Oscar Luncheon: Nominees Urged to Speak from the Heart, ‘Not From a List’

Meryl Streep huddled with John Lassiter, David O. Russell and Steve McQueen touched base, Sandra Bullock smiled with Pharrell Williams (photo above) and Jared Leto chatted with “Frozen” songwriter Kristen Anderson-Lopez as the contenders gathered Monday for the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences president Cheryl Boone Isaacs praised the contenders as some of the finest artists in the world. Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron touted the upcoming Oscarcast and praised host Ellen DeGeneres, with Zadan urging that in acceptance speeches “Words should be spoken from your heart, not from a list.”

PHOTOS: Inside the Oscar Nominees Lunch

As always, the event has a great turnout, with all five nominated directors there, and producers from all the nominated films. Most of the actors were there, as were reps from every other category, from (alphabetically) animated feature to writing.

Clear sign that this was an industry gathering: While there was loud applause for each nominee, arguably the loudest was reserved for Martin Scorsese — and for Roger Deakins.

Clear sign that some nominees’ guests are not in the industry: One woman was overheard telling another, “I’m sitting at the table with a really nice guy named Spike. I didn’t hear his last name, but he said he worked on that film ‘Her.’ “

Many attendees said that this is their favorite event of awards season. The routine was the same: About an hour of schmoozing, followed by lunch.

Attendees are intentionally spread out. Rather than have nominees from one film sit together, the Academy wants to remind people of the democracy of the Oscars. So at one table will include a documentary contender, VFX nominee, a producer, and an Academy governor, for example

Then the nominees are called one by one to the risers, where a “class photo” is taken. First-time attendees often say it’s surreal to be surrounded by so many famous name who treat them as equals. Documentary-short contender Edgar Barens talked about his film, for which he embedded himself at a prison for six months. It was a sharp contrast to the luncheon, he deadpanned. “For one thing, everybody here is much more nicely dressed.”

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