Though Cate Blanchett and “Frozen” co-director/co-writer Jennifer Lee’s honors at Wednesday night’s Women In Film’s Crystal + Lucy Awards may have been a post-Oscar season victory lap of sorts, the timing for fellow WIF headliner Kerry Washington was more prospective. Emmy nomination voting started Monday of this week, so no better time for Washington to be bestowed with a “Lucy” — WIF’s award for excellence in TV.
Washington’s highlight reel drew laughs from the industry-heavy room at WIF’s annual highest-honors event for funny moments from her “SNL” guest-hosting gig in November, which were included along with clips from her lead role on ABC’s hit drama “Scandal.”
Last year, Washington lost out to Claire Danes in the competitive lead actress in a drama race.
Cate Blanchett picked up the corresponding Crystal Award for excellence in film, after a thorough verbal valentine from pal Laura Dern.
“I was represented by Wolf-Kasteler, but I think Laura should be my publicist,” Blanchett deadpanned. “So, Lisa (Kasteler), our 17 years have been great. Goodbye.”
Blanchett’s agent Hylda Queally was unequivocally still on the team. As per usual, she was by Blanchett’s side, an easy walk across Avenue of the Stars from the CAA building.
It was hard to know if two-time best actress Blanchett meant it when she said she did not prepare her laugh lines, and harder to believe it as she kept the crowd laughing for nearly ten minutes. But Blanchett was impressed by the company and crowd in the room.
“Tonight is important. It’s really big. A big deal, bigger than I realized,” Blanchett said. “I didn’t know what I thought I would be doing… quilting or something,” she joked.
There were no quilts, not even in the gift bag that contained a “Blue Jasmine” Blu-ray, but the show was physically big.
With a house announcer, sign language interpreter stage right, jib, roaming handheld floor cameras, four screens surrounding a gold shimmery stage, Tracee Ellis Ross hosting, and Nell Scovell (a Vanity Fair contributor, Letterman and “The Simpsons” writer, and reportedly a President Obama joke writer) writing the show — the only thing missing was a TV broadcast.
Both next week’s Critics Choice TV Awards and the fall’s Hollywood Film Awards gala have beat a path from ballroom to “televised ballroom,” and the scope of production here seemed larger than a “house show.”
A Women in Film Awards TV broadcast wouldn’t be such a leap for WIF’s moonlighting president Cathy Schulman, who has a TV department down the hall from her daytime presidency at Mandalay Pictures.
There in the middle of the non-quilting, TV-ready ballroom was Eva Longoria circling her table with some friends… barefoot.
Comfortable out of heels, Longoria said she feels uncomfortable receiving awards for her foundation’s work.
A modest Longoria ducked and looked away during her tribute reel which featured CNN and Bill Maher footage of her speaking in political arenas on education issues.
Moments later (with heels back on) and head high, she picked up the Norma Zarky Humanitarian Award.
“She’s long ago graduated from being a ‘petite sex icon’,” pal Lake Bell said. Longoria and “Scandal” showrunner Shonda Rhimes led the way in a direct fundraising appeal, each making $10,000 text donations from their phones to support WIF’s film finishing funds, grants, and scholarships to students in film school.
Two nights before winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar this year, “Frozen” co-director/co-writer Jennifer Lee braved the freak thunderstorm of Oscar weekend to mingle with the same crowd at WIF’s Pre-Oscar cocktail party at Fig & Olive.
With the ultimate trophy and no suspense surrounding the Dorothy Arzner Director Award, Lee should have been feeling like Pharrell, but instead she was still nervous.
“To be acknowledged in the company of these amazing women, to me, ‘they’re women‘, and I’m the Fisher Price version,” Lee said, drawing both natural and uncomfortable laughter.
“Animation reaches the new generations first. We’re showing the world that female characters, if done with authenticity in the way that we know how inspiring they are, can get a whole world to come see them,” Lee said.
Pixar and Disney boss John Lasseter sat by Lee’s side on Wednesday night, as did her daughter.
From the stage, Lee asked her daughter to look around the room at potential mentors and allies that could help her navigate a career path.
Rose Byrne took home the Max Mara “Face of the Future” Award. Her mid-range future is the holiday release of “Annie,” the remake with Quvenzhane Wallis in the lead.
“Oh God, I’m out in public,” the notoriously private Kerry Washington said while stepping up to close the show.
“While I do love the word exceptional, I hope that it is no longer exceptional very, very soon for women to do anything exceptional in this business.”
Tony Schubert (Event Eleven) produced the night, with BMW providing the talent rides, Perrier-Jouet flowing the champagne, and the South Coast Plaza mall joining as a sponsor, trying to lure the Century City crowd down to Costa Mesa.