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Inside the 2024 Critics Choice Awards, an Event Fueled by ‘Adrenaline and Fatigue’

Following last week’s Golden Globes, the following days were filled with seemingly endless events, in which film and TV stars gathered (again, and again) at venues on both coasts to collect more honors. For the winners at the 2024 Critics Choice Awards, mustering up an impressive acceptance speech was mostly feat of stamina.

Several postponements in response to the dual WGA and SAG strikes stacked things up to create arguably the busiest week of all time for awards contenders. One could theoretically have attended the Governors Awards in Hollywood on Tuesday, January 9, flown to New York City to make it to the National Board of Review Awards on Thursday, January 11, and then rushed back to Los Angeles for the the AFI Awards in Beverly Hills on Friday, January 12.

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Who would blame any Critics Choice attendees for feeling a little disoriented on Sunday night?

What may not have helped was new venue the Barker Hangar, a replacement for the Fairmont Century Plaza, the show’s usual home, whose workers have been part of the ongoing hospitality strikes in the city. Quite a few times during the evening, the Santa Monica location would whir as airplanes flew over, causing much noise and confusion as to whether some of the night’s winners like “Oppenheimer” director Christopher Nolan were being played off prematurely. (“Bottoms” co-writer/star Rachel Sennott, a Best Comedy nominee, found it to be a “terrifying” effect.)

Because the awards show, voted on by a group of more than 600 national arts and entertainment journalists, casts such a wide net with its 43 categories honoring TV and film, the room does provide for some unique link-ups, whether its “Mr. Monk’s Last Case: A Monk Movie” star Tony Shaloub, a Best Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Made for Television nominee, chatting with “The Bear” star Ayo Edebiri, the night’s Best Actress in a Comedy Series winner; or “Beef” star Steven Yeun, another one of the night’s winners, catching up with Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige shortly after announcing that he had to drop out of “The Thunderbolts.”

Only before the telecast could one approach any tables lined across the stage, and catch a glimpse of “May December” stars Charles Melton and Julianne Moore sharing a laugh over the t-shirts left for them on their chair, each depicting a collage of their past roles.

By the time comedian and host Chelsea Handler came to the stage and won over the crowd with a joke at ex and recent Golden Globes host Jo Koy’s expense, the tightly squeezed tables became nearly impossible to navigate through within the two minutes for commercials.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: (L-R) David Krumholtz, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Alden Ehrenreich and Cillian Murphy accept the Best Acting Ensemble Award for 'Oppenheimer' onstage during the 29th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 14, 2024 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
David Krumholtz, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, Alden Ehrenreich, and Cillian Murphy accept the Best Acting Ensemble Award for “Oppenheimer” onstage during the 29th Annual Critics Choice AwardsKevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association

That still did not stop many from braving it toward the bar or the bathroom. Actor Matt Bomer, pulling double duty as the producer-star of Best Limited Series nominee “Fellow Travelers” and a supporting player in Best Picture nominee “Maestro,” aptly nailed the vibe of the event, saying it smelled of “adrenaline and fatigue.”

To the former point, Critics Choice Awards did feel like a determining factor in quite a few film award races. Many a handsome face nominated for Best Supporting Actor fell when Robert Downey Jr. once again won the category for his haughty performance in “Oppenheimer.”

Another win for that film in the Best Ensemble category felt like a death knell for the “Air” and “The Color Purple” campaigns, which could’ve used any boost they could before Oscar nomination voting closes on Tuesday, January 16. Though “Oppenheimer” would eventually become the night’s biggest winner, its table was left shell-shocked after star Cillian Murphy lost Best Actor to “The Holdovers” star Paul Giamatti.

It should be noted that, in a similarly tight Best Actor race last year, the Critics Choice Awards were the first televised program in which eventual Oscar winner Brendan Fraser got to give an acceptance speech. Giamatti similarly made the most of his moment in the spotlight, providing both jokes about his viral In-N-Out excursion post-Globes win, and an emotional nod to his father, an academic in the shape of his character in the Alexander Payne-helmed dramedy that he won for.

Standing among publicists watching the show from overflow seating, tucked behind a curtain separating it from the show floor, there was a feeling of slight disappointment with Emma Stone winning Best Actress for “Poor Things” over “Killers of the Flower Moon” breakout Lily Gladstone, and real insult to injury when the cameras panned to “Barbie” filmmaker Greta Gerwig rather than “Past Lives” star Greta Lee when Stone was addressing fellow nominees in her acceptance speech.

SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 14: (L-R) Liza Colón-Zayas, Ayo Edebiri, and Jeremy Allen White accepts the Best Comedy Series Award for 'The Bear' onstage during the 29th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 14, 2024 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)
Liza Colón-Zayas, Ayo Edebiri, and Jeremy Allen White accepts the Best Comedy Series Award for “The Bear” onstage during the 29th Annual Critics Choice AwardsKevin Winter/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association

The aforementioned fatigue came more from the TV side, whose nominees are stuck in a weird time vacuum. For instance, “The Bear” crew, which nearly swept the Comedy Series categories, were accepting awards for Season 2 during a time where they are still promoting the FX series’ first season 18 months after the fact, since the Primetime Emmys were postponed until Monday, January 15. Netflix dark comedy “Beef” nearly sweeping the Limited Series categories, and “Succession” nearly sweeping the Drama Series categories for its final season suggest both should have a lot to celebrate in the final stretch of their awards campaigns.

Even if most of the talent in attendance were running on fumes at the start of the show, there was still a swell of energy by the end of the 2024 Critics Choices Awards, as its choices did suggest who are likely to also be winners at the upcoming Emmys and Oscars. Oh, and the Emmys? Yeah, they’re tonight.

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