If you’re going to stand on a red carpet, you’d best bring a stool. At the Critics’ Choice Awards last night in Los Angeles, the entryway was packed with news agencies and paparazzi – everyone from the networks and domestic entertainment press to foreign reporters, like those from Canal Plus. (On the northern side of cultural reportage, Ben Mulroney, the host of Canadian Idol and the son of a former prime minister, cut the most impressive figure.) Everyone was jostling for position, and when the celebrities came down the carpet, it was difficult to see, much less talk, for fear of all the flying elbows and tossed camera equipment. When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrived, the flashbulbs looked like a lightning storm, to borrow a phrase from intrepid VH1 host Aamer Haleem. One grizzled red carpet vet hunched over his microphone and said grimly, “This is paradise.” But for many, it was.
The show began with a pre-show, the traditional red-carpet march where celebrities are evaluated by the competence of their stylists (or, in the case of the tie-less Emile Hirsch, their stylists’ insouciance). Standouts in particular included Kyra Sedgwick, who just yelled, “Chanel!” when asked what she was wearing. Julian Schnabel did his best Bono-meets-Captain Lou Albano, wearing his salt-and-pepper beard and yellow-tinted U2-ish goggles with the kind of confidence only an artist who broke in the ’80s can seem to muster. Juno star Ellen Page wore sensible black, as did Nikki Blonsky, the Hairspray ingenue who, this time last year, was working in an ice cream store. Of note: Simpsons creator Matt Groening actually looks something like a Simpsons character himself; Brittany Snow and Amanda Bynes were vivacious and engaging; in person, Emily Deschanel is just as stunning as she is in pictures. But poise-wise, the Ocean’s franchise friends George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Don Cheadle raised the bar. It’s a skill to be both charming and aloof when you’re walking the gauntlet of a thousand cameras, but each managed it in style. So did Snoop, but it’s easy to be charming, stylish and aloof when you’re genetically built that way, and especially if your personal bodyguard resembles a mountain built from recycled Hummers.
Inside the press tent, journalists were playing the where-were-you-when-Britney-had-her-last-meltdown game, at least until Katie Holmes, who was both wiry and frail looking, presented the award for Best Comedy. Then the subject turned to stranger matters, at least until the winning celebrities were ushered through for photo-ops. The cast of Hairspray and Juno were trotted through, giving Nikki Blonsky another chance to shine. Ellen Page was more shy, and when she was asked what she was wearing, the 2007 success story quietly demurred and left the stage. Julian Schnabel was far more sanguine; he began his spiel by explaining that he was feeling the effects of the champagne, and then talked about how proud he was to have the CCA trophy, considering he wasn’t good at bowling (or so he said). George Clooney’s eloquent speech presenting the Joel Siegel Award to Don Cheadle impressed the crowd; so did Daniel Day-Lewis‘s heartfelt send-up to Paul Thomas Anderson and the mystery of working in a creative field. That No Country for Old Men swept the most important categories — Best Picture and Best Director — wasn’t much of a shock, but presenting the winning film with all the critics on stage was.
Post-show, VH1 hosts Haleem, Ross Matthews and Carrie Keagan arranged themselves strategically to catch outbound celebrities. Haleem caught up with Brittany Snow and Paul Dano. He tried to catch up with Casey Affleck (who accepted the Best Supporting Actress award on behalf of Amy Ryan) but it wasn’t meant to be — at least not then, since he didn’t come back to the camera. But VH1 winner Siobahn Price (pictured right, below) and her film-reviewing friend, AnChi Pho (pictured left), the women behind Trailer Gals, were starstruck anyhow, and even offered to fetch Affleck from the men’s room. Price and Pho were ecstatic to take their picture with the Real Girl from Lars and the Real Girl, the sex doll Ryan Gosling’s character in the film wants to believe is real.
Finally, it was to the after-party, where the show’s presenters, winners and various crew members danced to the strains of Latin pop and ’80s classics. Affleck, Schnabel, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Eddie Izzard were all in attendance, mingling. The party raged for awhile — dancers synchronized moves to “Thriller,” and one couple, a pair of hipsters dressed in their suited finery, spilled each other’s bodies across the room in professional ballroom poses — before it began to thin out. In the end, status didn’t seem to matter. Celebrity or not, everyone was fair game on the dance floor.