AFI Awards J.J. Abrams F. Gary
Courtesy of AFI

The Martian” gang mixed with the “Star Wars” team, WB’s Sue Kroll chatted with Harvey Weinstein, while Cate Blanchett, Ryan Gosling, Steven Spielberg and F. Gary Gray accepted congrats for their work at the 16th AFI Awards Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.

The event honored 10 films and 10 TV works that had been announced last month as being “the year’s most outstanding storytelling,” and as usual, the mood was high energy yet relaxed. The honorees knew that they were all winners, so there was no suspense, with no acceptance speeches, minimal red-carpet coverage and no fashion commentary. And a key to the buoyant mood: There were no TV cameras focusing on the 220 people in the room.

In the two-hour luncheon, each of the 20 works got a film clip of a few minutes, with the biggest reactions going to “Martian,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Straight Outta Compton” on the film side, with “Better Call Saul,” “Black-ish” and a “Mad Men” montage getting the most whoops on the TV side.

The heavy-hitters in attendance included Jeff Shell, Bob Iger, Jim Gianopulos, John Landgraf, Steve Mosko, David Nevins, Matt Blank, Brad Grey, Donna Langley, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Ron Meyer, Ted Sarandos, Chris Silberman, Tom Ortenberg and Rich Ross.

Film and TV creators on hand included Adam McKay, George Miller, Pete Docter, Jonas Rivera, Drew Goddard, Ridley Scott, Lenny Abrahamson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Christine Vachon, Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer, J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Vince Gilligan, Matthew Weiner, Ilene Chaiken, Brian Grazer, David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Aziz Ansari, Joel Fields, Michael Giacchino and Mark Johnson.

AFI Awards Luncheon Red Carpet Arrivals

AFI selects a jury every year to weigh the potential honorees, with Rich Frank and Tom Pollock respectively heading the TV and film panels. For TV, the AFI panel always salutes a mix of new TV works and continuing series. The jury also voted a special award to “Mad Men,” which concluded this year and which had chalked up more AFI honors in its nine-year run than any other series.

The films saluted were “The Big Short,” “Bridge of Spies,” “Carol,” “Inside Out,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “Room,” “Spotlight,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and “Straight Outta Compton.”

On the TV side: “The Americans,” “Better Call Saul,” “Black-ish,” “Empire,” “Fargo,” “Game of Thrones,” “Homeland,” “Master of None,” “Mr. Robot” and “Unreal.”

AFI president-CEO Bob Gazzale said, “This is a campaign-free zone. You don’t have to thank anybody; we are here to thank you.” He also pointed out that the event is a showbiz rarity: An event where the honorees do not have to buy tables, thanks to the sponsors Audi and American Airlines. Robert Towne delivered the annual benediction in tribute to the honorees and their remarkable achievements in film and television.

Among the actors there were Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Marisa Tomei, Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Jason Mitchell, Jonathan Banks, Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kirsten Dunst, Jean Smart, Claire Danes, Jon Hamm, January Jones, Kieran Shipka, Rami Malek, Christian Slater, Constance Zimmer and Portia Doubleday.

AFI board of trustees in attendance included Howard Stringer, Bob Daly, Jean Picker Firstenberg,, George Stevens Jr., Kevin Tsujihara and Michael Wright.

Gazzale pointed out that the 20 honored works include 39 alumni of AFI Conservatory. The list includes Janusz Kaminski (“Bridge of Spies” d.p.); Affonso Goncalves (“Carol” editor); Lesli Linka Glatter and Gideon Raff (both on “Homeland”); Jennifer Getzinger (“Mad Men” director); Sam Esmail (creator, “Mr. Robot”); Steve Golin (exec producer, “Mr. Robot” and producer, “Spotlight”); Michael Rezendes (real-life Boston Globe reporter); Matthew Libatique (“Straight Outta Compton” d.p.); and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (“Unreal” co-creator).

Last year, six of AFI’s best pic honorees also scored best-picture Oscar nominations; in the previous year, it was seven of the top 10. However, the American Film Institute downplays its role as a harbinger of Oscar attention. Execs at the organization, including Gazzale, have always stressed that their list recognizes a community of artists, and is not competitive. AFI does not rank choices, only listing them alphabetically.

 

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