Another night, another opportunity for George Clooney to wear a tuxedo.
Hollywood is really just getting warmed up, as far as awards season goes, and we've just passed the first (or second, if you count the Water for Elephants-feting People's Choice Awards) stop on a windy, increasingly glamorous road.
But as long as stars are walking a red carpet and going up on a stage to accept little trophies, we're going to be there looking for moments that surprise us. So here are five jaw-droppers from last night's Critics' Choice Movie Awards:
1. The Help Gets All the Help It Needs: "It feels like The Help table is having more fun than any of us," Clooney cracked toward the end of the night. But he wasn't kidding! After a lot of early 2011 Oscar buzz, the anti-Bridesmaids became overshadowed as the year went on by The Descendants, War Horse, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and other films that were just fortunate enough to hit theaters later, and therefore be fresher come ballot-filling-out time. But The Help, a controversial conversation-starter in its own right, came storming back to the front lines with Viola Davis' win for Best Actress, Octavia Spencer's win for Best Supporting Actress and the femme-heavy cast's win for Best Acting Ensemble.
2. Where Art Thou, Angie?! On what was the first night of a jam-packed awards season for Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie went missing and the gone-solo actor bro'd it up with costar Chris Pratt and other suit-wearers at the Moneyball table. We're 99.99 percent sure there's nothing weird going on (only a second absence at the Golden Globes Sunday would send us off the rails), but the couple, who just hit the White House together, are usually stuck like glue on carpets of the red variety.
3. Waves in the Kiddie Pool: What with the drum Clooney had been banging for Shailene Woodley, who played his wiser-than-dad-in-some-ways daughter in The Descendants, she seemed like the obvious choice for Best Young Actor/Actress—and we'll likely be hearing her name when the Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 24. But the critics went the Actor route this year and threw the largely snubbed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close a bone by giving the win to 13-year-old Thomas Horn. Woodley's got another shot at a Supporting Actress statue on Sunday, but could just end up getting steamrolled by Spencer again, the way Hailee Steinfeld was run over by the unstoppable Melissa Leo train last year.
4. Morning, Woody: Why does it seem as if Woody Allen has been clawing his way back from an abyss for the last 10 years? Well, besides…Nevermind. Whatever you think of the man, his work as a filmmaker has been more miss than hit for a long time, hence his need for cinematic redemption. So while it was well-deserved, hearing his name announced as the winner of Best Original Screenplay for the utterly charming Midnight in Paris was a bit of a shock. But the New Yorker (or anywhere but L.A.-er, really) wasn't there to accept, so we'll see if Oscar is willing to accommodate his neuroses in the 21st century.
5. Modern Artist: Critics have been partying like it's 1929 (before the stock market crash, of course), perching The Artist atop best-of-2011 lists right and left. But tonight, in front of actual movie stars wearing gowns and tuxedoes, the French filmmakers responsible for the oxymoronic indie (an English-language film starring French actors that's silent but has a brilliant score and is such a throwback it's new, etc.) accepted an award for Best Picture. Will this black-and-white charmer that's only made $7.4 million at the box office so far end up being the little engine that does on Oscar night?