Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Adam B. Vary
January 29, 2012 AT 11:36 PM EST

Brevity was the name of the game at last night’s Directors Guild of America Awards, held at the Grand Ballroom above the Kodak Theater in Hollywood. Last year’s event celebrated the DGA’s 75th anniversary, and as a consequence, the evening ran so voluminously long, DGA president Taylor Hackford felt obliged to promise “to keep things moving quickly” for this year’s affair, to much thankful applause from the crowd.

As it turned out, Hackford needn’t have worried. While it is customary for all the feature film nominees to speak at the DGAs, both Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) and David Fincher (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) did not attend — Allen has rarely if ever attended awards events, and Fincher had to jet to Japan for Dragon Tattoo‘s premiere in Tokyo. Best Documentary winner James Marsh (Project Nim) and Musical/Variety TV show winner Glenn Weiss (The 65th Annual Tony Awards) were also no shows. So all told, between the dinner and the awards, the evening clocked in just under four hours. Progress!

And EW was there for all of it. Check out the highlights below: 

DGA hearts SOPA/PIPA Hackford started off the evening by giving a full-throated defense of the controversial SOPA/PIPA anti-piracy bills that were pulled from Congress last week. Said Hackford, to much applause: “Unfortunately, most of the protests and claims about what the problems were with those bills were outright lies, spread by Google and other technology companies, whose business model are made all the more profitable when the work of the people in this room … is stolen, made available on the Internet for free.” To much applause, Hackford pledged to continue to fight against piracy, or in his words “digital theft.”

Your host for the evening, Frasier Crane He may have won a Golden Globe for his fiery portrayal of a ruthless Chicago mayor in Boss, but the evening’s host, Kelsey Grammer, was happy to show off the light comic touch that won him so many Emmys for playing Frasier for two decades. As it happens, Grammer was stepping into the considerable shoes of Carl Reiner, who had hosted the DGA Awards virtually every year for just over two decades. “The reason Carl’s not hosting this year’s awards is because he’s still hosting last year’s,” Grammer quipped with a wry smile.

The Bold and the Boisterous By far the loudest, rowdiest tables belonged to those representing the seven nominees for best Daytime Serials director. The eventual winner, William Ludel for ABC’s General Hospital, paid subtle tribute to the waning art of soap operas by noting that on an easy day, he shoots 80 pages of material — and on “slightly abnormal” days, it’s more like 120.

The Woodman steals the show 3,000 miles away Stepping in at the last minute for her Midnight in Paris co-star Owen Wilson, actress Kathy Bates brought the house down in her tribute to director Woody Allen with a charming story about how, on her last day of shooting the film, she blurted out to Woody that she hoped he’d liked her performance. His enigmatic response: “I got exactly what I expected.” Bates then pitched it to Woody himself, who accepted his nominee medallion via a video response and with his inimitable neurotic charm:

Hi. I just wanted to express my gratitude for this. I was astonished when I saw my name on the list of all these illustrious directors. My first reaction was that it was a typo, that some poor guy was going to be fired because he stuck my name on it by accident. When I found out it was legitimate, I tried to keep it in perspective, to assess where I put the Directors’ Guild as far as awards go. I thought it was somewhere between the top of the spectrum, which would be, let’s say, the Nobel Prize, and the bottom of the barrel, which would be, let’s say, uh, the Republican Primary. … You may be asking yourselves, if he’s so happy and so grateful, why isn’t he here? I’m not there because I knew if I came, I would have to mingle, and I don’t hold up in person. … From 3,000 miles away, I can appear more intelligent, but in actual social situations, I can’t keep up my end of the conversation. I drift. I’m the only guy who is short, and wears tweed clothing with elbow patches, and with black rimmed glasses, and is Jewish — but not smart.

Needless to say, Woody won the biggest laughs of the night.

Gotta keep that run time down Best commercial director Noam Murro brought the house down with his pithy acceptance speech: “Thank you.”

NEXT PAGE: George Clooney lovingly roasts Alexander Payne, while Payne pays loving homage to a late mentor

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