“Today’s luncheon is a special one indeed — hashtag Oscars-So-90th,” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey told the movie stars and artisans gathered for the annual Oscar Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills Monday afternoon. “The Academy is at a crossroads of change … We are witnessing this motion picture Academy reinvent itself in front of our very eyes, and a greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.”
Bailey went on to declare that “the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion. Nowhere is this being made clearer than in the richness of many of this year’s nominated films.”
This is the first Nominees Luncheon over which Bailey, who was elected president of the organization last August, has presided.
In general, the year’s nominees did manage to be a bit more inclusive than recent seasons that spawned the #OscarsSoWhite movement. Four black acting nominees, first-ever recognition for a woman in the cinematography field, and a wide spread of ages (from the oldest-ever, “Faces Places” director Agnès Varda, to the youngest best-actor nominee in 80 years, “Call Me by Your Name” star Timothée Chalamet) helped fend off most criticism this time around.
Nevertheless, a group of protesters did assemble outside the Beverly Hilton Monday, demanding representation for Latinos, utilizing the luncheon less as a chance to criticize the Academy (Guillermo del Toro and Pixar’s “Coco” are considered frontrunners for awards) than to call out the industry at large.
This yearly event, which culminates with the annual “class photo” of the season’s Academy Award contenders, makes for a casual afternoon away from the fray of Oscar campaigning as attendees mingle and delight in the one thing that connects them all: the recognition of their peers, and a shot at winning the film industry’s most coveted prize.
“I have no idea what to expect but I’m looking forward to being in that iconic photo,” best supporting actress nominee Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) told Variety hours before the luncheon. “And I’m looking forward to being in that room. My God, the movies — it’s a great year, and so diverse.”
Those in attendance this year included actors such as Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”), Willem Dafoe (“The Florida Project”), and Metcalf’s competition, Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), as well as celebrated crafts professionals like history-making cinematographer Rachel Morrison (“Mudbound”) and composer Alexandre Desplat (“The Shape of Water”), and even NBA star Kobe Bryant (“Dear Basketball”), just to name a few.
When one of the toasts of the season, “Get Out,” hit theaters nearly a year ago, triple nominee Jordan Peele recalled that he had no expectation he’d be here rubbing elbows with filmmakers he admires like Paul Thomas Anderson and Aaron Sorkin. “You have the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenario in your head [when the movie releases],” he told Variety just before lunch was served. “The worst-case scenario was pretty prevalent in my mind … Meeting your heroes is the crazy part of all of this.”
Peele’s nominations made him just the third person in history to nail the picture-director-screenplay hat trick for a debut feature, after Warren Beatty (“Heaven Can Wait”) and James L. Brooks (“Terms of Endearment”).
Best-actress nominee Saoirse Ronan, meanwhile, is on her third Oscar nod, for “Lady Bird.” She said she sees the luncheon as an opportunity for the pressure to finally be off. “Everyone here, it’s just like, ‘We finally made it,'” she exclaimed.
Indeed, for now, no one is a loser quite yet. “Don’t forget to update your IMDb profiles,” Bailey told the nominees.