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AFI Awards Salute ‘Dunkirk,’ ‘The Post,’ ‘Game of Thrones’

Guillermo del Toro hugged Christopher Nolan and Reese Witherspoon huddled with Patty Jenkins, all while Steven Spielberg greeted a line of well-wishers at the AFI Awards Friday at the Beverly Hills Four Seasons, which AFI topper Bob Gazzale described as an opportunity “to be together as a community.”

Jason Blum, producer of “Get Out,” told Variety that it’s “the best event of the weekend.”

The mood is always friendly since there is no competition, no TV cameras, no envelopes, and no acceptance speeches. There was also no suspense: The 10 films and 11 TV shows honored were announced Dec. 7.

Hollywood has been under fire for gender inequality, sexual harassment, and lack of inclusion, but those those things were unspoken from stage, since the brisk ceremony is all about showcasing the year’s work. But the gender issue was addressed subtly in the film clips chosen by AFI to quickly depict a century of great film and TV work, with segments of strong women, ranging from Shirley Temple to Lucille Ball and Bette Davis.

Gazzale also gave shout-outs to AFI alumnae represented in the year’s choices, including three women: writer Liz Hannah, editor Sarah Broshar, and Jenkins, with the filmmaker closing the event by giving the “benediction” in tribute to the honorees.

The format was the same as in past years. A brief clip was shown from each of the 21 works, with an AFI rep announcing the reasons for inclusion, or the “jury rationales.”

Movies of the year were “The Big Sick,” “Call Me by Your Name,” “Dunkirk,” “The Florida Project,” “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “The Post,” “The Shape of Water,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and “Wonder Woman.”

The TV shows were “Big Little Lies,” “The Crown,” “Feud: Bette and Joan,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Good Place,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Insecure,” “Master of None,” “Stranger Things 2,” and “This Is Us.” There was also a special award to PBS’s “The Vietnam War,” directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.

Of the clips, several were notable for being free of dialogue, including “Master of None,” “Dunkirk,” and “The Shape of Water,” while a segment from “The Vietnam War” was brief, but still a tearjerker.

Other film directors on hand included Sean Baker, Luca Guadagnino, Greta Gerwig, and Jordan Peele. The stars included Tom Hanks, Aziz Ansari, Sterling K. Brown, Timothee Chalamet, Willem Dafoe, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Sally Hawkins, Daniel Kaluuya, Kumail Nanjiani, Brooklynn Prince, Issa Rae, Sam Rockwell, Saoirse Ronan, and Octavia Spencer.

Executives included Judd Apatow, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, Toby Emmerich, Randy Freer, David E. Kelley, Sue Kroll, John Landgraf, Donna Langley, Bryan Lourd, Ron Meyer, Richard Plepler, Ted Sarandos, Jeff Shell, Stacey Snider, Kevin Tsujihara, and Nancy Utley.

Key contributors to the honored works included David Benioff, Alexandre Desplat, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Emily Gordon, David E. Kelley, Shawn Levy, Warren Littlefield, Peter Morgan, Bruce Miller, Ryan Murphy, Amy Pascal, Alex Saks, Michael Schur, Emma Thomas, Jean-Marc Vallee, D.B. Weiss, and Hans Zimmer.

AFI in 2017 celebrated its 50th anniversary. On hand at the luncheon were such key AFI contributors as Bob Daly, George Stevens Jr. and Jean Picker Firstenberg.

At the wrap of the two-hour event, first-time attendee Peter Spears (producer of “Call Me by Your Name”) told Variety, “Everyone told me the AFI luncheon is one of the highlights of awards season and they were right. I found it very moving to be there with all of those incredibly talented people celebrating the beautiful work of our peers and colleagues.”

AFI Awards, chosen by special committees of industry workers, journalists, and educators, honor the year’s “most culturally and artistically significant” works. They don’t have strict rules about eligibility for TV series: The committee judges on if the show had a notable year, whether it’s new or not. HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” for example, has won in the past as well as for 2017.

Longtime sponsor Audi created the Audi Fellowship for Women, which will support one female director for her entire two-year enrollment at AFI Conservatory.

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