Conan, Tom Hanks Rescue Critics

06/08/1998 at 12:00 AM EDT

Tom Hanks and Conan O'Brien breathed some much-needed life into Sunday night's lengthy banquet that accompanied the presentation of the 66th annual New York Film Critics Circle awards. Acceptance speeches ran so long (and were so self-indulgent) in some cases that presenter Matthew Broderick satirized what was going on by joking, "I was born in a log cabin . . . " "You Can Count on Me" best actress Laura Linney delivered a gracious -- and brief -- acceptance. Then enter the hilarious Conan, who introduced Hanks, who'd been named best actor for "Cast Away." Explaining why Hanks was suddenly sporting a cookie duster, O'Brien (who attended the fancy function with girlfriend Lisa Powell) told those in the banquet room atop the World Trade Center, "Tom's mustache is for his upcoming role in 'The Gale Gordon Story.' " (Gordon, a mustachioed TV character actor in the '50s and '60s, played Mr. Mooney on "The Lucy Show.") Before the dinner, Hanks told PEOPLE about "Cast Away" (for which he is considered the frontrunner for the best actor Oscar), "I'm just glad the movie we thought was interesting turned out to be interesting to enough people as well." As for the scribes who were honoring him on Sunday, Hanks said the only thing he doesn't like about critics is when they "take cheap shots at careers when all they're going for is the personalities." He also advised the critics at the banquet, "Resist the temptation to show film clips -- or else you'll never get out of here."

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