Forgive the delay in posting last night's BFCA Critics' Choice Awards results: Kris was on the scene and doubtless living it up, while I was catching some shut-eye. I'm sure Kris will fill you in later on how things went down from the inside -- I haven't even seen the ceremony myself -- but the chief news to take away here is that "The Artist" inevitably sealed its status as the film to beat this Oscar season with four wins, including Best Picture and Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius. (Among its other wins is one for Best Original Score -- someone go and check Kim Novak's pulse.)

It appears to have been an evening short on surprises -- but then, when have we ever counted on the BFCA to shake things up? It is worth noting, however, that "The Help" star Viola Davis scored her first big win of the season here, after having been largely shut out of the critics' awards. (After tying for the win in the 2008 and 2009 ceremonies, Meryl Streep remained in her seat this time.) Sandra Bullock started her streak of Best Actress wins here two years ago, and I sense it'll be the same for Davis, whose vehicle, like Bullock's, is more beloved by the industry and the public than by the critical majority.

The mistake many observers make is to think of the Critics' Choice Awards as, well, critics' choice awards. Despite their rather presumptuous name, they aren't exactly critics' awards in the vein of, say, the New York Film Critics' Circle -- they're openly proud of their record of "predicting" Oscar winners, for starters, and their choices invariably skew a little more middlebrow.

That's particularly evident when "The Help" takes three awards, including Best Ensemble and Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, and when "War Horse" rather ludicrously ties with "The Tree of Life" in the Best Cinematography category. (That might cheer Janusz Kaminski up a little after the ASC left him off their nominee list.) The BFCA also gave the critically battered "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" its first prize of the season, as Thomas Horn beat Supporting Actress nominee Shailene Woodley to the Best Young Actor award.

Indeed, it was a night of mixed fortunes for "The Descendants." George Clooney triumphed in the Best Actor category, just as I began to think Brad Pitt might be taking the lead in that race -- but lest you think that's indicative of his film having more sway over voters than Pitt's, look further down the list. In perhaps the most interesting result of the night, "Moneyball" beat "The Descendants" to the Best Adapted Screenplay award. This was a race I'd already ceded to Alexander Payne and his team in my head: could Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian put up a fight for the Oscar? (Over in the Original Screenplay field, meanwhile, Woody Allen managed to stem the "Artist" tide.)

The biggest loser of the night, however, was "Hugo": after sharing the lead with "The Artist" in the nominee list, Martin Scorsese's family film managed to convert only one of its 11 nominations to gold: Best Art Direction, obviously enough. Consolation for Scorsese arrived in the shape of the Best Documentary prize for his mammoth music doc "George Harrison: Living in the Material World" -- a slightly less expected win than the wholly deserving foreign-language and animated victors, "Rango" and "A Separation."

It'll be interesting to see if tonight's big winners consolidate their frontrunner status at the Golden Globes on Sunday: I suspect they will, but there's still a pleasing amount of wiggle room in a number of top categories. Until then.

The full list of winners:  

Best Picture: "The Artist"

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Best Actor: George Clooney, "The Descendants"

Best Actress: Viola Davis, "The Help"

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

Best Adapted Screenplay: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, "Moneyball"

Best Foreign Language Film: "A Separation"

Best Animated Feature: "Rango"

Best Documentary: "George Harrison: Living in the Material World"

Best Cinematography: (tie) "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse"

Best Art Direction: "Hugo"

Best Costume Design: "The Artist"

Best Film Editing: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Best Makeup: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Best Original Score: "The Artist"

Best Original Song: "Life's a Happy Song" from "The Muppets"

Best Sound: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2"

Best Visual Effects: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

Best Ensemble: "The Help"

Best Young Actor/Actress: Thomas Horn, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"

Best Comedy: "Bridesmaids"

Best Action Film: "Drive"

Joel Siegel Award: Sean Penn

Music and Film Award: Martin Scorsese