night.