For years, the Hollywood Film Awards has been an insular, industry-facing trial balloon for awards hopefuls. On Friday night, Dick Clark Productions and CBS inflated it in to a primetime consumer-facing special.
Moving from an October Monday night where Quentin Tarantino ridiculed his award for a movie he was heading back to the edit bay to finish later in the night, or Judd Apatow live-roasting the entire proceedings, the Hollywood Film Awards sprouted into a promotional junket for upcoming holiday movies and awards season contenders.
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Unlike the analogous MTV Movie Awards, which are now stupidly planted on Coachella’s opening weekend but push summer popcorn fare, the HFA’s (as they’re now called) drew awards season heavy hitters.
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The only “popcorn” so to say, was the edible kind in glass bowls on the tables, chintzy sustenance by comparison to the mega bottles of Moet and top shelf open bars throughout the space.
As Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Jared Leto, Johnny Depp, Channing Tatum, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Rock, Jonah Hill, Keira Knightley, Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Amy Adams, Shailene Woodley, Ben Affleck, and Eddie Redmayne mixed inside, here’s what happened on the floor, during the commercial breaks from an industry insider’s perspective — exactly the way the show used to be, pre-primetime.
7:35 p.m. (To compare to the actual telecast, times are noted as ET as the show aired)
Kristen Stewart’s father John Stewart (not the “Daily Show” Jon Stewart) is floor producing Gayle King for the CBS pre-show on the red carpet. His daughter has yet to arrive.
The “Foxcatcher” team has a prime front row table, with both SPC presidents Tom Bernard and Michael Barker at the table. Sue Kroll sits next to Robert Duvall house left.
CBS chief Les Moonves and Julie Chen have table 102, sitting with Harvey Weinstein, Keira Knightley, and Morten Tyldum at the “Imitation Game” table. After jetting to London earlier in the week, Benedict Cumberbatch is back in L.A., but still on London time.
As the show goes live on national TV with Queen Latifah hosting and elaborate production design, the realization sets in that the bigger spectacle does not translate to a bigger event.
There are fewer total bodies in the room and far fewer industry faces then when it was a four-hour marathon at the Beverly Hilton on a Monday.
Last year, Kanye West had time to make a surprise appearance introducing eventual Best Picture Oscar winner Steve McQueen for “12 Years a Slave” and then fly up to San Francisco and propose in a baseball stadium before we made it out of the Beverly Hilton.
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This year, there are (gasp) seat fillers from Audiences Unlimited. One of them told me she was one of 50.
Robert Duvall, first to accept an award, is killing the timing of the show right off the bat with multiple longwinded stories. Does he know it is now on TV? Later, the show will be eight minutes over and they will be asking people to go short during their speeches. Some of the acceptance speeches are pre-loaded in to the teleprompter.
During the first commercial break, “SNL” contemporaries Mike Meyers and Chris Rock hang together in the center of the room. Nearby, CAA agent Josh Lieberman walks Eddie Redmayne in to the room, stopping for Eddie to kiss Kristen Stewart on both cheeks. Stewart is seated next to Julianne Moore.
There’s little to no reception in the Palladium and nobody working knows (or is giving out) Wifi passwords. Nobody can tweet or instagram.
When DCP does the American Music Awards, they break social records. This feels like an oversight and has to hurt the social media push. As is, my twitter account (@CelebSightings) has seven times more followers than the official @HollywoodAwards account earlier on Friday (Note: @HollywoodAwards jumped by 4,000 followers on Friday). I see E!’s uber-scene columnist Marc Malkin heading for every door in search of reception to publish his social.
Of all the people in the room, you would think Jared Leto would be most in to the music segment. He’s not.
While Janelle Monae plays a Brazilian themed song from “Rio 2”, he and his white shoes anchoring a black suit are cutting through the crowd and heading for backstage.
Producers smartly stacked the top of the second hour with household names and/or hotties: Channing Tatum, Angelina Jolie, Steve Carell, and Jonah Hill. Hill scores the line of the night: “‘Foxcatcher’ is the best movie in years. Straight up, no bullshit. The winners for best actors ever go to ‘Foxcatcher.'”
Remember, Hill may be slightly biased. In addition to the “21 Jump Street” franchise with Tatum, Hill starred in Bennett Miller’s last feature, “Moneyball.”
Production loses host Queen Latifah during a commercial break. “She’s in the house,” a stage manager announces in to a walkie. She had been talking with Harvey Weinstein, house right.
Johnny Depp makes a Mariah Carey-esque appearance. I can not speculate as to what was going on, but it was sloppy. He teetered, he slurred, he swore, and he did not realize when producers had cut away from him to go in to the package for the “Shep Gordon” doc. He kept talking in to a dead microphone. “What’s Johnny Depp on? Is that just him?” one honoree says to their tablemate at the next break.
Ben Affleck gets a laugh: “I’m going to do something David (Fincher) wouldn’t do – thank the studio.” Affleck joked that director Fincher was still out in Temecula shooting more takes of insert shots for “Gone Girl.” The film has been out for 42 days.
For a tracking shot leading in to the post-show, security holds everyone trying to flee the ballroom at the doors. Steven Tyler is not amused.
There is an after party at the W Hotel. Uber drivers start circling.
For everything that’s different about tonight’s show, some things were still the same. Andy Gelb and Slate-PR were still running the massive press effort, in conjunction with a bigger team from DCP and CBS. All the nightly newsmagazines had awards-show stages on the carpet.
Of note, the new “HFA” logo and branding looks a lot like the HFPA’s logo and branding. (The HFPA = The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who produce and give out the Golden Globes.)
The HFA’s went for a boozy intentionally loose show, with high visibility but empty-calorie awards. If it gets good ratings and gets talent to sit and partake instead of ducking in to their waiting cars, it would be fair to say that the the HFPA should become “HFPE-eeved” by this HFA encroachment.
Based on Friday’s experience, it’s unlikely to happen. Despite all the big names, the energy in the room was limp.
We’ll see how it plays on TV when ratings come out on Saturday. It would be off for CBS to suffer another star-packed, but low-rated “Fashion Rocks” fiasco.
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Despite their own fair criticisms, one thing the Globes will always have as a non-profit, unlike Dick Clark and the HFA’s: They give out a few million dollars in grants every year to entertainment-related groups like Outfest, the American Cinematheque, and AFI, which wrapped its annual festival last night.
The real winner may be the American Cinematheque Tribute and AFI, which can further solidify their spot on the awards scene.