This year’s Oscar nominees gathered for the ultimate Hollywood power lunch recently in a celebration of the old adage “it’s an honour just to be nominated” three weeks before the film industry’s biggest night. The annual Oscars nominees luncheon convened more than 200 contenders pursuing an Academy Award on March 2 – from 18-time nominee Meryl Streep for best actress in August: Osage County to Lupita Nyong’o, who won a best supporting actress nod for her first film role ever in 12 Years a Slave.
The eclectic group of movie stars, directors and technical wizards even boasted U2 frontman Bono, who lined up for the “class picture” thanks to his best song nomination for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
While no one is foolish enough to look confident of a win before Academy members began voting last Friday, the luncheon was a chance to turn on the charm by praising the Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the magic of Hollywood filmmaking. “I’m going to celebrate no matter what,” said Matthew McConaughey, the presumed frontrunner for best actor for his role as an unlikely AIDS activist in the low-budget Dallas Buyers Club, for which he won the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards.
“This is my first time nomination and if I ever get nominated again, who knows,” he added. “But there will never be another first time, so I’m going to enjoy this.” Cate Blanchett, the favourite to win best actress for her role as a disgraced socialite in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, said this nomination “certainly took me by surprise”. “You’re part unconscious when you’re working deeply, but it’s always a thrill, particularly because I’ve been away from the film industry for so long,” Blanchett said.
‘Interested in challenging films’
This year’s Oscars nominations reflect a field crowded with high-quality films and a large number of strong performances that resulted in notable exclusions. At the luncheon, many attendees lamented that Tom Hanks was not there for his acclaimed role in the Somali piracy thriller Captain Phillips. For the nine films nominated in the best picture category, odds appear to be strongest for the brutal slavery drama 12 Years a Slave, space thriller Gravity and 1970s corruption caper American Hustle,” which have all won top prizes in the awards season and lead the Oscar nominations.
Producers for the 86th Academy Awards gave advice on acceptance speeches at the show, hosted this year by comedian Ellen DeGeneres: deliver something heartfelt and meaningful rather than a list of people to thank and make it quick.
At the lunch, though, nominees played it cool about their chances and what a win would mean for their careers. “Everybody regards the Oscars as the ultimate stamp of approval,” said Nyong’o, the Kenyan actress nominated for her role as the hardworking slave Patsey. “I don’t know. I guess, we’ll see.”
China dashes Hollywood’s hopes for greater access in 2014
China will maintain its strict quota for imported Hollywood movies this year, rejecting reports it had planned to increase access for U.S. films to the world’s second-largest cinema market, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The Hollywood Reporter cited a source last week saying the country’s film bureau was mulling increasing Hollywood’s quota in China to 44 from the current 34 films it allows each year.
U.S. studios have been taking steps to appeal to the fast-growing Chinese box office, which hit 21.8 billion yuan last year. Production companies like Viacom Inc’s Paramount Picture and Dream Works Animation SKG Inc have hired Chinese actors and set up co-productions with Chinese firms to make inroads in the mainland market. But China’s often draconian film regulators hold a tight grip over the market, controlling the inflow of foreign films in order to protect the box office share of domestic ventures.
An unidentified official from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television told Xinhua the 2014 quota would hold in-line with an agreement signed in 2012, when China increased the quota from 20 films to the current level. Hollywood has traditionally dominated China’s box-office, but Chinese films overtook their U.S. rivals in 2013 taking over 58 per cent of the box-office, according to Xinhua.