If anyone was wondering if the Academy Awards will get political this year, film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs all but confirmed it at the annual Oscar nominees’ luncheon.
She opened the private gathering at the Beverly Hilton Hotel with a galvanizing speech that promised the academy will “stand up in support of artists around the world”.
“We stand up to those who would try and limit our freedom of expression,” she said. “And we stand up for this fundamental principle: That all creative artists around the world are connected by that unbreakable bond and more powerful and permanent than nationality and politics. Just as work does not stop at borders, borders cannot be allowed to stop any of us.”
Her remarks were received with raucous applause.
Traditionally a warm and friendly affair, there’s little on the luncheon agenda other than celebrity mingling and posing for photos.
Denzel Washington chatted with Steven Spielberg, not even realising Moonlight director Barry Jenkins was standing behind him.
“He was ear-hustling,” Washington said.
Viola Davis shared a moment with Lin-Manuel Miranda, who brought his mother as his date.
Davis was also part of a reunion of The Help cast, posing for a photo with fellow nominees Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer.
Show producers Michael De Luca and Jennifer Todd briefly addressed the nominees, urging them to speak from the heart should they become winners on Oscar night.
They showed a short film, purportedly from the 1938 Academy Awards. The grainy video featured Kate McKinnon as fictional movie star and multiple Oscar-winner Gloria Concave. She offered acceptance-speech advice based on her own past foibles, such as the time she ignored the play-off music and “was pelted with cured meats by some Italians.”
Laura Dern, a governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ actors’ branch, read aloud the name of each nominee as they took their place in the centre of the hotel’s International Ballroom. The graduation-like procession took about 30 minutes.
Each nominee received a certificate, an official Oscar sweatshirt and a bottle of special-issue Oscars Champagne as they left.
The 89th Academy Awards will take place on February 26 at Hollywood & Highland’s Dolby Theatre.