Robert De Niro, left, director David O. Russell and Bradley Cooper won honors… (Chris Pizzello )
The 16th annual Hollywood Film Awards, held Monday night at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, brought out a host of A-list stars and filmmakers for an event that presenters and honorees repeatedly noted marked the “official launch of awards season.”
“Or, if you’re in comedy, the last stop in awards season,” presenter Seth Rogen joked, playfully noting the cold shoulder traditionally given to the genre.
By virtue of its mid-October date, the Hollywood Film Awards, run by Carlos de Abreu, have become the mandatory first stop in the awards-season circuit, even if, because of the early spot on the calendar, many of the films and performances being honored have yet to be seen.
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“It’s strange to get an award while I’m still in the editing room,” said Quentin Tarantino, who took screenplay honors for his upcoming gonzo western “Django Unchained,” which will be released in theaters Christmas Day. Then again, he added, the honor could prove helpful in winning arguments with his editor. “I'll be able to say, ‘Hey, you want to take a line out of my award-winning screenplay?'"
Though few in the room knew much about the awards or their benefactor, De Abreu (“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.”), everyone showed up to break bread and accept their honors.
"Argo" director Ben Affleck turned up with his cast to pick up the ensemble acting award, which was presented by former CIA agent Tony Mendez, whom Affleck portrays in the movie. Also present on stage: Lee Schatz and Mark and Cora Lijek, three of the real-life American diplomats seen rescued in the film.
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Richard Gere, currently starring in the thriller "Arbitrage," was given a career achievement award. Ed Norton and Los Angeles Times publisher and Tribune Co. Chief Executive Eddy Hartenstein presented the honor. (The Times is a presenting sponsor of the awards.) Gere gave a moving tribute to his late agent, Ed Limato.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhané Wallis, now 9 years old, charmed the audience just by saying "hello." Dustin Hoffman, picking up the breakthrough director award for "Quartet" (another December release), tried the same tact, joking, "When the little girl from 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' said 'hello,' she got a big laugh."
Big laughs were the order of the day for Hoffman contemporary Robert De Niro, who delivered a hilarious acceptance speech, picking up the supporting actor award for "Silver Linings Playbook."
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"I'm an old hand at awards shows," De Niro said. "For the last few years, what gets me here is presenting awards to other people. I've given a half-dozen lifetime achievement awards to Martin Scorsese ... even though Leonardo Di Caprio has replaced me as his go-to guy."
De Niro's "Silver Linings" castmate Bradley Cooper also won an award, as did the movie's director, David O. Russell. The comedy, which took the audience prize at the Toronto Film Festival, will arrive in theaters in November.
"Perhaps the most amazing thing about this awards show tonight is that none of these movies have come out yet," Rogen said. "I haven't even heard of some of these movies yet. That's how far out they are."
Which didn't mean there weren't any lessons to be learned from the evening. Judd Apatow, accepting the Hollywood Comedy Award from Rogen, took extensive notes during the ceremony, which he read from the podium. Among the accumulated wisdom: "'Please tell kid from 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' not to mention God. This is Hollywood." Wondering why De Abreu and not an actor gave Hoffman his award, Apatow mused: "Where is ... Jon Voight? At a Romney after-party?"