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HFPA event offers grants, laughs

Celebs assemble as org hands out $1.2 million

It makes sense that folks would be in a fine mood when $1.2 million in grants are being handed out, and such was the case at the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s annual luncheon Thursday.

The event, which also featured the official installation of this year’s board of directors and HFPA officers — veep Jorge Camara, exec secretary Serge Rakhlin and treasurer Ali Sar — was presided over by frequently bemused org prexy Aida Takla-O’Reilly.

“This is a memorable day for me,” Takla-O’Reilly said. “This is the day that Steven Spielberg pulled my scarf out of the soup — and wiped it for me.”

Spielberg, who earlier praised Takla-O’Reilly’s stand-up skills, was one of the event’s first speakers, representing the preservation org Film Foundation, which received the highest of the HFPA’s grants ($250,000).

“The films that we love (are) physically disappearing before our very eyes,” Spielberg said, adding that this year’s funding would support preservation of Federico Fellini’s “La Strada.” The HFPA has given $3.6 million to the Film Foundation in recent years, helping preserve more than 80 films.

Among the other prime beneficiaries this year of the HFPA’s donations were UCLA ($65,000), CalArts ($60,000) the Sundance Institute and FilmAid International ($50,000 each).

FilmAid has literally become a live-saving relief tool,” said actress Kerry Washington. “”FilmAid’s video and movie screens deliver urgent information while also doing what we do with film — inspiring laughter and connection.”

The HFPA’s other presenters included Jennifer Lawrence, John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Kelsey Grammer, Don Johnson, Jack Black, Christina Hendricks, Carla Gugino, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Ryan Guzman and Kathryn McCormick.

Black jokingly gave the impression that he had thought he would top the day in Hollywood celebrity, but then called himself “small potatoes” compared to Spielberg.

“Let me just say — ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’ looks great,” Black cracked.

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