Black-and-white, near-silent movie The Artist picked up four prizes at Hollywood’s 17th Critics’ Choice Movie Awards on Thursday, including best picture, making it the evening’s biggest overall winner and a strong contender for the Oscars on 26 February.
As well as collecting the best director award, French film-maker Michel Hazanavicius saw his romantic comedy about the decline of silent films win best score and best costume design.
Civil Rights drama The Help was also popular with the 250-member Broadcast Critics Association, with Viola Davis receiving best actress, Octavia Spencer best supporting actress and the whole cast recognised for their performances with the best acting ensemble accolade.
George Clooney was honoured with best actor for his role in The Descendants, in which he plays a husband trying to cope when his wife falls into a coma, while awards veteran, 82-year-old Christopher Plummer, won best supporting actor for his portrayal of a gay man who comes out after years of acting straight in Beginners.
Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel, shared best cinematography with Terrence Malick’s controversial Tree of Life, and Woody Allen received best original screenplay for his latest Euro-friendly romantic comedy, Midnight in Paris.
The speeches included an emotional offering from Viola Davis, who paid tribute to The Help author Kathryn Stockett when she said of her role as a black maid in racially fraught 1960s Mississippi: “I considered it my honour to pay homage to these women at this time period who were not allowed to dream and not allowed to find their purpose.”
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Thomas Horn was charmingly surprised when called to collect the best young actor award for his starring role in Stephen Daldry’s post-9/11 drama Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, saying, “Frankly, I didn’t even imagine I would get this, but I have.”
The Broadcast Film Critics Association prides itself on spotting likely Academy Award nominees and between 1997 and 2004 predicted 33 out of 35 nominations for best picture.
Though by no means a typical mainstream film, The Artist has already played to critical acclaim at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where lead actor Jean Dujardin won best actor, and has since gone on to receive six Golden Globe nominations and many awards despite the gamble Hazanavicius took when he decided the film itself would contain virtually no speech.
“I made a silent movie. I don’t like to speak so much,” stated Hazanavicius as he accepted his prize.