The first week of January each year, the American Film Institute Awards lunch is one of the more relaxed Hollywood gatherings. Top players involved with the 10 movie and 10 TV winners know all they have to do is comfortably socialize for an hour or so, eat their salmon, and applaud 20 clips.
TV jury chief Rich Frank said he wished he was on the film side, as they had far less to watch — his team had to sift through more than 500 scripted series.
Among the studio executives on hand with uncertain futures are Fox Motion Picture chairman Stacey Snider (presiding with vice-chairman Emma Watts and producer Amy Pascal over “The Post” table, with Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks) and 21st Century Fox and Fox Networks chief Peter Rice, sitting next to Ryan Murphy (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), resplendent in a lime green jacket.
Whatever happens with the Disney/Fox merger, even if Fox and Rice’s old Fox Searchlight label survives, inevitably many people will lose their jobs and fewer two-hour movies will be made. For now, Fox players are proceeding on course — and might be tempted to take more risks than usual. Why not?
Streaming sites were on hand; Amazon hosted PGA nominee Judd Apatow’s movie “The Big Sick,” while Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos and his TV head Cindy Holland concentrated on celebrating three Original series, “The Crown,” “Master of None,” and “Stranger Things.”
“The Crown” showrunner Peter Morgan is busy writing the third season (Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter will now play sisters Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, respectively). Isn’t Carter much shorter than Vanessa Kirby? “We’re returning to the size Margaret really is!” said Morgan.
With the PGA nominations announced Friday morning, the Warner Bros. folks were all smiles, from studio boss Kevin Tsujihara, production head Toby Emmerich, and marketing chief Sue Kroll to “Wonder Woman” star Gal Gadot and her AFI grad director Patty Jenkins (who huddled with A24’s “Lady Bird” director Greta Gerwig) and composer Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan.
Also feeling their oats were the Fox Searchlight team behind Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” and Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” although two Academy members at the lunch debated the merits of the latter — which is not unusual.
Willem Dafoe earned warm applause during the clip for Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” (which did not land a PGA nod). The second he shaved his Van Gogh beard for Julian Schnabel’s next, “At Eternity’s Gate,” they told him to grow it back, Dafoe said. He communed with fellow hirsute Supporting Actor contender Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) on the way out of the event.
Nabbing the biggest applause in the room was producer Jason Blum and actor-director Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” (Universal), which movie jury chief, critic Ann Hornaday, described as “a cinematic primal scream — one that echoes today with epic power and an urgency that resonates… Bold and brave, the film shakes us awake to say the nightmare is now.”
The theme of the annual “March of Time” AFI video was angry women, including Rose McGowan along with this year’s model Frances McDormand; see below.