There were some shocked faces at the 17th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards held at the Hollywood Palladium on Thursday, Jan. 12, and none more than that of Viola Davis, who took home the Best Actress prize for her fine work as a maid in "The Help."
Davis beat out a heady field of contenders including Meryl Streep, Charlize Theron, Michelle Williams, Tilda Swinton, and Elizabeth Olsen, who all looked on from the jam-packed audience as Davis got teary-eyed during her acceptance speech.
"I wanted to make a mark, I wanted to be somebody," she said, recalling her first days as an aspiring thespian, riding a bus for hours to get to an acting class. "I am honored to play a woman who didn't have the chance to dream."
And dream she should, for the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who bestow the CCMAs every year, are the most accurate barometer of any of the pre-Oscar awards fetes in predicting who wins the Academy Award. If that holds true, then there are a few other surprising underdogs on their way up.
Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her part in "The Maid," and once she had hugged her collected co-stars including Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson and director Tate Taylor, she was at a loss for words.
"I'm so not prepared for this," Spencer stammered. "I wasn't a Girl Scout!"
She thanked director Steven Spielberg, who watched from a prime seat; his company DreamWorks funded "The Help." Spielberg was up for Best Director for his film "War Horse," along with Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Stephen Daldry, Nicolas Winding Refn and "The Artist" auteur, Michel Hazanavicius, who got the critic's nod.
"After seeing Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg here," the French filmmaker gasped, "this is just stupid!"
As the show built to its climax, the star-studded crowd rose to give a standing ovation to singer Bob Dylan, who played a song in honor of Scorsese�s special Music+Film Award, then cheered again as George Clooney presented the Joel Siegel Humanitarian Award to Sean Penn, who accepted via satellite from Haiti, two years to the day since the devastating earthquake there.
Clooney was back on stage to accept the organization's Best Actor Award for his work in "The Descendants," after first hugging his latest girlfriend Stacy Keibler as well as his longtime pal and competitor in the category, Brad Pitt.
"I'm very proud to be in this film," he said.
But not as proud as the cast of "The Artist," which grabbed the big prize of Best Picture. That delightful black-and-white silent film has been wowing audiences everywhere, and beat out popular hits like "The Help," "Moneyball," "Hugo" and "Midnight in Paris."
"It's amazing what our little film has done so far," "The Artist" star Missi Pyle said happily at the CCMA after party. "I feel a bit like Cinderella at the ball!"