01/07/2002 at 12:00 AM EST
The American Film Institute, jumping the Hollywood awards show bandwagon, held its first-ever ceremony over the weekend. There was only one catch: most of the winners were no-shows. These included such luminaries as director Robert Altman and actors Denzel Washington ("Training Day"), Gene Hackman ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), Jennifer Connelly ("A Beautiful Mind"), Judy Davis (TV's "Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows") and James Gandolfini ("The Sopranos"). All told, only 11 out of 19 winners were there, and most of them were in the behind-the-scenes categories. Still, there was a bright spot, reports the Associated Press: Sissy Spacek, who won best actress for the dark suburban drama, "In the Bedroom." The notable absences "were not a snub of the award, it's just that the underdogs weren't there with speeches ready," awards-show scholar Tom O'Neil, who runs Goldderby.com (which tracks Oscar predictions), told the news service. Meanwhile, Altman, for directing the English period piece "Gosford Park," and Hackman, who stars as the eccentric patriarch in "Tenenbaums," each gained Oscar momentum Saturday with both the AFI Awards and honors from the National Society of Film Critics. "The Lord of the Rings" was named best picture by the AFI, while the critics chose David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive." Still to come: The Golden Globes on Jan. 20, the Screen Actors Guild Awards on March 10 and the Oscars on March 24.