01/14/2012 12:36 pm ET Updated Mar 15, 2012

Awards Foreplay at the National Board of Review Gala

At the elegant National Board of Review's Awards Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street this week, fine films were respectfully feted, with Hugo winning Best Picture, its director Martin Scorsese honored. Christopher Plummer, Best Supporting Actor for Beginners, and Will Reiser for his 50/50 original screenplay were among those honored. But, those speeches! On this occasion coming up on the Golden Globes weekend, a subtext emerged. Were they thinking about Oscars?

Viola Davis, reluctant spokesperson for the Best Ensemble award, and backed by a lovely Greek chorus from The Help including Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, marveled at the popularity of this movie given that no one in it has sex.

A clever pairing of presenters, Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan, each in a volatile relationship with Spotlight Award recipient Michael Fassbender, in A Dangerous Method and Shame respectively, introduced the versatile actor. Knightley said, "If I had to be spanked by anyone, I'm glad it was you."

When I really want attention in a movie, joked Fassbender, "I get naked and masturbate."

For her role in The Descendants, Shailene Woodley was honored for Best Supporting Actress. Introducing her, Amy Ryan noted, something about the way she says "twat" is deserving of the award. Reflecting upon the kinds of movies his Descendants star could play as a way of introducing Best Actor George Clooney, Alexander Payne included Deep Throat. Accepting, Clooney did refer to Fassbender's penis as an example of an actor's attribute, but stayed on message: we need kindness.

While a demure Frances McDormand in presenting her friend "Matilda" Swinton for a Best Actress award for We Need to Talk About Kevin called this time of year "the convention," Rosie O'Donnell in a kvetch vaguely connected to presenting an award for "Freedom of Expression" to Crime After Crime called this event "one crazy ass black tie dinner with a meringue cake that is orgasmic." And indeed it was.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.