The producers of the VH1’s Critics’ Choice Movie Awards owe Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock big time, for had the two Best Actress winners not interlocked lips, there would have been practically nothing to remember last night’s show by. But when Streep and Bullock tied for the Actress award, for Julie & Julia and The Blind Side, respectively, the two took matters into their own hands and rescued the sinking ship. Actually, if you re-watch the moment, it appears that Bullock initiated the lip-to-lip contact, as Streep hesitated for a second before Bullock basically yanked her head in for the delivery. Here’s the clip (and I love the cut to Matt Damon’s curious-boy expression):

And after the jump, some observations (and video clips) on what worked and didn’t work during the show:

1. Kristin Chenoweth was about as grating as a host can be. Granted, the actress had painful material to work with, and I commend her for obviously giving it her all, but you could sense the unease in the Hollywood Palladium whenever Chenoweth had the floor. Things started promisingly, though, with a brief homage to Inglourious Basterds during which a film-projected Chenoweth actually told the assembled critics that “You’re all going to die.” Pretty ballsy, and pretty funny, but it was all downhill from there as Chenoweth continued with the requisite opening musical number. PopWatchers, how long you can endure this:

2. The awards themselves were mostly well deserved. EW’s Dave Karger has the full list of winners and an analysis on how various films’ Oscar chances were affected. But I want to mention how pleased I was with The Hurt Locker scoring Best Picture and Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director (a first for a woman filmmaker). I had expected the Broadcast Film Critics Association to hand the top prize to Avatar or Inglourious Basterds. Even though the show consistently reminded viewers that these awards were selected by “critics,” the BFCA is a fairly populist group. Many of its members are responsible for the blurbs you see on TV ads for movies — the ones where the quotes are gargantuan, but the actual critics’ names are microscopic. Nevertheless, if The Hurt Locker can win over this middlebrow organization, it means we might have a real Oscar horse race between Hurt Locker and Avatar.

3. Having the 10 tables surrounding the stage represent the 10 Best Picture nominees was a clever idea, although I’m surprised the show didn’t decide to have more fun with it. “Let’s spin this wheel to determine which table will receive another round of drinks!”

4. The actual tribute to the late filmmaker John Hughes, with Death Cab for Cutie singing “Don’t You Forget About Me” while clips from Hughes’ films played in the background, was appropriately sweet. The tribute’s introduction by Amy Poehler and John Krasinski, however, was just bizarre. Combine a hackneyed script with a likely faulty teleprompter and two presenters who’ve probably been drinking, and you get one awkward tribute intro. At one point, I believe Poehler and Krasinski said this drawn-out line: “Through him, we found out that each one of us is a brain … and an athlete … and a basket case … a princess … and a criminal.” Here’s the clip:

5. If you’re going to include a mention of a current crisis in an awards show — the tragedy in Haiti, in this case — don’t pick a sleep-deprived Tobey Maguire to deliver it.

6. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s in poor taste to make fun of The Lovely Bones‘ Susie Salmon. The disturbing clip:

7. All indicators point to Up in the Air director/co-writer Jason Reitman being an incredibly likable guy, but shouldn’t he have given his co-writer Sheldon Turner a chance to speak while accepting the Best Adapted Screenplay award?

8. Jeff Bridges, who’s pretty much locked to win the Best Actor Oscar at this point, will have additional opportunities to perfect his acceptance speech. One thing he’ll want to get straight by Oscar Night: Scott Cooper, not actor Chris Cooper, directed Crazy Heart. But if anyone can get away with a gaffe like that, it’s Bridges, who deserves all the recognition that’ll be coming his way.

PopWatchers, what did you make of the Critics’ Choice Awards? Anyone ready to wash that taste out of your mouth with Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards?

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