If ever there were a case to be made for ending the WGA strike before the Oscars, it was last night's lengthy National Board of Review awards gala at Cipriani. The WGA let the awards go on as planned because the NBR isn't televised or otherwise connected with "money-grubbing moguls." But that also meant no TV time limits on speeches. About an hour in Juno's Ellen Page and screenwriter Diablo Cody became heroes for their quickly mumbled acceptance speeches (they were the fifth award of twenty). "We felt bad for just going up and saying a couple of 'awesome's," Cody said during a break around hour four, "but now we realize we were being merciful." Josh Brolin accepted award No. 7 (for Best Acting by an Ensemble) on behalf of the No Country for Old Men cast. "I'm going to take soooo long, because everyone before me took so friggin' long," he threatened, as the crowd let out a great cheer. But the baiting didn't stop introducer Mike Wallace from talking so long he actually had to ask: "Now why am I up here?"
The only other hero was an animated George Clooney. Introducing the Coen brothers, he cracked: "These guys hate this kind of shit. They are the worst people you could have seen at this kind of event. It's like March of the Penguins. Ethan won't even talk." Sure enough, Joel and Ethan Coen shuffled up to the stage, grabbed their award, muttered "Thanks" into the mike, and shuffled off. The bit got a big laugh, and suddenly the crowd seemed to get a second cocktail-fueled wind. Which only lasted two speeches of the remaining sixteen. —Jada Yuan