Inside the Oscar Nominees Luncheon
Attracting a record turnout, 147 out of 190 Oscar nominees showed up at the Beverly Hilton on Monday for the annual Academy Award Nominees Luncheon.
"They're using the same risers as last year for more people," exclaimed one excited diner. "How are they going to fit them all up there?" But as dozens of cameras and cell phones snapped away, all managed to crowd together like nervous high school kids on class photo day, and they then trooped up to the stage one by one to collect their nomination certificates from the principal equivalent, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Tom Sherak.
Some of them had to jump with a thump to the floor from the highest riser furthest back, instead of elbowing their way through the throng. But the line moved fast. A few luminaries missed their cue, trying to walk off before they could get a photo snapped with Sherak shaking their hand. But Sherak's firm grip would drag them back until each individual photo was shot. Physically directing the actions of Oscar nominees -- that's power in Hollywood.
Loud whoops were heard when the names of some nominees were read off, including Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Mark Wahlberg, John Hawkes, Debra Granik, Chrisopher Nolan and Melissa Leo, whose whoop sounded the loudest to several observers. This could be because of the controversy over the glamour ads she took out in the trades (including The Hollywood Reporter) last week. The cheers for best actress nominee Annette Bening sounded louder than those for her rival Natalie Portman.
Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer, who are producing the 83rd Annual Academy Awards broadcast, told the assembled room that they have adopted "You're Invited" as the tag for the show and will use it to reach out to audiences.
They've already announced, for example, that they've invited a chorus of 65 fifth graders from Public School 22 in Staten Island to appear on their show, and their trip to Hollywood will be documented on the 90-minute Oscar pre-show that will air on ABC.
To personalize the show further, Cohen and Mischer will also include their moms, dubbed the "Mominees" in the show. And the nominees were asked to enlist the aid of their mothers, who will be trained to tweet on Twitter during the pre-show program.
Like guidance counselors, the two producers lectured the nominees on proper Oscar behavior. First rule: Do not read a list of people to thank.
"When people pull out a list, we lose viewers by the hundreds of thousands," warned Mischer in a jovially minatory tone. "This can be measured."
To drive the point home, a remarkably youthful-looking Tom Hanks appeared in an entertaining video urging the nominees to be entertaining.
"Spontaneity takes preparation," Hanks said. "So memorize something memorable."
Winning nominees will get a chance to read as long a list of thank-yous as they like backstage after the show on the "Thank You Cam."
The video also demonstrated what winners will see on a monitor: a large black triangle that takes 45 seconds to fill in, giving a visual cue as to how much time the winner will have to talk. Just before the 45 seconds are up, the words "WRAP UP NOW" flash in red and white letters.
"Bruce and I, it's our fantasy is that we never have to play anyone off with music," Mischer said.
The few conspicuous no-shows to the luncheon included supporting actor nominee Christian Bale, shooting a film in China about the 1937 massacre by Japanese troops, and producer Scott Rudin, nominated for both The Social Network and True Grit, who was said to have pneumonia.
The Oscar show will be telecast from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on Feb. 27.
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Scott Feinberg, the lead awards analyst for The Hollywood Reporter, is one of the entertainment industry's most experienced and trusted experts about the Oscars, Emmys and Tonys. He started on the awards beat in 2001, writing for independent websites including his own ScottFeinberg.com before joining the Los Angeles Times and then THR, for which he writes “The Race” blog, which won the LA Press Club’s National Entertainment Journalism Award for best entertainment blog of 2012-2013. A voting member of both the Broadcast Film Critics' Association and Broadcast Television Journalists Association, he is also writing a book about film history for young people for which he has interviewed more than 500 high-profile Hollywood figures whose careers span the silent era through the present.
Follow Scott on Twitter at twitter.com/scottfeinberg.