The Oscar Nominees Luncheon, the annual collegial gathering in which nobody’s a loser and sound editors rub elbows with documentarians while sitting in between movie stars and animated short filmmakers, lured more than 100 nominees to the Beverly Hilton on Monday.
They mingled, they nibbled, they posed, they were told to keep their acceptance speeches short, and then they headed off into the thick of awards season, new certificates of nomination and Oscar nominee T-shirts under their arms and, perhaps, a few new friends to put in their contacts.
And while the headlines went to the 15 actors and actresses who attended, including the Best Actress lineup of Marion Cotillard, Rosamund Pike, Julianne Moore, Felicity Jones and Reese Witherspoon, the nominees in other categories get some thrills from the event.
Take the documentary directors. During the pre-luncheon reception, “Virunga” director Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara were chatting with Netflix chief Ted Sarandos when they were approached by director John Landis, who wanted to tell them how much he loved their movie.
A few minutes later, Academy governor Ed Begley Jr. went up to Rory Kennedy to tell him how much he loved her doc “Last Days of Vietnam,” and to share what he remembered about the fall of Saigon in 1975.
And as the event was breaking up two hours later, Rosamund Pike cornered “Finding Vivian Maier” director Charlie Siskel and asked him, “How can I see your movie? I’ve heard great things about it. Do you have screeners? Can I get one through my agent?”
In between, Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs congratulated the nominees on helping make it “a thrilling year for the motion picture business,” and third-time show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron gave their usual pep-talk about keeping acceptance speeches short.
They didn’t get through that spiel, though, without a bit of heckling. When Zadan insisted that groups of nominees pick one person to speak for the entire group, a voice in the back of the room shouted, “NO!”
Oscar host Neil Patrick Harris was also on hand. He wasn’t the first host to attend the lunch — Billy Crystal has done so in the past — but Harris had a bigger role than his predecessors. First he gave a speech to the nominees, promising that “everything will be f—ing hilarious” on the show.
Then he sat in the middle of the official “class photo” of the entire group. After the AMPAS photographer shot four photos with Harris, Begley Jr., who was announcing the names of nominees, had to tell a preoccupied Harris a couple of times to leave the risers so they could take additional photos without him. As Harris walked off, Begley shrugged and said, “There goes my chance to star with Neil on Broadway.”
Among the nominees who scored highest on the Nominees Luncheon applause meter were Oprah Winfrey, Michael Keaton, Eddie Redmayne and Clint Eastwood, who as the first person called had to stand in place longer than anyone else.
And at one point, “Begin Again” songwriter Gregg Alexander approached Eastwood to suggest that the director make his next movie about income disparity in the third world. Eastwood admitted that the concept went over his head.
His songwriting partner, Danielle Brisebois, found herself on the riser next to Oprah Winfrey, and was buzzing about the experience half an hour later. “Oprah hugged me,” she said, shaking her head. “Do you know what that means to a girl?”
And that, in a nutshell, was what the Nominees Luncheon is for: odd pairings, and “do you know what this means to me?” moments.
With Oscar voting beginning on Friday and the Directors Guild and BAFTA Awards taking place this weekend, it’s now time to get serious again.