While Angelenos may not have noticed that the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Festival came and went from October 17-21, 2013, the world will certainly sit up and take notice of the corresponding Hollywood Film Awards, handed out on Monday, October 21 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
That's because somehow, someway, festival director Carlos de Abreu has positioned that gala as "the first mandatory stop in the awards season," and everyone decided to believe him. And we mean everyone. It doesn't matter that the winners know ahead of time that they will take home a trophy; in fact, as "August: Osage County" star and Best Supporting Actress winner Julia Roberts pointed out, "knowing I won is the reason my husband is here with me tonight!"
Roberts was something of a fashion victim, as the bright red Rupert Sanderson spiked-heel pumps she chose to go with her Elie Saab cocktail dress failed her. She pattered out onto the stage in her bare feet to accept her prize from Sean Penn.
That moment came after a surprise visit from Kanye West, who turned up to launch the festivities by honoring "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen. "I flew in from San Francisco to give this Breakout Director Award to someone I call my friend," West explained breathlessly. He then raced back out the door, flew back to San Fran and got engaged to Kim Kardashian (it was her birthday).
West wasn't the only star who blew in and out of the evening's program. Viola Davis gave her co-star Jake Gyllenhaal the Best Supporting Actor Award for his work in their film "Prisoners," then promptly disappeared. "It was an honor to work with you . . . wherever you are!" Gyllenhaal said with a bewildered look around. "She booked out," he laughed.
But the stars just kept on coming in as the glittery night progressed. Jack Black handed Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy and Richard Linklater the Screenwriter Award for "Before Midnight"; Geoffrey Rush honored up-and-comers Michael B. Jordan, Sophie Nelisse and David Oyelowo with the Hollywood Spotlight Award; and Jennifer Garner actually stayed onstage after she presented her "Dallas Buyers Club" costar Matthew McConaughey with his Actor Award.
"In the last couple of years, I started choosing experiences," McConaughey explained, "characters who live on the fringe. I lost money - for the first time in my career, true story - but I've had a hell of a time!"
Then Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin took the stage, to perform "Atlas," his band's Song Award winner; and it was on to more mega-watt stars. Robert Downey, Jr., snorted as he gave Jared Leto his Breakthrough Award for his transgender role in "Dallas Buyers Club," "to a guy who has been acting for over 20 years."
Leto got a bit misty as he admitted that, "I have never received an award for anything I have done on screen, until now. And to get the Breakout Award at age 41 is amazing.
And the night wasn't over yet. Bruce Willis turned up to give producer Jerry Weintraub the Hollywood Legend Award; Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner awarded the costume and production prizes; Jane Fonda and Forest Whittaker handed Lee Daniels the Director Award for "The Butler," and Octavia Spencer anointed Sandra Bullock with the Actress Award for "Gravity."
"I'm happy that Hollywood has not sent me out to pasture," the gorgeous 49-year-old actress giggled. "I don't want to go out to pasture, it's cold out there!"
The night finally wound down with the last trophy, the Career Achievement Award, going to Harrison Ford.
As Julia Roberts said, "Thank you Carlos, the mysterious Carlos, for the party."
Follow Jenny Peters and Spywitness on Twitter at @jennpeters.