If Hollywood is some kind of weird manifestation of high school and the Oscars are prom night where the king and queen are crowned, surely the Oscar luncheon held Monday at the Beverly Hilton Hotel is graduation day.
This year's class of nominees first posed for a group photo before being issued their certificate of nomination and the requisite photo with Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences President Tom Sherak. The only things missing were the caps and gowns.
This year's event was the most well-attended of all with a record 147 out of 191 nominees present. (Most notably absent were supporting actor nominee Christian Bale and director David Fincher.) Despite some good, old-fashioned schmoozing that saw Oscar night producer/director Don Mischer and his wife posing for a photo with lead actor nominee Javier Bardem; "Black Swan" director Darren Aronofsky chatting up Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu, the director of foreign language film nominee "Biutiful"; and "The King's Speech" director Tom Hooper getting in some face time with Oscar producer Bruce Cohen, the luncheon was also instructive.
Mischer and Cohen were present to remind nominees to make meaningful, short and special speeches. The duo presented a video clip featuring Tom Hanks with detailed instructions on how to give an Oscar acceptance speech. The simple, but important, instructions involved beating the 45-second clock each nominee is given to accept their award; deciding ahead of time for the group awards who is going to accept the award; and, most important, never take out a piece of paper to read from. "Reading a long list of names only shows us your bald spot," quipped Hanks on the video as a slew of balding noggins appeared on the screen. Mischer even went so far as to pull out research showing that any time a winner pulls out a piece of paper, the Oscar telecast loses hundreds of thousands of viewers.
The producers also showed the audience a new indicator that will appear on the center camera that graphically counts down the 45 seconds each winner has to speak. The new method, which replaces the flashing "Please Wrap Up" message that would normally appear at 30 seconds, was met by some audience laughter. But the academy is so serious about sticking to the allotted time that it is sending home practice DVDs with the 45 second graphic, which depicts an inverted triangle that fills up more and more of the screen as time goes on.
"Playing you off to music is disrespectful to you, to our audience, to the academy and to our industry," said Mischer. "Our dream, our fantasy is to never have to play any of you off to music."
The majority of the event was spent with Hollywood luminaries chatting each other up. Best actor nominee Colin Firth blew Annette Bening a quick kiss after receiving his certificate of nomination along with the official Academy Awards gray sweatshirt that each nominee is given. (Bening immediately threw on her sweatshirt, perhaps to fight off the frigid ballroom chill.) Documentary nominee Lucy Walker ("Wasteland") and her date, musician Moby, who contributed music to Walker's film, chatted up Hooper, while best supporting actress nominee Amy Adams ("The Fighter") commiserated with her costar and fellow nominee Melissa Leo. Jeff Bridges, who received the prime front-and-center seat, with Bening on his lap, chatted up Ed Begley Jr., on hand as one of the academy governors.
The event (see a gallery of photos here) ended rather abruptly after dessert was served, with many nominees running off to do more interviews, or in the case of sound mixer Mark Weingarten, returning back to work on Fincher's latest film, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Sherak didn't seem ready for anyone to leave, joking, "We have the room til 6 tonight."
Red carpet photos
Panorama: Inside the Oscar nominees' luncheon
Photo: Javier Bardem at the 83rd Academy Awards nominations luncheon on Monday. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times