Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA: The Oscar nominees’ luncheon is like an exclusive clubhouse where every member is an outstanding artist and film super-fan.
So the production designer of “The Shape of Water” is free to geek out over meeting Mary J. Blige, who herself shared a moment with Gary Oldman.
Actresses Sally Hawkins embraced Margot Robbie while Greta Gerwig chatted with Meryl Streep. Jordan Peele talked shop with Willem Dafoe. First-time acting nominees Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet high-fived every time they saw each other.
Even nominees who couldn’t attend were there in spirit, or at least in cardboard-cutout form. Street artist JR brought a life-sized cardboard portrait of “Faces Places” co-director Agnes Varda. He brought the Varda cutout on the red carpet and into the risers for the annual Oscars “class photo.”
But the person perhaps enjoying the Oscar luncheon the most was retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Nominated for his contributions to the animated short “Dear Basketball,” Bryant wore a beaming grin throughout the event, practically skipping his meal to pose for photos with his many fans in the room, including fellow nominees Allison Janney and “Logan” screenwriter James Mangold. Bryant said being in the Oscar mix is “better than all those championships put together.”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” the 39-year-old said, practically giggling. “I love this.”
An annual tradition since 1982, the Oscar nominees’ luncheon brings together the year’s nominated artists for a collegial meal, extended mingling and the group photo. This year’s event drew 170 of the 200 artists nominated.
Film academy president John Bailey explained the history of the film academy before telling nominees that they each embody “this 90-year academy history.” He dropped the words “envelope malfunction” in a passing reference to last year’s best picture flub, but more pointedly offered a new hashtag to replace #OscarsSoWhite, a criticism that inspired sweeping changes for greater inclusion in the film academy. Bailey’s new hashtag: “Oscars so 90th.”
He said the academy reinventing itself in “this era of greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion.”
Addressing those issues and perhaps the #MeToo movement, Bailey said, “I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion.”
Actress Laura Dern called for greater compassion and representation throughout the industry. She then announced every nominee’s name as each took their places on risers for a group photo.
“Radicals, subversives and wild ones,” Dern said, “Thank you for getting us through this last year with every one of your films somehow reflecting the wealth of emotions that we are all going through.”
Telecast producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca briefly greeted the nominees, with Todd saying, “It’s our honor to produce the show in a year where the nominations are finally starting to reflect the world that we live in and the way it looks, speaks and tells stories.”
Then they brought actor-comedian Patton Oswalt out to give eventual Oscar winners tips for delivering memorable acceptance speeches.
“They’ve spared every expense bringing me here,” he quipped.
His first tip? Hustle to the stage. “If you need something to speed you up, think of the hot, murderous glares of your colleagues on your back as you’re moving up there. Let it fuel you.”
He also put the kibosh on “trips and falls” on the way to claim an Oscar. “We know it’s adorable,” Oswalt said. “Jennifer owns it. That’s her thing now.”
Jennifer Lawrence famously fell on her way to accept the best actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2013.
Tip two? Be concise. And don’t say you didn’t expect to win.
“Yes you did,” he said. “You were nominated.”
He also cautioned against thanking managers and agents. “Just cover for yourself, all right?” he said. “You don’t want to explain to your grandkids why you thanked someone that Dateline just did a four-part series on.”
He told nominees they don’t need to hunch over at the microphone.
“Think Freddie Mercury, not Tom Waits,” Oswalt said. “Look up and project.”
Finally, he said, “be heartfelt and be meaningful.
“And when I say that,” he said, “I mean act that way.”