Are The Hollywood Film Awards an Oscar Preview?

Monday's ceremony signals the start of the award season cheerleading.

Lee Daniels accepts the "Hollywood Director Award" onstage during the 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
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Monday night, a parade of A-listers – many of them in films currently lighting up theater marquees – stopped by the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles for the Hollywood Film Awards, a 17-year-old awards streamed the red carpet and The Hollywood Reporter dutifully recapped the night's events, which included Kanye West stopping by to present "12 Years Slave" director Steve McQueen with an award before heading to San Francisco to propose to beau Kim Kardashian. The mood was light, as award recipients were not competing against their peers but already had been named.

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So what does it all matter? A number of the honorees were representing films already riding a good deal of Oscar buzz. Sandra Bullock won the Hollywood Actress Award for "Gravity;" Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto received awards for "Dallas Buyers Club;" McQueen and Lupita Nyong'o won for "12 Years a Slave." Other films honored, like "Pacific Rim" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness" (which won the Hollywood Movie Award, voted on by fans), seemed a little left field to this year's cast of Oscar contenders.

While 96 of Hollywood Film Awards' honorees in the last 10 years have eventually been nominated for the Academy Awards – 34 going on to win – the show is about more than simple handicapping. As Steve Pond at The Wrap pointed out, it is also a chance for stars to show that they're willing to show up at the Oscars and other awards shows, and make the speeches that instantly become viral, GIF-able moments. (The ceremony even allows stage-shy recipients to load their speeches into a teleprompter.)

It is also a moment for studios to signal which films they will be putting their weight behind in the Oscar race. Super producer Harvey Weinstein was present to tout the success of "Lee Daniels' The Butler" – a film that opened in August, a little early for awards season – which won director Daniels the Hollywood Director Award. The awards are picked by show founder and executive director Carlos de Abreu and a mysterious committee in a process that is "more negotiating than actual voting," as The Wrap put it.

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This year also presented a shift to make the Hollywood Film Awards a bigger event. Dick Clark Productions, which also produces the American Music Awards, The Golden Globes, and Miss USA, invested an undisclosed sum in the event in August and Abreu said he would like to eventually see the show broadcast on television.

Will that make The Hollywood Film Award a more concrete bellwether for the Oscar race? Considering that some of the films honored like "August: Osage County" and "American Hustle" are months away from hitting theaters, not necessarily. But it certainly suggests who is willing to show up to collect.

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