Critics’ Choice Awards — “The Best Day of My Life”

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I’ve done movie reviews for a handful of various outlets over the years, going back to 1990. I joined the San Diego Film Critics Society about six years ago, and realized that when you’re part of a city’s Film Critic group, the studios pay attention. The amount of DVDs and other gifts (some would call those “bribes”) we get in the month of December is incredible. Occasionally you have to deal with an angry publicist that wants to know why you hated the movie…or a former A-list actress that threatened to sue because of something I wrote (my boss promptly edited that section out).
A few times when I praised a movie — one time being the underrated The Square, film noir out of Australia — they asked me if they could use my quote on the DVD box. I was ecstatic, until about 6 months later when I saw that movie in an Albertson’s grocery store and saw the movie for sale. There was a quote on the box from a huge publication like Time Magazine, who said the same thing I did. Can’t blame them for going with the same quote but from a bigger publication. And on the subject of bigger things, I joined the Broadcast Critics Association last year. That didn’t increase the amount of DVD screeners I got, but a few more gifts from the studios. The Star Wars folks sent us a T-shirt and stormtrooper mug for deciding to put their movie in our list of nominations. Sam Smith sent an autographed copy of his James Bond theme song. Being in the BCA means I get to vote on the movies in the Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as attend the awards ceremony. And I’m going to steal a line from Jacob Tremblay, who I voted for and who won, the best young actor award for Room: “This is the best day of my life.”
It may not have been the best day of my life, but certainly one of the best parties I’ve ever attended.
My girlfriend Tina and I drove up to L.A. on Sunday and hit the reception they had set up hours before the show. There weren’t many people when we walked in and I saw James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio) sitting on a couch by himself. I immediately walked over to him. Not because I’m a huge fan. They had chocolate Rolo’s in a bowl on all the tables, and I wanted to grab a few. As we smiled at each other, I was tempted to yell, “A**hole!” And when he looked shocked at thinking I was calling him a bad name, I’d say, “That’s my favorite curse word.” (It’s a question he asks all his guests). I figured that might be confusing so instead I just made small talk. He asked if I was a critic and said, “I hope you voted for me.”
That caught me off guard, and all I could do was laugh. Had I known he was going to ask me, I would’ve explained that I’m only allowed to vote on the movie categories and the TV critics are only allowed to vote on the TV nominations.
There were so many delicious appetizers being brought around, I was bummed I had gotten something to eat at Starbucks an hour earlier (although it didn’t keep me from downing about 6 sliders). It also surprised me when I overheard actor Rami Malek and his Mr. Robot cast saying they were going to go eat at Mr. Chow’s. Why eat there when there were so many great items here? But I digest.
At one point when Tina and I were talking, another couple came over. The woman was in the movie Son of Saul, and we talked about that for awhile. She was a bit bummed a film called The Fencer didn’t make it into the Oscar nominations.
After they left and we were working on our second glasses of champagne, I noticed a few people directly behind me. I said to Tina, “Those might be the two best looking people I’ve seen in my life.”
I had no clue who they were at first. The woman was Nancy O’Dell from Entertainment Tonight. Tina said, “I think that guy was the star of the show JAG.”
I never watched that but as I looked at him, I remembered he played John Wayne in the movie Trumbo. I introduced myself and he excitedly said, “I just read your review on Trumbo the other day. My daughter sent it to me. It was great. Thank you so much for what you said.”
I’m probably the only critic in the country that both mentioned his great performance and knocked the usually brilliant Helen Mirren for over-acting (although she did get a nomination from BFC).
The DJ was doing a great job of playing a lot of dance/hip-hop tunes, but mixing in a lot of the more classic dance tunes that an older crowd can appreciate. Also great to hear a few David Bowie songs worked in to the mix.
When I went to the bar to grab a glass of wine, Holland Taylor (the Harper mom on Two and a Half Men) walked up holding actress Sarah Paulson’s (American Horror Story) hand. Apparently, this was their first appearance anywhere as a couple. And if there’s anywhere that a 31-year age difference (or same sex couple) didn’t stick out, it’s at a Hollywood party. I was more shocked by Taylor’s short cropped, spiked up hair.
As she stood next to me at the bar, I wanted to ask her to for a crazy story about Charlie Sheen on the set. Instead, I merely said, “I enjoy your work.”
Comedic actor Ken Jeong (Hangover, Ride Along 2) and his cute wife (also a doctor) walked in. He was one of the presenters and we spoke briefly. It was a thrill for me to get a big laugh out of him for something I said.
Jacob Tremblay, the young actor from Room, walked in with his parents. I told his dad that Room was one of my favorite movies of the year and his son’s performance was incredible. As I started to say something else, I noticed Jacob sticking his hand up to me. I shook his hand as he said, “Thank you, sir.”
I asked him if the long hair in the movie was his and he said, “No. It was a wig.”
I told them how I felt he should’ve gotten an Oscar nomination for his performance. At least he got the thrill of winning the award for Best Young Performance. And he stole with his speech, saying the critics had a tough job because there were so many great actors in his category. He also couldn’t reach the microphone and stood on his toes. He mentioned the cast of the movie and said that he loved his parents. He ended by saying he’d put the award on his shelf next to his Millennium Falcon. The crowd adored it, and I’m sure J.J. Abrams (who was in the crowd) especially liked that.
I would later see him backstage. He was holding a cupcake about as big as his trophy.
Sylvester Stallone happened to walk by (he had just won an award and was coming back from his trailer). I told him I loved Copland and he smiled. I couldn’t tell him I loved Creed, because I didn’t. I also voted for Tom Hardy over him in the supporting actor category.
But back to the pre-show reception. Of all the late night shows, Tina loves James Corden the most. So when I saw him, I gave her a nudge. I don’t usually like to bug the stars for photos, but she’s a huge fan. When we told him that he was so sweet about thanking her. He would later be presenting an award, and it’s one of the few award shows I remember in recent years where almost every presenter was humorous. When Bryan Cranston got up there and slowly read from his teleprompter, I was in stitches. I looked over at his Trumbo table, and saw David James Elliott. I figured I could go over and meet Cranston. After all, Elliott could vouch for me giving the film a good review. I instead went over and grabbed some Raisinets. The amount of candy I ate there would’ve cost $28 at movie theatre prices.
My girlfriend tried convincing me that Jason Statham was walking down the red carpet. I didn’t think it was him because he looked so short (I’d guess 5’8″). When I heard him talk, there’s no mistaking that great voice. I asked him why they blew up so many Jaguar XKEs in The Bank Job. As he laughed I said, “That’s my favorite car.” He replied, “Mine too!”
My girlfriend pointed out a woman in a beautiful dress. We were admiring the outfit so much, and it wasn’t until she won an award that we realized she was an actress. It was Constance Wu of Fresh Off the Boat.
David Alan Grier walked by. Tina said, “There’s that guy from In Living Color. He was nominated for his role in The Wiz. I think he has one of the most brilliant comedic minds. I’ve seen his stand-up a few times and love listening to him on talk shows. The one event I met him at previously though, he wasn’t that friendly. I decided against striking up a conversation.
Once we got to our tables, I glanced around to see if I could see Matt Damon (there for The Martian) or Christian Bale (The Big Short). Once I saw Reese’s (Peanut Butter Cups not Witherspoon) and Cracker Jacks on the table, I was more interested in devouring those.
The host was comedian T.J. Miller. I’ve seen him do stand-up a few times and he’s certainly an acquired taste. Last time I saw him was in Chula Vista. I had front row for him and Aziz Ansari, whose show Master of None won an award.
I was pleasantly surprised at how funny Miller was. He pulled off such humor bits so well, even a gun that was going to shoot a ball gown into the crowd. I’m not sure if it really malfunctioned or he was just pretended it did. Either way, it was hysterical.
Another bit he did that killed was the “award for the hardest envelope to open.”
He then spent awhile trying to open an envelope, before a smaller envelope was brought out, to announce the winner: the previous envelope.
William Shatner was brought in to do the voice-over coming in and out of commercials and he had a few good lines.
When Patrick Stewart came on stage to present an award, I was anticipating a Star Trek joke. With Shatner there, it felt like a given. Instead, he did this great bit about people mistaking him for Ben Kingsley and telling him how much they loved him in Learning to Drive. Hysterical.
One of the many things that made the evening enjoyable was sitting next to John Griffiths, a TV critic with Us Weekly and writer for Emmy Magazine. We had a blast gossiping about a variety of topics.
Kirsten Dunst won an award for Fargo, and as she went to use a bathroom near where I was, a few people asked to do selfies with her. She politely obliged, as I wondered why one woman seemed to take about 6 or 7. If a celebrity agrees to take a photo with you, probably best to just take one or two. If it comes out blurry, oh well.
One of the women complimented how pretty her dress was and she said it was Chanel Couture.
When various TV stars would win, I’d lean over and ask Griffiths if they deserved it. He agreed with most of the winners.
When Mayim Bialik won for The Big Bang Theory, it broke my heart to hear her say that her dad was her harshest critic, and he died months earlier. She added, “I’ve never won anything before.”
Idris Elba may have been snubbed by the Oscars for Beasts of No Nation, but we didn’t snub this talented actor. He won the award for Best Actor in a TV movie for Luther.
My girlfriend was thrilled Rami Malek won for Mr. Robot, her favorite show. When we saw him backstage, it was her second photo of the night. She promptly put it on her Facebook page, only to have a friend write, “Malek is such a nice boy. He dated my niece for awhile.”
Small world.
Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for The Danish Girl. She was amazing in that, and she seemed so emotional giving her speech. I think she deserved the award for Ex-Machina (although that did win for best science fiction film).
When America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) walked by to use the bathroom, I couldn’t resist. On the Golden Globes the previous week, she did a bit with Eva Mendez where they joked about being called other Latina actresses. So I said, “Oh wow, it’s Eva Mendez.”
She smiled politely, but I didn’t think she thought it was that funny. When I saw her after the awards I apologized for bombing with the joke. She said, “No, no…I knew what you were doing.” Her smile was bigger at that point and I just thought…how can this beautiful woman be on a show where she’s called “Ugly Betty”? It probably helped her spirits that she won.
I was thrilled that Brie Larson (Room) won for Best Actress. I voted for her, although Jennifer Jason Leigh, who looked gorgeous at the event, was good in The Hateful Eight. It’s just a lot harder for me to vote for somebody that was in a movie I didn’t care for.
I’ve always thought Amy Schumer’s show was hysterical. It’s one of the reasons I was a little disappointed with Trainwreck. It wasn’t as funny as her show, but she won a few awards. Each time she went onstage she had the crowd laughing. It was a great combination of thanking the right people and being funny. I couldn’t believe she mentioned the names of managers she’s fired in the past. Another award, she said Lily Tomlin (Grandma) should’ve won. I agree, and I voted for Tomlin. She looked at Lily and said, “I’d go down on you!” It got a few shocked looks from some in the crowd, but mostly big laughs.
When Schumer said she was a “plus plus size” actress, she pointed to her stomach and hips and said, “If you have this, you gotta write your own sh**!”
The after party was incredible. I was bummed the DJ upped the volume of the music, because a few times it made it hard to talk to folks. I saw the woman from Son of Saul and congratulated her on that movie winning. When I’d see her 20 minutes later talking to some people I asked, “What? Are these people more interesting than us?” She laughed and said, “No, no they’re not.”
An amazing amount of delicious food was brought out, but after all the appetizers I devoured before hand, I was stuffed.
I saw Jeffrey Tambor sitting by himself on a couch. He had won yet another award for Transparent. I said, “I know everyone is congratulating you on Transparent and you are great on that show, but my favorite thing you’ve ever done is The Larry Sanders Show. Watching Rip Torn getting mad at you…it was so damn funny.”
He grabbed my hand and said, “Oh, thank you so much. I loved that show. And it changed my life, it really did.”
I saw Adam DeVine (Pitch Perfect, The Intern) holding a drink and holding court with a few people. He presented an award that evening. I told him, “You’re probably going to continue doing more and more movies, but I sure hope you don’t abandon Workaholics. When I’m working on my computer at 1 a.m. and turn the TV on, I often catch it and it cracks me up.”
He thanked me and we talked a bit about the show.
Adam McKay, who won an award for directing The Big Short, walked by. He looked to be about 6’7″. His nickname should be “the big short.”
This might sound crazy to some, but the biggest thrill of the night for me was running into R.J. Cyler. He’s a young African-American actor who played the best friend in one of the most underrated movies of the year — Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.  And for all the idiotic complaints about the Oscars not having enough African-Americans nominated because of Creed and Straight Outta Compton, the only thing they dropped the ball on was not getting Cyler a “supporting actor” Oscar. And even that you can’t blame the Academy members for, because this was a smaller indie movie and none of the other cast members got nominations either.
He looked classy with his white bow tie and he was sitting on a couch with his mom. I went over and told him how his movie was the second best film I saw that year. I asked what his parents thought of it. He pointed to his mom and said, “Well, my mama cried when she saw it. My dad cried.” He then pointed to a friend of his and said, “My friend cried when he saw it.”
I asked him what he’s working on now and he said a Power Rangers movie. I rolled my eyes and he laughed.
I asked if he kept anything from the set of the movie, like one of the tulips they were making for the Apocalypse Now parody. He said, “Yeah, yeah, I did take a few of the tulips, but some girl stole them out of my hotel room.”
I laughed and said, “Women and flowers. Well…I hope at least…you got to touch them titties.”
[Now, before you think that was rude of me to say, let me explain. He asks his best friend in the movie that a few different times].
Cyler threw his head back and laughed before high-fiving me.
I took a few chocolate chip cookies and we headed out. No better way to end a fabulous evening.
CC Ken Jeong

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