01/11/2012 12:12 pm ET Updated Mar 12, 2012

The Awards Will Not Be Televised: Brad Pitt at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards

The crowds outside Crimson, the club where the New York Film Critics Circle held their awards, were six deep, calm in the cold behind velvet ropes, hoping to get a glimpse. Brad Pitt would receive a Best Actor award for his work in Moneyball and The Tree of Life, and, Angelina was by his side. He had been at hers a few weeks ago, a quiet presence at the In the Land of Blood and Honey premiere. Inside Crimson, critics and colleagues heard his story about first coming to New York at age 25, staying with a friend on Christopher Street, noting there were an awful lot of men, and they were all so nice. As to the New York critics, he was happy to meet this group led this year by John Anderson, surprised they weren't taller, and even happier that the event would not be televised.

And so the evening went, a contrast to last year's ceremony when Darren Aronofsky lost it, decrying a negative review. If anything, a theme for 2011 was friendship. Viola Davis, introducing Meryl Streep, her co-star in Doubt and winner of the Best Actress award for The Iron Lady, spoke as much about friendship as Streep's acting excellence. And Streep followed, oddly giving Davis a third hug from behind. Grateful that Davis stood up for her, she enthused, "Old Dog that I am, this is her year. I learned at the feet of a great master, and this is a great master." Then, addressing the critics, she remarked that they had awarded her for Julie and Julia thinking that her turn as Julia Child would be the last time, now as Margaret Thatcher: "I am proud of The Iron Lady, for getting at something human about someone we all thought was very [pause] weird."
Calling her "uncommon," Linda Emond introduced her friend Jessica Chastain, honored for her work as Supporting Actress in three films, Take Shelter, The Tree of Life, and The Help. Paying tribute, Chastain remembered sleeping in Central Park to get a ticket to see Meryl Streep in The Seagull.

Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Michael Barker, co-head of Sony Picture Classics, distributor of A Separation, the Best Foreign Language Film choice, among many other movies.

Picking up on friendship, before introducing the Best Picture, Francis Ford Coppola talked about knowing The Artist producer Thomas Langmann from the time he was a boy, how their families had been friends visiting in Napa and the South of France. But the evening was not without some ribbing, as Robert DiNiro presented the Best Director award to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, he quipped he noticed Harvey Weinstein was wearing a tie.

Albert Brooks quoted the critic Gene Shalit on his movie, Defending Your Life: "This is the first time Albert Brooks does not have to defend his life." Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, a stand in for Debbie Reynolds, introduced the writer/director/comic/actor. The last time Brooks had received a NYFCC award it was for his screenplay for Mother, in which Reynolds starred. Accepting their own screenplay award for Moneyball, Stephen Zaillian thanked the critics, and Aaron Sorkin remarked that he could not believe he was awarded in the same ceremony as Brooks. And with a nod to a vicious, very un-Brooks-like moment in the movie Drive, Travers asked all to raise their forks.

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