January 30, 1989 12:00 PM

With the critics and the criticized sitting in the same room at Sardi’s for the New York Film Critics’ Circle annual awards dinner last week, some ate crow, some found revenge was a dish best tasted cold and all found some tension on their plates. Receiving the Best Picture Award for The Accidental Tourist, for instance, director Lawrence Kasdan remarked, “Normally, I’d be very frightened to come into a room with this many critics.” As well he might be. That morning, the New York Times had published a scathing dismissal of the movie by reviewer Janet Maslin, who was also in attendance. New Yorker critic Pauline Kael, who usually slams Meryl Streep, was seated only a table away from the object of her rejection, the Best Actress winner for A Cry in the Dark. “I’m not cool,” announced the actress, who usually is. Whether petrified of the paparazzi or the press, Robert De Niro opted to enter through the kitchen. There to present the Best Director Award to Chris Menges for the apartheid drama A World Apart, De Niro was situated within striking distance of the dread critic John Simon, who has not been against striking out at a presenter in the past. At least one writer could claim his own favorable review: Rex Reed, a vocal fan of The Accidental Tourist, received a kiss from the film’s sexy co-star, Kathleen Turner.

Since the awards were announced last month, the only suspense was whether Best Actor winner Jeremy Irons, who wreaked double trouble playing twin gynecologists in Dead Ringers, would arrive from Brussels before the ceremony’s end. To stall for time, Best Supporting Actor Dean Stock well amused the audience with his a cappella rendition of “It’s a Burger Town World,” which he had sung in Married to the Mob. When at last Irons made his entrance, he provided a reverie about his early newspaper notices that charmed even the crustiest critics. In the end, it was the kind of gathering at which opposites did not detract.

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