The investigative journalism drama Spotlight won the top prize at the Critics' Choice Awards on Sunday, while awards favourites Brie Larson and Leonardo DiCaprio won the top acting prizes for Room and The Revenant.

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Rachel McAdams of St. Thomas, Ont., hugs Spotlight co-star Brian d'Arcy after hearing that they won the award for best picture at the 21st annual Critics' Choice Awards at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Both actors won Golden Globe Awards and are considered front-runners for the Academy Awards, too.

Mad Max: Fury Road was the most nominated film of the evening with 13 nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics' Association. While it lost out for the top prize, it did win eight awards, including best director for George Miller, best action movie, and best action movie actor and actress for Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.

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Christian Bale, left, kisses Charles Randolph as he accepts the award for best actor in a comedy for The Big Short in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sunday. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The financial crisis dramedy The Big Short, meanwhile, won for best comedy and best comedic actor for star Christian Bale, who kissed both his wife and director Adam McKay on his way up to the stage to accept his award.

Both were up for best picture Oscar heavyweights like Spotlight, The Revenant and The Martian, as well as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was added after initial nominees were announced and went home empty handed on Sunday.

Star Wars director J.J. Abrams was in attendance to present the Genius Award to Industrial Light & Magic, which Chief Creative Officer John Knoll accepted.

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Anthony Anderson, left, and Black-ish co-star Tracee Ellis Ross present an award during the 21st Critics' Choice Awards. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Vancouver's Jacob Tremblay, 9, won best young actor/actress for his role opposite Larson in Room.

"This is super cool," Tremblay said while accepting the award. "This is the best day of my life."

Tremblay told the crowd he's going to put the award, "right on the shelf right next to my Millennium Falcon."

Diversity a hot topic

But it was Spotlight's night in the end. The film also picked up best acting ensemble, winning out over films like Straight Outta Compton and The Hateful Eight.

It was the only award that N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton was up for at the show, but the film was on everyone's minds on the blue carpet and in the early moments of the evening after it received only one Academy Award nomination for screenwriting just days earlier.

"They got snubbed, but there are lots of other great films that got snubbed as well," said Neil Brown Jr. before the show began. Brown Jr. played DJ Yella in the film, which has picked up its share of Guild nominations this season.

"Just everybody talking about it is enough of an Oscar for us," he added.

The lack of diversity this awards season came into focus on Thursday when there were once again no actors of colour among the Academy Awards nominees. On Saturday, Jada Pinkett Smith even suggested on Twitter that perhaps people of colour should refrain from participating in the Oscars altogether.

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Mary J. Blige (left) presents Sylvester Stallone with the award for best supporting actor for Creed. (Chris Pizzello/Associated Press)

"We are rarely recognized for our artistic accomplishments," Smith wrote.

Black-ish star Anthony Anderson joked early on about the lack of diversity at the Oscars.

"A lot of actors who win the Critics' Choice go on to win the Academy Award," said Anderson when presenting an early award with co-star Tracee Ellis Ross. "For you, Tracy, that means only half of you gets to go to the awards."

While Anderson was joking about Ross's mixed race background, the Critics' Choice Awards winners do often reflect who will go on to win the Oscar, making the ceremony an interesting barometer for the season as everyone gears up for the Guild Awards and, eventually, the Oscars on Feb. 28.

Stallone 'remembers' collaborators

Sylvester Stallone followed his Golden Globes coup by winning best supporting actor for his reprising his role as Rocky Balboa in Creed.

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Aziz Ansari shares an embrace after Master of None won the award for Best Comedy Series. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

"Before I get into any more trouble I want to say thank you to my director Ryan Coogler. He is a genius. He really made it all happen," Stallone said. He also called co-star Michael B. Jordan "a great talent."

At the Golden Globe Awards, Stallone forgot to thank his co-star and director during the televised portion of the evening and was harshly criticized for the oversight. He has since apologized for the mistake.

Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for The Danish Girl and also accepted the best sci-fi film award for Ex Machina.

The Critics' Choice Awards do get stars to turn out in droves, like Matt Damon, who did not end up winning anything. This year some of the big winners of the evening failed to come out, though, like Brie Larson, who is shooting Kong: Skull Island in Hawaii, and Leonardo DiCaprio, who is promoting The Revenant in Europe.

DiCaprio accepted his award via a pre-taped speech.

Movies, TV get same billing

This is the first year the Critics' Choice Awards has combined movies and television nominees into one ceremony, similar to the Golden Globes.

Big television winners in the acting categories include Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent, Idris Elba for Luther, and Rachel Bloom for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

Fargo won for best limited series and earned Kirsten Dunst a best actress and Jean Smart best supporting actress in a limited series award, as well.

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Christian Slater accepts the award for best supporting actor in a drama series for Mr. Robot. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/Associated Press)

Aziz Ansari's Master of None won for best comedy series, while Mr. Robot picked up the best dramatic series award, as well as best actor for Rami Malek and best supporting actor for Christian Slater.

Host T.J. Miller, who stars on the HBO show Silicon Valley hosted the show, which straddles a delicate line of irreverence and sincerity. It's not quite the Golden Globes, but it's not of the Academy's calibre just yet.

"Celebrities, don't worry. I'm not going to Ricky Gervais this thing," Miller said at the beginning of the show.

Trainwreck director Judd Apatow wasn't afraid to let his true feelings shine through, though. When presenting the previously announced MVP award to Trainwreck star and writer Amy Schumer, he joked that the only way to get her there was to make up an award just for her.

"Somebody already told us we lost best comedy to Carol," Apatow laughed.

Trainwreck did lose best comedy in the end — not to Carol, but to The Big Short.

Schumer, however, did win for best actress in a comedy.