Monday night saw the 17th of the annual Hollywood Film Awards take place, where the best movies of the year were honoured at the opulent Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel Ballroom. Billed as "the first stop of the awards season," the awards are generally a good barometer of who and which films will win big in the run up to next spring's Academy Awards.

The Butler
Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' Lines 'Em Up To Win Big At The Oscars.

However, unlike the Oscars, the Hollywood Film Awards' honourees know that they'll be receiving their award which makes for a light-hearted and tension free evening. Though the awards may be thought of as "Oscars-lite," the glamorous evening certainly didn't hold back, with a parade of A-list presenters, emotional speeches from winners and some snazzy attires.

Lee Daniels' and his latest drama, The Butler were honoured twice in the evening with Daniels picking up a justified Hollywood Director Award. Daniels' movie follows the life of a White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who lives through many decades, presidents and major US events. From its opening last month, critics began to buzz with Oscar talk; the grandly shot drama is praised for both its stellar cast and captivating plot.

August Osage County
Julia Roberts' Supporting Performance Next To Meryl Streep's Dragon-Like Mothering Is Praised.

Theatre adaptation August: Osage County also picked up two gongs, honouring both Julia Roberts' excellent supporting appearance alongside Meryl Streep's caustic mother as well as the entire cast with an ensemble award. For a movie with such a quirky indie feel, a robust cast was signed up with Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin and Benedict Cumberbatch who bring the dysfunctional family drama to life. However, it is the actresses and their knock-out performances who truly make the movie which means that Roberts' award could well carry over to the Oscars.

Sandra Bullock picked up the major actress award of the evening for her roaring turn in space thriller, Gravity. An exercise in human torture; the movie sees Bullock as an astronaut beset by catastrophes as her spacecraft is pelted by space debris and she must find a way to survive without being suffocated, crushed, burned or drowned.

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Whilst the film sits primarily within the genre of action, the CGI effects and space-scape wonders fail to detract from what is a very human performance. "I don't want to go to pasture. It's cold, I'm allergic to grass, and I don't like cows," said Bullock when collecting her award, prompted by notions of retirement. We'll eat our hats if she doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for her efforts.

If 19th century slave drama 12 Years A Slave hadn't collected any film awards during the ceremony, the HFAs would have surely been discredited. Steve McQueen's movie is not for the faint-hearted with its brutal, no-holds-barred examination of slavery through the eyes of Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon Northrup; a free black man who is kidnapped and sold into slavery for more than a decade.

12 Years A Slave Chiwetel Ejiofor
'12 Years A Slave' Delves Into The USA's Dark Past.

Though harrowing, the movie is praised for its intense and unrelenting look at a dark period of American history compared to movies like Quentin Tarantino's 2012 Django Unchained which distracted with jabs of dark humour and cinematographic cartoonery. A New Hollywood Award went to 12 Years' Lupita Nyong'o who was moved to tears during her acceptance speech and McQueen picked up the breakout directors award which could grate a little with those who are familiar with his previous films, which include Shame.

The surprise of the evening perhaps came from Captain Phillips' comparative lack of accolades. The movie, which stars Tom Hanks, has barely had a negative word said about it by reviewers and is arguably the year's most gripping movie. Hanks and his co-stars pull of out-of-the-park performances but were only honoured with one award, albeit a solid one, with a producers' nod for Michael de Luca.

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In an ordinary year, Hanks would have be a sure-fire contender for the best actor gong at next year's Oscars but let us not forget that this is the year that we've experienced Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave, Forest Whitaker in The Butler and Hugh Jackman in Prisoners. In other words, Hanks is sitting amongst stellar talent this year.

However, when it came to dishing out the big actor award, it was Mud and Dallas Buyers Club's Matthew McConaughey who reaped the accolade. McConaughey's choice to venture into indie movies and the stark, unquestionable acting often required has proved to be a wise decision as he became the awards' surprise winner. "I started choosing experiences in roles I was taking. I lost money for the first time ever in my career in the last two years, but I had a lot of fun," he said.

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The supporting actor award went to Jake Gyllenhaal who we see as a police officer in the dark psychological thriller, Prisoners, alongside Hugh Jackman and Paul Dano. The film has received overwhelmingly positive reviews but could be in danger of being overlooked when it comes to the Oscars in a year that has had a heavy presence of dark dramas.

Captain Phillips
Tom Hanks Is A Ship Captain Taken Hostage By Pirates In 'Captain Phillips.'

We've certainly been spoilt with the high standard of movies on offer this year, particularly this Autumn. The Hollywood Film Awards are a pretty good indicator of which films will emerge as the most decorated on the pre-Oscars battlefield but as always, come March next year, the Oscars will reveal some left-field winners.

Were you surprised by any of the awards dished out? Which film would you like to see win big at the Oscars?