On the scene at the 2024 Oscar nominees luncheon, where stars and directors mingled


By AGENCY

Oscar nominees Emma Stone and Bradley Cooper attend the the 2024 Oscars Nominees Luncheon on Feb 12. Photo: TNS

Emma Stone enjoyed a mini La La Land reunion with Ryan Gosling. Margot Robbie chatted with Billie and Finneas Eilish.

Barbie director Greta Gerwig and Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan – whose two films will forever be fused in the public imagination and box office history – each greeted a parade of well-wishers.

And despite the din of hundreds of people schmoozing around him, a border collie named Messi, better known as the scene-stealing Snoop from the thriller Anatomy Of A Fall, curled up quietly under a table, unimpressed by all the Oscar nominees in his midst. (Already the Palme Dog winner at last year's Cannes, Messi may be over such dog-and-pony shows at this point.)

In all, 184 of this year's 205 Academy Award contenders gathered Monday (Feb 12) afternoon at the Beverly Hilton to toast their accomplishments at the annual nominees luncheon and pose together for Hollywood's most exclusive class photo.

In this handout image courtesy of AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) nominees for the 96th Oscars® pose for a group photo during a luncheon held at the Beverly Hilton, Feb 12, 2024. Photo: AFPIn this handout image courtesy of AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) nominees for the 96th Oscars® pose for a group photo during a luncheon held at the Beverly Hilton, Feb 12, 2024. Photo: AFP

With the Oscars just weeks away on March 10, the annual lunch gathering – a ritual dating back to the 1980s – offered the chance for the nominees to mingle in a convivial and competition-free environment, momentarily free from the reality that only 20% or so of them will actually emerge victorious when Oscar season reaches its climax.

For many, including acting nominees such as Cillian Murphy (Oppenheimer), Sterling K. Brown (American Fiction), America Ferrera (Barbie) and Da'Vine Joy Randolph (The Holdovers), it was their first time attending the event.

For others, like Maestro director and star Bradley Cooper, Holdovers star Paul Giamatti and Poor Things director Yorgos Lanthimos, this is not their first Oscar rodeo.

America Ferrera (centrer) at the 2024 Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo: TNSAmerica Ferrera (centrer) at the 2024 Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo: TNS

Taking in the collective star wattage, some of the less familiar faces, like Mstylslav Chernov, first-time director of the documentary feature nominee 20 Days In Mariupol, seemed stunned simply to be there.

"It's incredible, the journey this film has taken," said Chernov, whose picture chronicles the harrowing experience he and a group of fellow Ukrainian journalists faced trying to document the Russian invasion of their country while under siege – about as far from the glamorous soiree as one can imagine.

Margot Robbie and Pam Abdy at the 2024 Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo: TNSMargot Robbie and Pam Abdy at the 2024 Oscars Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. Photo: TNS

Taking the stage to welcome the starry crowd, which also included executives like Disney's Bob Iger and Netflix's Ted Sarandos, Academy President Janet Yang lauded what many regard as a particularly strong crop of nominees.

"I hope you've each taken time over the past few weeks to reflect on your achievements and absorb the feeling of being a part of this esteemed class of filmmakers," she told the nominees.

"It might sound cliche but it's true: to receive a nomination is an honor of the highest order, particularly because you're nominated by your peers."

(From left) US actor Robert Downey Jr, US-British actress Emily Blunt and Irish actor Cillian Murphy attend the Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: AFP(From left) US actor Robert Downey Jr, US-British actress Emily Blunt and Irish actor Cillian Murphy attend the Oscar Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: AFP

That said, come Oscar night, with the telecast's producers under never-ending pressure to trim down the often overlong show, Yang said the nominees need to do their part to keep things moving and deliver emotional moments.

"Please keep your speeches short – meaning under 45 seconds," she urged the nominees, noting that there will be a "thank-you cam" set up backstage for winners to express their gratitude to as many people as they want.

"Speak from the heart. Be authentic. Allow yourself to feel the moment. Throw in a dash of humour if you'd like. Also, we want to see your beautiful faces rather than tops of your head, so let's not read from a piece of paper or your phone."

US singer-songwriter Finneas O'Connell (left) and US singer/songwriter Billie Eilish at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Photo: AFPUS singer-songwriter Finneas O'Connell (left) and US singer/songwriter Billie Eilish at the Oscar Nominees Luncheon. Photo: AFP

For the nominees, Oscar season can come to feel like an endless march of screenings, cocktail parties, Q&As and receptions. But the luncheon marks the only Oscar-season stop at which a majority of the nominees are actually in the same room prior to the awards themselves.

Gazing around that room, Ben Proudfoot, who co-directed the documentary short The Last Repair Shop – a co-production of the Los Angeles Times and Fox Searchlight – marvelled that virtually everywhere you looked there was someone famous, summing up the vibe in a single word: "It's electric." – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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