The annual Oscar nominations lunch is always about the same thing: measuring the applause when the Academy rep calls each nominee down to the riser for the class photo. This year, 179 nominees and four international director nominees made the trek to the Beverly Hilton. (Missing were “The Zone of Interest” writer/director Jonathan Glazer, “Nyad” star Jodie Foster, Danielle Brooks of “The Color Purple,” and “The Boy and the Heron” director Hayao Miyazaki, among others.)

It’s always the celebrities who merit the biggest cheers. Snubbed actress Margot Robbie, on hand as the producer of “Barbie,” and snubbed director Greta Gerwig, on hand as the film‘s co-writer, got enthusiastic applause. One theory has a sympathy vote driving a win for Gerwig and co-writer Noah Baumbach for Adapted Screenplay over frontrunner “Oppenheimer,” which after all, has 13 chances to win over the eight for “Barbie.”

Actress frontrunner Emma Stone (“Poor Things”) got a big round, along with her old “La La Land” costar Ryan Gosling (resplendent in a “Barbie”-friendly pink suit), who was delighted to meet Messi, the blue-eyed dog from “Anatomy of a Fall.” Both Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Paul Giamatti scored big for “The Holdovers.” But so did Christopher Nolan, cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, composer Ludwig Göransson, Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, and the last man on the riser, Robert Downey, Jr. for “Oppenheimer.”

Also drawing cheers were director Martin Scorsese, actress Lily Gladstone, and editor Thelma Schoonmaker of “Killers of the Flower Moon,” who sat near to each other at the front of the class photo (see below).

Steven Spielberg went up on the riser as the producer of “Maestro” after a long chat with Disney CEO Bob Iger, whose ABC has a contract to run the Oscars through 2028. After that, it’s a new ball game. The Oscars will not be able to give out the gold statue for Best Casting on the show until the next contract, because ABC forbids them to add any awards. They’ll figure out a way to give it out somewhere else, starting with the 98th Oscars for 2025, according to the Academy.

Applause for the class photo

Kramer is upbeat about the 96th Oscar show on March 10 with Jimmy Kimmel hosting for the fourth time. Ratings should be robust, simply because “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie” are such popular audience favorites. Think “Titanic” or “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” Also, the show is starting an hour earlier, on the same day as the start of Daylight Savings.

On the music side, Jon Batiste was warmly welcomed for his “American Symphony” song “It Never Went Away,” along with Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell for their “Barbie” song “What Was I Made For?” All five songs will be performed on the Oscar show, Academy president Bill Kramer promises. (Not confirmed as yet.)

In a great mood was J.A. Bayona, who shot “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” the first two episodes of “Rings of Power,” and Netflix’s “Society of the Snow” in the last seven years, which scored two Oscar nominations and just won twelve Goyas, a record and his first Best Film win. All his films scored Goya noms. Now he can get some rest and go to Cannes just to see films, he said. (Will he be on the jury?)

“Society of the Snow” director J.A. Bayona

While many major Oscar categories are easy to call right now, winning your Oscar pool requires figuring out the winners of the craft categories, documentaries, and shorts. The VFX team from popular “Godzilla: Minus One” brought a Godzilla figure to the lunch.

Chilean documentary filmmaker Maite Alberdi bucked the odds and landed a second nomination for “The Eternal Memory,” a heartbreaking Alzheimer’s story. Another favorite is “Bobi Wine: The People’s President,” which landed a nomination either because of (or, despite) a hefty NatGeo campaign.

Sean Lennon Ono was on hand as executive producer and co-writer of the 11-minute animated short “War is Over: inspired by the Music of John & Yoko,” that he financed independently with help from VFX whiz Peter Jackson, composer Thomas Newman, and others. It has no distributor so far. He wanted to honor the legacy of his parents, he said.

The 96th Oscars air Sunday, March 10 on ABC.

Class photo of the nominees for the 96th Oscars

Leave a comment