Movies · TV

How to Attend a Big Fancy Movie Awards Show

By  · Published on December 13th, 2016

The coverage is coming from inside the house!

I figured the celebrities wouldn’t eat the food. But they didn’t seem to be drinking, either. All those years watching the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards, where attendees sit around booze-adorned tables, getting the sense that stars were becoming more and more buzzed throughout the evening, maybe gave me the wrong impression. That impression being that it was bottoms up for everyone. These events are a lot more sober than you’d think. And I got a lot less sober than I should have.

On Sunday, my wife and I attended the 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, and it was quite an experience. Yes, it was mostly just gazing at the famous people from movies and television, and meeting a few here and there, but it was a chance to sort of see how the other half lives. It’s not something everyone has an opportunity to do unless they’re a nominee or part of the industry or, in my case, a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association.

Because I live in Atlanta and have very young children, it’s not easy to get out in general, let alone out to a big Hollywood shindig. So, this was my first Critics’ Choice Awards after becoming a BFCA member a few years ago. The wife and I flew out, rented a tux and a gown just affordable not to look out of place (as it turns out, another attendee had the same dress as my wife but in a different style, because of course). We drove up in a semi-fancy Uber, and at first it really did feel like we were going to the prom we never got to have together.

For some reason nobody ever asked for our tickets. Maybe we could have been anyone. Well-dressed scoundrels wandered in off the Santa Monica street, which is what I thought I’d feel like but didn’t. We actually fit in! In the line to go in, we were between one of the kids from Stranger Things – Gaten Matarazzo, who is a real gentleman – and Judith Light. As someone who always wants to discuss weird things with famous people, I had the urge to tell her I grew up in the town that Who’s the Boss takes place in. Instead I stayed silent. Because I was still dry. For the best.

Once through the gate, we were behind Bryce Dallas Howard for the red carpet walk. But there was too much congestion, and as much as I felt for a moment that I deserved to be just one of the stars in front of the paparazzi, we decided to just go right in through another entrance. And immediately begin drinking. Ahead of the show, during the pre-gaming cocktail hour, I considered trying to meet other people, like Judd Apatow, who I’d love to discuss documentaries with sometime, but he was deep into a Freaks and Geeks reunion with Linda Cardellini.

Basically, I’m the doc dork whose best in with celebs is if they like or have made nonfiction films. If only I had run into Ryan Reynolds at some point to tell him congratulations on his Entertainer of the Year honor and how much I love The Whale, a doc he produced and narrated that I’ve championed for years. As far as I believe, stars love it when you bring up a project they were passionate about but that wasn’t widely seen. It means so much to them to hear, they usually say.

Reynolds, who also won the award for Best Actor in a Comedy for Deadpool (which also won the award for Best Comedy), gave a touching speech dedicated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Toronto’s SickKids hospital, and yes that is me in the video above behind Mr. Robot’s Rami Malek at the point where we’re all applauding the sentiment. Later in the evening, his co-star Christian Slater took that seat directly in front of me (see my view pictured at the top). By that time I had the amount of champagne-fueled courage necessary for to tell him how important Heathers was to me growing up. That means a lot to him to hear, he said.

Etiquette at the Critics’ Choice Awards is difficult to pinpoint. We were discouraged from bugging the celebrity guests for selfies, but that’s never been my thing. I don’t even want to be the guy who tries to meet famous people for no other reason other than they’re famous. At the pre-party, I exchanged hellos with Jeff Nichols, who I’d met recently for an interview. I met Katy Mixon only because Nichols then introduced me to her when she approached us (well, him).

In the room of the show, I felt it OK to say hello only to people in our vicinity, like Slater, and RuPaul, who was at the table to our right. We were at the the Don’t Think Twice table, joined by stars Gillian Jacobs and Kate Micucci and some producers and agents and distributing partners. I made sure to tell them all how improv was the hardest thing for me when studying acting in school, how I always have to think not twice but 20 times. I’m sure I said some things, especially after too many drinks, where they’d have preferred I thought twice before whatever stupid thing I uttered.

Yes, I drank too much, and the food on the table during the show didn’t look appetizing, so that didn’t help. I tried to offer to pour glasses of wine and champagne for the others at the table but learned most of the non-stars are technically working so can’t get even a little tipsy. And a lot of the stars in the room just avoid the alcohol because of the calories. Surely they also just want to make sure not to do anything stupid.

I guess I was working, too, but also there to party and celebrate my favorite movies and TV shows of the year. Yet much of the show itself, as hosted by TJ Miller, was a slog (he’s still a better host than Michael Strahan two years ago). And the room is distracting when you’re sitting so far from the stage, nothing like watching from home where you’re focused on what’s on camera, with directed and live-edited filtering (the Lakeith Stanfield stunt when Silicon Valley won Best Comedy Series was very confusing from our vantage point). When the show cuts to commercial, everybody is up and wandering around and going to the bathroom (the big big stars clearly have their own VIP restrooms, by the way) and that’s another way we forget there’s a show going on at all.

But also there are so many awards, and by the end I’m not sure I was even realizing which were being handed out and whom they were given to and how their speeches were. I had to check the list of winners the next day to find out a lot of what I’d missed. Big congrats to La La Land and Natalie Portman and Casey Affleck, all of them also likely Oscar winners in a few months. And congrats to Game of Thrones winning Best Drama Series. I can say I definitely recall Donald Glover winning Best Actor in a Comedy Series, because Jacobs, his old Community co-star seemed especially happy for him.

The Wonderful World of Golden Globes Nominations

It is funny how they keep the biggest awards until the end, to keep viewers tuned in, but whether you’re at home or there in person, everybody is tired at that point. And at least for the crowd at the Barker Hangar where the event was held, we all just wanted to go to the after party and dance to the DJ stylings of Kristian Nairn, aka Hodor from Game of Thrones. And eat some real food, possibly too late for it to help soak up the alcohol.

Hopefully I wasn’t wasted enough to have done anything embarrassing, but honestly I am embarrassed to say I don’t remember everything post-ceremony. Alas, I know it couldn’t have been too much. The party was too packed, I was too intoxicated, and my wife and I were tired from the day, the experience, and the time difference, and we called it an early night. If we ever feel the need to do it again, I for one will take it easy on the booze.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.