Oscar controversy filed at nominees luncheon

It’s always a pleasure to be nominated, even if your Oscar isn’t presented at the live ceremony.

And at Monday’s annual Oscar nominees’ luncheon, no one I spoke to in that Fairmont Century Plaza ballroom voiced a complaint, other than a handful of men lamenting that their coats were a little tight after have been hanging in the closet for the past two years.

“We said our bit,” said Ben Proudfoot, director of the Oscar-nominated cheerful short documentary “The Queen of Basketball.” “Now it’s time to have fun.”

The fun was evident in every corner of the ballroom during the lengthy luncheon, which lasted roughly the three hours the ceremony producers are aiming for for this year’s telecast. There was a general feeling of happiness – and relief – to get back to in-person hugs and hanging out after the pandemic canceled the much-loved event last year.

‘Licorice Pizza’ filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson warmly embraced actor Andrew Garfield, telling him he’s seen ‘Spider Man: No Way Home’ four times. ‘Spencer’ actress Kristen Stewart lost her mind when she met ‘CODA’ writer-director Siân Heder. When “CODA” actor Troy Kotsur’s name was announced, nearly everyone in the room waved their hands in applause for the deaf actor.

No one wanted the gathering to stop, with most nominees hanging out in the ballroom and hotel lobby long after lunch was over. We were approaching aperitif time and the room was still not emptied.

“I’m one of those people who thinks the Oscars are too short,” said director Phil Lord, nominated for producing the animated feature ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’. “And this event is always such a pleasure. There is no pressure, no stress. Everyone can relax…for the afternoon anyway.

At the Oscars luncheon, nominees are seated randomly, top actors next to sound designers, top directors next to makeup artists and hairstylists. The Idea at Work: Film is a collaborative medium, and the event reflects that with artists and craftspeople mingling together.

That egalitarian principle was put to the test this year after the film academy announced last month that eight awards – the three categories of short films, film editing, original music, production design, sound and make-up and hair – would be awarded before the live broadcast of the Oscars. then edited in the ceremony. The decision provoked a backlash from guilds and industry organizations representing these groups.

“I understand, but everyone will be getting their awards, as always…the show is just going to get tighter,” said Oscar-winning makeup artist Bill Corso, governor of the academy representing the makeup artist and hairstylist branch. “If you’re a spectator, I don’t think you’ll notice the difference. We have a responsibility to provide an entertaining show. Honestly, I think this is long overdue.

If the show is as entertaining as senior ceremonial producer Will Packer’s luncheon speech, it could be in good shape. Packer, like most show producers before him, cheerfully pleaded with the nominees to be prepared and concise.

“Nobody believes you thought there was no way to win so you hadn’t prepared anything – I’m just going to be honest with you,” Packer said. “You have a 20% chance of winning, that’s good odds in this city.

“I have a speech,” he added. “I’m not even nominated. I wrote it in third grade.

To emphasize his point, Packer presented a black-and-white sketch, believed to be from the 1938 Oscar nominees’ luncheon. Night Live’ Kate McKinnon – offered a host of advice on what not to do based on her own unfortunate experiences, like the time she moaned during her acceptance speech and was pelted with jerky by “an Italian”.

No one knows if the nominees present were taking notes. Reading the applause meter in the room is equally speculative. But for those scoring at home, Billie Eilish, nominated for the song ‘No Time to Die’, received a much louder ovation than Lin-Manuel Miranda, also in the ‘Dos Oruguitas’ category of ‘Encanto’. Will Smith’s name drew thunderous applause, as did the announcement of his “King Richard” co-star Aunjanue Ellis.

And whenever the music documentary “Summer of Soul” was mentioned, people smiled and clapped. Questlove, its manager, might have been the most popular man in the room.

“Just seeing all these people together is such a treat,” said Heder, who was nominated for the first time (for an adapted screenplay). “I guess we’ll start again in a few weeks, but I’ll never forget that day, that’s for sure.”

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