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Lessons Learned at the 75th New York Film Critics Circle Awards

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1. Critics Matter. Accepting the award for Best Actor for his roles in Up in the Air and Fantastic Mr. Fox, George Clooney shouted out to Rex Reed, who always expresses reservations about Clooney's performances, "I will not sleep -- at my villa in Italy -- in Lake Como -- until you are happy."

2. No liquids. Christine Lahti acknowledged that she was chosen to present the award to George Clooney not as a close personal friend, but as the winner of a similar award some time ago [1984 Best Supporting Actress for Swing Shift] and because she is in New York in the current Broadway production of God of Carnage. But the Oscar winning actress is also remembered for having been in the Ladies' Room when her award was announced. "That was a great moment," I said remembering the event on television, to wit she replied, "Yeah, great for you." And then just before she hit the podium, where was she? In the Ladies' Room.

3. Study lighting. Cinematographer Christian Berger gave Michael Haneke's new film The White Ribbon its unique look by studying black and white films like the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There and one in color, Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, because it was "lit by oil lamps," said the Austrian about his work on what critics call Haneke's most mature film.

4. Pay attention to Freud. Fellow Austrian Christoph Waltz, the oxymoronic charming Nazi of Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, insists he is not German. There is a huge cultural difference, he assured me. Happy he achieved this recognition of Best Supporting Actor in midst of a 30 year career, he says, "As a beginner you would be thrown. I still have a healthy distance."

5. Have no expectations. James Toback, presenting to Christian Berger, has gotten over his snub for Best Documentary Oscar short list for Tyson. "Nominated!" he said, "I expected to win!"

6. For Oscars, don't think beyond the present. Kathryn Bigelow, supported by her leading Hurt Locker actors Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie, claims to be taking her awards one at a time. She presented the NYFCC's Special Award to Andrew Sarris and also had on hand the executive director of the EOD Memorial Foundation, Jim O'Neil, recently returned from Afghanistan. An expert in dismantling bombs, he attested to the authenticity of The Hurt Locker's depiction of that war. Said New York Times columnist Frank Rich in presenting Best Picture and Best Director awards to Kathryn Bigelow: "Some day the war will end but people will still be watching The Hurt Locker."

And so ended a night of honors at Crimson, with no hint of an avatar.

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