Hunting Season Opens for Hollywood Awards

The People’s Choice Awards are (almost) here – and so is every other blinkin’ award show.

The People’s Choice bash, to be broadcast tonight at 9pm (EST/PST) on CBS, kicks off Hollywood’s action- and hardware-packed awards season. By the end of March, if you’re not polishing a fancy paperweight, you’re just not trying. (Either that, or your agent stinks.)

Savvy industry insiders monitor these awards carefully, knowing that kudos from critics’ circles and trade guilds dramatically influence a film’s public standing, box-office success – and Oscar status.

First up: the 26th Annual People’s Choice Awards. As is the People’s Choice way, winners are selected per public-opinion polls rather than academies and other muckty-muck types. “Nash Bridges” types Don Johnson and Cheech Marin host. In the film categories, “The Matrix,” “The Sixth Sense” and “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” vie for the title of Favorite Motion Picture.

This year’s broadcast will be the first to use online voting to help determine the TV categories of Best New Comedy and Best New Drama. Votes can be cast through CBS’ Web site ( right up until just before the categories are announced.

Here’s a quick calendar of the crazy awards season ahead:

TONIGHT: People’s Choice Awards; New York Film Critics Circle Awards (winners previously announced).

JAN. 19: Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards (winners previously announced).

JAN. 23: 57th Annual Golden Globe Awards. (“American Beauty” is the lead movie nominee with six nominations. NBC carries the telecast.)

JAN. 24: Broadcast Film Critics Association. (Group reveals its pick for best film of ’99 – other winners previously announced.)

JAN. 29: Sundance Film Festival awards. (Robert Redford‘s supreme indie-film bash – the launching pad for flicks like “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Slacker” and “Clerks” – presents its supreme honors on this day, including its Grand Jury Prize. TV coverage on cable’s Sundance Channel.)

MARCH 5: 52nd Annual Writers Guild of America Awards. (Film nominees to be announced Feb. 9.)

MARCH 11: 51st Annual Directors Guild of America Awards. (Film nominees to be announced Jan. 24.)

MARCH 12: 6th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. (Nominations to be announced Feb. 1; cable’s TNT broadcasts live awards telecast.)

MARCH 25: 15th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards. (Nominations – honoring indie flicks – to be announced Jan. 12.); the Golden Raspberry “Worst Of The Century” Awards (a k a the Razzies, dishonoring the worst in film).

MARCH 26: 72nd Annual Academy Awards. (Nominations to be announced Feb. 15; Billy Crystal hosts live ABC awards telecast.)