Hollywood Film Awards an Early Harbinger of Oscar Season - Even if the Movies Aren't in the Can - Hillary Atkin

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Coming more than a month before even the earliest film critics awards, the 16th Annual Hollywood Film Awards which took place October 22 billed itself as the first big event and official launch of awards season. Not only that, the ceremonies gave a spotlight to talent and films that are likely to be frontrunners as the season progresses this fall and winter.

In a real art imitates life moment, "Argo" director and star Ben Affleck took the stage with his castmates to pick up the ensemble acting award, which was presented by former CIA agent Tony Mendez, whom he portrays in the film. Also on stage, three of the American diplomats who were actually rescued in the 1979 Iranian rescue operation that Mendez brainstormed by having them pose as a fake Canadian movie crew.

While "Argo" is a surefire awards favorite, and is doing well at the box office, the kudos for some of the evening's honorees came so early in the game that not only has no one seen the movies, some of them are still being edited. Quentin Tarantino pointed that out about his highly anticipated film about slavery, "Django Unchained," as he accepted the screenwriter award that was presented to him by last year's winner, Diablo Cody.

"It's strange to get an award while I'm still in the editing room," Tarantino said about his movie, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Jamie Foxx and will be released on Christmas Day. Referring to his new piece of hardware, a glistening metal abstract "H," he said the honor would make it more difficult to take a line out of his award-winning screenplay.

The ceremonies, run by Carlos de Abreu and presented by the Los Angeles Times, were held at The International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton-- site of future award shows including the Golden Globes – after a cocktail hour and dinner that featured herb-stuffed chicken as honorees including Bradley Cooper and lifetime achievement recipient Richard Gere sauntered in.

Others who received accolades: Marion Cotillard, Amy Adams, David O. Russell, Peter Ramsey, Quvenzhane Wallis--the young actress in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," producers Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, cinematographer Wally Pfister, editor Dylan Tichenor, production designer Sarah Greenwood and visual effects wizard Jeff White.

Up and coming actors were honored jointly with the Hollywood Spotlight Award going to Samantha Barks, Tom Holland, Bella Heathcote, John Magaro, Kelly Reilly and Ezra Miller.

Some in the room may not have known much about the awards or de Abreu, including presenter Seth Rogen, who took the stage after designer Tom Ford – wearing a dapper black bow tie instead of his usual unbuttoned shirt-- presented the Hollywood actor award to Bradley Cooper, who stars in the upcoming "Silver Linings Playbook" (with Robert De Niro, another of the evening's award recipients).

"I want to f**k both those guys," Rogen began in reference to Ford and Cooper, before lamenting his looks compared to theirs. "I guess Hollywood hates Jewish people," he said before weighing in about the awards. "Who voted for these things?" Rogen asked. "I was told some guy named Carlos. I picture Carlos the Jackal, because that's all I know."

Rogen certainly knows a lot about honoree Judd Apatow, whom he was presenting with the comedy award. The laughmeister went on to steal the show with his acceptance speech, which was a critique of the ceremonies up until that point.

Among his notes: "Please tell the kid from 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' not to mention God. This is Hollywood." "Can whoever wrote Robert De Niro's acceptance speech write (host) Nancy O'Dell's comments?" Why is (Jeffrey) Katzenberg here and not watching the debate?" Wondering why de Abreu and not an actor gave Dustin Hoffman his award, Apatow mused: "Where the f**k is Jon Voight tonight – at a Romney after party?" and "Why aren't there commercial breaks, so people can pee, smoke and talk?"

And about "The Session's" John Hawkes, who is getting huge amounts of acclaim and laughed about his "breakthrough" status being awarded after 26 years in the business, Apatow said: "Why does John Hawkes look like a guy who could beat the shit out of the guy John Hawkes plays in "The Sessions?"

That's it. We nominate Apatow to produce next year's show.

Hillary Atkin is the editor and publisher of The Atkin Report, www.atkinreport.com and has written extensively on media and entertainment for USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Daily and Weekly Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, TelevisionWeek, Entertainment Weekly, The New York Observer and LA Confidential. She is an award-winning journalist who began her career as a television news writer, reporter and producer. As a broadcast producer at KCBS in Los Angeles, she won numerous Emmy, Associated Press and Golden Mike Awards for live coverage and entertainment special events programming, and then produced and directed biographies on Robert Duvall, Elizabeth Montgomery, Linda Darnell and Nicolas Cage for A&E and E!. She can be reached at hillaryatkin@yahoo.com.

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