The Empire Awards turned sweet sixteen last night and the Grosvenor House Hotel was the venue once again to celebrate, drink, clap your palms numb and drink some more in a toast to the best in film.

Jameson were on hand again to sponsor and thus sobriety quickly beat a hasty retreat and the awards were afoot. Returning host Dara O’Briain leapt on stage and led us through the awards, not squandering the chance to take the assembled guests down a peg or two on the way.

Two films which unjustly missed their mark at the box office were among the winners tonight;  Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass were popular choices for Edgar Wright’s Best Director win and the ebullient Jane Goldman was both irrepressibly excited and humble when she took to the stage to collect her Kick-Ass’s Best British Film gong.

Empire’s readers are difficult to pin down and herd into a category, so you’re never quite sure which way the votes will go, but Wright is a firm favourite with the readership, and his Empire Inspiration Award is testament to this. He singled out the Done in 60 Seconds competition as being akin to what he was doing when Empire’s first issue was published and how fans are now making their own cuts of his work, or making Scott Pilgrim fan films and this was a case of the inspiration coming full circle. He was a humble inspirer of people, and if nothing else it made me want to watch Scott Pilgrim all over again.

Eli Roth took home the Best Horror award for The Last Exorcism and promised to continue to make disturbing films which is a far better promise than it is a threat, maybe he’s the right guy for the marooned Pride & Prejudice & Zombies film, I think I’d like to see his take on Austen.  I enjoyed the other films nominated in that category but it was fitting to see the only film which wasn’t a remake or a sequel win the day. While I had problems with some of the choices made for The Last Exorcism it did succeed in chilling bones and laying on a very creepy vibe throughout, clearly the readers of Empire thought so too.

The absent Chloe Moretz won Best Newcomer and while everyone loves a purple wigged ten year old assassin I found her role as the haunted, lonesome Abby in Matt Reeves’ Let Me In to be something special and hopes could not be higher for her future.

It was almost crushingly self evident that Colin Firth would be clutching another award come the evening’s end, but his Best Actor speech was as dry and self effacing as ever, and you got the impression there was genuine love for the man. Noomi Rapace paid tribute to her inspiration when collecting her Best Actress award for Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which itself collected the award for Best Thriller) in singling out Gary Oldman, as did the Empire awards moments later as the Empire Icon spotlight was on him.

The man Firth handed over the award after a montage of Oldman’s work played out including what I’m sure was the first glimpse of Oldman in  Tomas Alfredson’s new version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and in accepting the award Oldman praised the directors who cast him in what is an eclectic and impressive body of work. He’s a class act and his directorial debut Nil By Mouth is well worth seeking out if you’ve not already done so, it’s uncompromising and brutally harsh but all the more effective because of it. Many people I know haven’t heard of it so get on to Lovefilm or wherever right now.

The other big winners included Harry Potter and Inception, which divided critics and certainly didn’t impress the British and American Academies but did well with the voting masses, and it was genuinely pleasing to see Chris Morris’s Four Lions win Best Comedy.

Last year I was on the red carpet and endured the press room scrum, this year I was fortunate to be on the table with sponsors Citroen, who were presenting the Best Actress award and it’s a far more relaxed and fun affair than the BAFTAs as a recent and pertinent example. And in a show of blogger solidarity I think – and bear in mind that I was four or five whiskey sours down at this point – that I gave Charlie from Ultra Culture a bottle opener at a crucial point in the evening, perhaps moments before he did a guest spot on Ben’s live blog of the awards.

All in all a great night, hangovers assured and the future of British film looking a little bleary eyed this morning, but bright nonetheless.

[yframe url=’’]