Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep schmoozed at the AFI Awards luncheon, which boasted the most Hollywood heavyweights per square foot of any awards event this season. As Norman Lear said to the crowd of about 270 people, “There hasn’t been so much talent in one place since Orson Welles dined alone at Ciro’s.”
The event, held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, saluted the 21 notable films and TV works of 2014 that AFI had announced in December. With no competition, no acceptance speeches and minimal media presence, the mood was energetic and relaxed as everybody worked the room, praising each other’s works. So “Foxcatcher” reps chatted with the “Selma” team, Richard Linklater talked with Noah Hawley, Harvey Weinstein huddled with Ted Sarandos, while Robert Iger, Kevin Tsujihara and Jeff Shell accepted congrats for their studios’ works.
Execs on hand also included Sean Bailey, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, Megan Colligan, Jim Gianopulos, Steve Gilula, David Glasser, Brad Grey, Alan Horn, Sue Kroll, John Landgraf, Donna Langley, Michael Lombardo, Bryan Lourd, Ron Meyer, Tom Ortenberg, Richard Plepler, Chris Silbermann, Ben Silverman and Stacey Snider.
Creatives included Matthew Baer, David Benioff, John DeLuca, Ava DuVernay, Dede Gardner, Dan Gilroy, Nora Grossman, Jason Hall, Jeremy Kleiner, Jenji Kohan, Rob Marshall, Bennett Miller, Graham Moore, Christopher Nolan, Peter Nowalk, Ido Ostrowsky, Jason Reitman, Teddy Schwarzman, John Sloss, Jennie Snyder Urman, Morten Tyldum, Matthew Weiner and D.B. Weiss.
Also attending: Vince Gilligan, an honoree in past years for “Breaking Bad,” but there as a jury member this year.
Other actors included Patricia Arquette, Jessica Chastain, Jon Hamm, Ethan Hawke, Anne Hathaway, Anna Kendrick, Keira Knightley, Matthew McConaughey, Elisabeth Moss, Edward Norton, Clive Owen, David Oyelowo, Jessica Pare, Rene Russo and Jeffrey Tambor.
AFI saluted 11 films (up from the usual 10) and 10 TV works. Film honorees were “American Sniper,” “Birdman,” “Boyhood,” “Foxcatcher,” “The Imitation Game,” “Interstellar,” “Into the Woods,” “Nightcrawler,” “Selma,” “Unbroken” and “Whiplash.”
There were six new TV works — “Fargo,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Jane the Virgin,” “The Knick,” “Silicon Valley” and “Transparent” — and four continuing series: “The Americans,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men” and “Orange Is the New Black.”
The format was the same as in past years: Each honored work got a table, and an AFI rep (this year, Leonard Maltin for the movies, Rich Frank for TV) read the reason why the work was singled out, followed by a clip of the show. Biggest laugh-getter was a raunchy clip from “Silicon,” and the loudest applause seemed to be for “Selma,” with “Into the Woods” a runner-up.
Tom Pollock and Frank, both AFI board vice chairmen, were heads of the juries for film and TV, respectively.
AFI president-CEO Bob Gazzale introduced Kirk Douglas, who got standing ovations at his entrance and at the end of his speech, about a new fellowship at AFI.
Last year, seven of AFI’s 10 film picks ended up with an Oscar nomination for best picture. But AFI downplays its role as an Oscar harbinger. The organization has always stressed that their list honors a community of artists, and is not competitive. AFI does not rank choices, only listing them alphabetically.
The awards recognize works that are “deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image” and works that “advance the art of the moving image, enhance the rich cultural heritage of America’s art form, inspire audiences and artists alike, and/or make a mark on American society,” according to AFI.
The choices are made by juries consisting of AFI trustees, scholars, film and television artists and critics.
Among the Oscar hopefuls ineligible for AFI honors was “The Theory of Everything,” since the key artistic contributors are British.