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Based on the crowd at Tuesday night’s National Board of Review awards, it seems Hollywood can be divided into two camps: those who pretend to like award ceremonies and those who can’t even bear to fake it. George Clooney (Best Actor for “Michael Clayton”) falls into the former category — no surprise — as does Michael Douglas (Career Achievement Award), Josh Brolin (Best Ensemble Cast, “No Country for Old Men”) and Phil Donahue (Best Documentary, “Body of War”). Denzel Washington (who accepted The Bulgari Award for NBR Freedom of Expression with the incredibly poised “Great Debaters” star Jurnee Smollett) looked like he was happy enough to be there, but his ensemble (a sloppy, untucked button-down shirt) seemed to say otherwise. And Kate Winslet, who presented Joel and Ethan Coen with the prize for Best Film, gleefully introduced the brothers, but then again, she is an actress. Before the ceremony, held at Cipriani 42nd Street, she said to a pal approaching her table, “I don’t get up because then people start taking pictures of me.”
Indeed, Winslet slipped in without too much of a media maelstrom, as did quiet Ellen Page, who was awarded Breakthrough Performance by an Actress for her role in “Juno.” Page, 20, is getting used to the schmoozing an award-winning performance requires. The only thing, said the actress, whose acceptance speech was peppered with words like “awesome” and “friggin'”: “I wish I was more articulate.”
Casey Affleck, who received Best Supporting Actor for “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” was plenty articulate when he razzed his older brother Ben before presenting him with the Best Directorial Debut prize for “Gone Baby Gone.” But the younger Affleck, unlike his brother it appears, definitely considers himself among those for whom award ceremonies are the ugliest part of the business. “What would I rather be doing? I’d rather be doing anything other than talking about what I’d rather be doing,” he said.
But leave it to Clooney to get the biggest laugh of the night and use his friends’ unease to his advantage. “Here’s the most fun thing,” he said with a wide grin before presenting the Coen brothers with the Best Adapted Screenplay trophy, their second award of the night. “These guys hate this. They’re the worst you’ve ever seen at this. They’ll come up here, they won’t look at you, they’ll look at each other, shuffle around, it’s like ‘March of the Penguins.’ Ethan won’t talk and Joel’ll say something like ‘Thanks, man.’ So enjoy yourselves.”
You’ve got to give them credit, the boys didn’t disappoint, following Clooney’s prediction to a T. “Thanks, man,” said Joel Coen before he and his sibling were finally free to leave the spotlight.