By Frankie TAGGART, November 7, 2016
LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Tom Hanks and Natalie Portman took top acting honors on Sunday at the Hollywood Film Awards, billed as the official start of the film industry's annual prize-giving season.
The "Hollywood Blockbuster Award" went to Disney's "The Jungle Book" while there was a comedy prize for two-time Oscar-winner Robert De Niro for his role in the upcoming "The Comedian."
Hanks, also a double Oscar winner, was honored for "Sully," Clint Eastwood's drama about real-life hero Chelsey Sullenberger's 2009 emergency landing of a passenger jet on the Hudson River.
Portman was recognized for her starring role in "Jackie," a portrait of First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy during the days immediately following her husband's assassination.
Best supporting actor went to Hugh Grant for comedy biopic "Florence Foster Jenkins," while Nicole Kidman was recognized for her support role in "Lion."
"His performance in 'Florence Foster Jenkins' is miraculous and marvelous, and I always knew he was a wonderful actor," the film's British writer Nicholas Martin told AFP.
The ceremony, which has trademarked its description of itself as "The Official Launch of the Awards Season," is in its 20th year.
Mel Gibson, who is making a comeback after his career collapsed following an anti-Semitic tirade caught on tape, was accepted back into the fold with an award for directing.
His World War II drama "Hacksaw Ridge" came out on Friday to widespread acclaim, ten years after his last directing project, "Apocalypto."
"Our crew and cast would lie in front of the tracks for Mel. They adored him and loved him. He's an amazing filmmaker and an amazing individual," "Hacksaw Ridge" producer David Permut told AFP.
- Red carpet glamour -
Hosted by British actor and comedian James Corden, the plush Beverly Hills ceremony has been criticized in the past, chiefly because it is not known who actually votes for the winners.
The website says selections are made by an "advisory team" of "Hollywood insiders," prompting trade journal "Variety" to describe the evening as "more mystery than suspense."
Critics have also questioned the wisdom of some of the decisions; this year the two actress prizes and De Niro's honor were awarded for films which aren't out yet.
Organizers point out however that more than 100 honorees have gone on to garner Oscar nominations or wins.
There was no shortage of glamour on the red carpet, with the prizewinners among a host of A-listers who were not nominated, including Aaron Eckhart, Andie MacDowell and Lenny Kravitz.
"Jurassic World" star Bryce Dallas Howard, whose upcoming crime thriller "Gold" bagged an "ensemble" award for its cast, told AFP she was excited to be going into the awards season.
"I haven't really done it that much. The year I was nominated for the Golden Globes it was canceled," she said, referring to the 2008 ceremony, which was shelved due to a writers' strike.
"For me it's still this thing where I get to see all my friends, we're all dressed up and there's not much pressure."
Her "Gold" co-star Matthew McConaughey revealed that 2016 had been one of his "roughest" years as many family members and close friends had died -- "more so than the last 10 years combined."
"What that'll do is make you appreciate living a little more," he told reporters.