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October 28, 2009

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Hollywood kicks off the award season

A NEW crop of Oscar prospects crammed the red carpet at what is widely considered Tinseltown's award-season starting gate: the Hollywood Awards.

"I think I was extremely naive when I showed up here tonight," giggled New Hollywood Award winner Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, who plays the title role of an abused daughter in "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Saffire."

"This is a big thing."

Among the other honorees walking the media gauntlet on Monday night were Hilary Swank ("Amelia"), Julianne Moore ("A Single Man"), Carey Mulligan ("An Education") and Christoph Waltz ("Inglorious Basterds").

Presenters included Sandra Bullock, Ewan McGregor, Kate Beckinsale, Morgan Freeman and "Juno" screenwriter Diablo Cody.

"I first came to this show a couple years ago, and we won for 'Juno', " Cody said. "I think this is kind of like the first (award ceremony). There's something in the air."

"It's a great festival," commented Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, whose performance in "North Country" earned her the Hollywood Actress Award at the 2005 gala, and she went on to nab an Academy Award nomination that year. "It really does create a bit of noise."

Theron presented a Hollywood Breakthrough Actor Award to her "North Country" co-star Jeremy Renner, honored for his performance in "The Hurt Locker."

While the festival is 13 years old, only over the last few years has its gala emerged as one of the award season's tentpoles. The festival's chairs, judges and advisers include film critics, film-industry executives and film-festival chiefs from all over the world - making for one enigmatic voting group.

Christoph Waltz, the veteran German character actor who won the Hollywood Supporting Actor Award after stealing scenes from Brad Pitt as ruthless Colonel Hans Landa in "Inglorious Basterds," admitted to not knowing who the voters are. He said it actually "helps me get through it in a sort of relaxed, organic way."


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