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February 13, 2009

Flag waving, crisis averting 'Image Awards'

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A couple of famous men who didn't attend the "40th NAACP Image Awards" last night loomed large over the event, but for very different reasons.

In keeping with the trend this season of awards ceremonies doubling as political forums, the show from the Shrine Auditorium included no less than a dozen shout outs to President Barack Obama as evidence, in the 100th year of the NAACP, of how far people of color have come.

"If there had been no N-A-A-C-P, there would be no O-B-A-M-A," co-host Tyler Perry said at the opening of the two-hour telecast.

Pictures of Obama and civil rights leaders accompanied a searing Beyonce performance of her new song, "Halo," and Stevie Wonder started an Obama chant during the closing number, "Black Man," with the packed house on its feet waving a sea of pint-sized American flags.

84768635 It's enough to get a viewer all choked up, but more on that later.

As expected, hip-hop singer and Image Award nominee Chris Brown was a no-show but wasn't completely absent, with nosy reporters asking stars on the red carpet about his current legal troubles. Brown is being investigated for an alleged attack on his girlfriend, pop superstar Rihanna. 

Celebrities gave a host of innocuous comments along the lines of, "Our thoughts are with them," and Tia Mowry offered up a "hope he goes in a better direction" that came a little closer to the issue.

It was up to the Image Awards producers to handle a delicate situation, namely what to do if Brown won for outstanding male artist. He didn't -- Jamie Foxx did. And the show, either in a prescient move or a lucky one, didn't present that award live. (That was true for a number of honors, even if the winner was in the house; presenters just read the name and moved on).

So that's how they handled it. Deftly done.

And speaking of winners, they ranged from "The Secret Life of Bees" to "Seven Pounds" co-stars Will Smith and Rosario Dawson, "Tyler Perry's House of Payne," "Grey's Anatomy," Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, current Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson, and Sean "Diddy" Combs. And, not to be left out of any kudofest, "Slumdog Millionaire" picked up some more hardware for best indie film.

See the full list here.

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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