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Oscar Watch: The Nominees Luncheon

Oscar Watch: The Nominees Luncheon

[Posted by Tim M. Gray]

If there were any lingering doubts about the Oscarcast, AMPAS president Sid Ganis put them to rest on Feb. 4 by announcing, in a calm voice, “There’s no doubt about it, we are going to do it.”

The remark was met with enthusiastic applause at the 27th annual nominees luncheon Feb. 4 at the Beverly Hilton.

As always, the unwritten rule is to not make Oscar predictions at this event, which is in the “everybody here is a winner” spirit. The added unwritten law this year: Just assume the show will go on as usual, and don’t even THINK otherwise.

“This is a day to bask in your nominee-ness,”¬ù Ganis told the 115 Academy Awards contenders, “and when we present the awards…” Ganis used that “when” very casually, with no hint of “if.”

The luncheon features one hour of schmoozing, followed by a one-hour lunch, which includes presentation of certificates to contenders. The event is very democratic: The Academy mixes it up, seating sound mixers with actors, makeup artists, Academy board members and staffers, etc. There is no Michael Clayton¬ù table, for example, or no actors table.

Journalists enter a lottery. I lucked out this year, sitting with John Lasseter, Alan Menken, Jason Reitman and docu-shorts contender James Longley, among others—a pretty swell group.

It’s always fun to mingle with the nominees, who all look happy and relaxed (happy to be nominated, relaxed that they don’t have to give a speech). Julie Christie looked spectacular, of course, and was totally charming. And so was Scott Rudin, slim and beaming. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova said they were having a great time. Even Robert Iger‚Äîwho’s been pretty damn busy lately with his WGA talks‚Äî looked relaxed and happy.

Midway through lunch, all nominees assemble on risers for taking of the “class photo,” followed by each going to the stage to receive a certificate‚Äî a process that took 35 minutes. George Clooney chatted with Viggo Mortensen; Sissy Spacek moved closer to the stage, to take photos of hubby Jack Fisk on the risers; Diablo Cody whooped loudly for fellow Juno nominees; and Julian Schnabel, in purple trousers and a black overcoat, went to the stage, received his certificate and then indicated he wanted to say a few words into the microphone.

Maybe he was joking (at least one hopes so, since he must have noticed that none of the other contenders had spoken). Or maybe he remembered some things he forgot to say at the DGA awards.

Every year, there are a few no-shows in each category, which was true this year. But there was one notable exception: All 13 nominated screenwriters attended.

The biggest applause was reserved for Robert Boyle, the 98-year-old art director/production designer with credits ranging from North by Northwest and The Birds to In Cold Blood. During the prolonged ovation, Ganis jumped from the stage to bring the certificate to Boyle, including an affectionate kiss on the cheek.

Ganis said that he hopes negotiations have reached a happy conclusion by Feb. 24, so the industry and its workers can be functioning again. He stressed about the kudocast, “We will be presenting the awards, as scheduled, on the 24th,” not in any old “show must go on” attitude, but rather to honor the people who did great work in 2007 films.

Speaking to the kudos hopefuls, Oscarcast producer Gil Cates acknowledged “it’s traditional to harangue you” into making short and interesting speeches, but he declined to do that this year. Cates said, “With everything going on in the world and everything going on in this town,” he said he feels sure that the speeches will be “thoughtful, graceful… and heartfelt.”

Here’s Diane Garrett’s report from the nominees lunch press room.

[Nominees attending the lunch, from top: Actor George Clooney, screenwriter Diablo Cody and writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, actresses Amy Ryan and Marion Cotillard, production designer Jack Fisk and wife Sissy Spacek, and actress Julie Christie]

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