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The AFI Awards, one of the most exclusive and joyous events of the awards season — because everyone in attendance has already been crowned a winner — kicked off Golden Globes Weekend on Friday, as it does every year. The event, which is hosted by the American Film Institute, celebrates the top 10 films and top 10 television shows of the previous year, as well as the creative teams behind them, at a luncheon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
The honorees at Friday’s ceremony — AFI’s 17th — were, on the film side, 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; and, on the TV side, Big Little Lies, The Crown, Feud: Bette & Joan, Game of Thrones, The Good Place, The Handmaid’s Tale, Insecure, Master of None, Stranger Things 2 and This Is Us. The PBS documentary The Vietnam War received a special honor.
As always, the star wattage in the room couldn’t have been much brighter. Among the big names were Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins (an AFI alum who, at the organization’s request, provided the event’s closing benediction) and lead actress Gal Gadot; The Post director Steven Spielberg and lead actor Tom Hanks; Dunkirk director Christopher Nolan; The Shape of Water writer/director Guillermo del Toro and lead actress Sally Hawkins; Call Me by Your Name lead actor Timothee Chalamet and supporting actor Armie Hammer; and Lady Bird writer/director Greta Gerwig, lead actress Saoirse Ronan and supporting actress Laurie Metcalf — and that’s just a sampling of people from the movie side!
Plenty of behind-the-scenes power players from the world of film were also on hand, including Netflix chief Ted Sarandos, Universal execs Ron Meyer and Donna Langley, Sony Classics vets Michael Barker and Tom Bernard and A24 co-topper David Fenkel.
The AFI Awards always kick off with a beautiful montage, assembled by AFI treasure Chris Merrill, featuring clips from films of the past that were released in a year ending in the same digit as the year being celebrated — meaning, this year, pics like 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, 1977’s Annie Hall, 1987’s Moonstruck and 1997’s Titanic and 2007’s Mad Men — before transitioning to clips from the current crop of honorees. This year, interestingly enough, the montage of past work featured clips only of females, an unspoken acknowledgment of the contributions of women in Hollywood.
Then, per tradition, AFI president and CEO Bob Gazzale (who conceived of the AFI Awards) welcomed guests and acknowledged his two predecessors, George Stevens, Jr. and Jean Picker Firstenberg. This year, Gazzale noted that AFI recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and also that he and his colleagues at the organization “take no credit, but great pride” in the fact that 30 AFI alums were among the creative teams being honored this year — not just Jenkins, but also The Post‘s co-writer Liz Hannah, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski and film co-editor Sarah Broshar. He also winkingly thanked Issa Rae, who is not an AFI alum, for employing 10 AFI alums on Insecure.
Afterwards, the TV honorees were introduced by TV jury chair Rich Frank and the film honorees were introduced by The Washington Post journalist Ann Hornaday, each with the entry that will accompany their listing in the AFI’s almanac, as well as a memorable clip. Applause was noticeably loud following clips from the films The Post, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and, especially, Wonder Woman, but there is no proof that a warm AFI Awards reception serves as a harbinger for a warm Academy Awards reception. Still, on the very day on which Oscar nomination voting began, one couldn’t help but, well, wonder!
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