As expected, the award-giving party thrown by the New York Film Critics Circle last night at Strata (Broadway at 21st) was a convivial, stimulating, enjoyable thing. Thanks to the NYFCC and IHOP publicity for inviting me. The food and drink were choice and abundant. The swanky, two-tiered room was filled with distributors, publicists and all manner of talent. And the best critics, bloggers and entertainment writers around. My idea of a class-A event.

NYFCC from Hollywood Elsewhere on Vimeo

Almost all the winners were there — Happy Go Lucky‘s Mike Leigh (Best Picture, Best Director) and Sally Hawkins (Best Actress), Milk‘s Sean Penn (Best Actor) and Josh Brolin (Best Supporting Actor), Rachel Getting Married‘s Jenny Lumet (Best Screenplay), Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress), etc.

The most amusing moment happened when N.Y. Times columnist David Carr (a.k.a. “the Bagger”) invited Envelope columnist Tom O’Neil and myself to do an on-camera interview, and began things by asking “how many Oscar bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

Three or four minor issues surfaced during the four-hour event, but nothing to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Not mine, anyway. I wouldn’t bring them up but I may as well for the sake of colorful reporting.

One, the acceptance speeches rambled on and on and were, for the most part and by common consensus, boring. Josh Brolin‘s lubricated comments were blunt (he called Russell Crowe an asshole) but he could have used a red pencil or a friend signalling him from a nearby table. It was very difficult to sift through the French accent of Man on Wire‘s Phillipe Petit, who accepted the Best Doc award for director James Marsh, who couldn’t attend because he’s directing a new film, Nineteen Eighty, in England.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz accepting the NYFCC’s Best Supporting Actress award.

Lisa Schwarzbaum, critic for Entertainment Weekly, resented some recent backstage reporting about the how the NYFCC voted last month — she feels the voting should be kept private — which resulted in said journalist being banned from the NYFCC event, which he attended anyway after threatening to make a stink. For what it’s worth I love reading reports about how this or that critics group voted — which films led initially only to fall behind when second and third ballots happened (or when proxies were disqualified), who argued with whom, who said what, etc. Critics groups should learn to roll with this. It’s the way of today’s world — nothing is private, everything is public, every imaginable personal embarassment is on YouTube, etc.

IHOP publicist Jessica Uzzan watching over talent and paparazzi — Monday, 1.5.08, 6:55 pm

I spoke briefly to playwright/screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels Over America, Munich). I asked him what the deal was with Steven Spielberg ‘s long-delayed Abraham Lincoln movie, the screenplay for which Kushner been been working on since ’07. (Earlier?) Kushner said (a) he’s not aware of any hesitancy or disinclination on Spielberg’s part to shoot the Lincoln film (all actions to the contrary), and (b) that he’s now on his fourth draft. I told him I had spoken to Liam Neeson three and a half years ago about Neeson’s great hunger to play Lincoln under Spielberg’s direction.

Spielberg “has become a kind of delaying sadist regarding the Lincoln film,” I wrote last March. “Chicago 7 this, Tintin that…and we never hear diddly about the Lincoln project. It’s a classic avoidance syndrome thing (a kid avoiding a homework assignment, a guy who keeps putting off doing his taxes). If a benevolent God took any kind of interest in human affairs, Spielberg would (a) officially abandon the Lincoln film and (b) arrange for another esteemed director to step in so it can finally move forward.”