Stars Shine at the Oscar Nominee Lunch

For years I have been lucky enough to be invited to the Oscar Nominees Luncheon, and let me assure you, I am never blasé about it. I get to mingle with people I admire, from both sides of the camera, at an event where no one is tense or nervous. Once inside the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the nominees (150 this year), Academy governors, and A-list filmmakers have a great time schmoozing and enjoying each other’s company. The Academy makes sure that seating is random, so a major movie star will be seated next to a sound mixer, or a documentary short-subject director, or an animator. There are no tables devoted to studios or nominated films. This event celebrates the community of filmmaking and it is exhilarating. (I must apologize in advance for name-dropping; in this instance it’s unavoidable.)

Oscar Luncheon Lottery 2016

Photo by Jessie Maltin

Here is how I learn where I’m going to sit: by bingo-style lottery. This year I joined Brie Larson, screenwriting nominee S. Lee Savidge (Straight Outta Compton), The Big Short producer Jeremy Kleiner, noted casting director Ronna Kress, and Academy Governor Lora Kennedy, of the Casting Directors’ Branch. Nice company for a lovely lunch.

Brie Larson-Jennifer Lawrence

Photo by Leonard Maltin

You wouldn’t know that Brie Larson was hours away from having to fly back to Australia to continue filming Kong: Skull Island. She was clearly enjoying the day, and when she got up to speak to Jennifer Lawrence I couldn’t resist asking if they would pose for me.

Leonard Maltin-Pete Hammond-Mark Ruffalo

Photo by Jessie Maltin

          One of the nice things about award season in Hollywood is that I get to share it with my best friend, Deadline Hollywood’s Pete Hammond. Here we are with Mark Ruffalo, one of the nicest people I’ve encountered in this business.
Rachel McAdams-Oscar Luncheon 2016

Photo by Jessie Maltin

Fashion is not my strong point but I know a great outfit when I see it, and Rachel McAdams looked amazing.


Rooney Mara Oscar Luncheon 2016

Photo by Leonard Maltin

So did Rooney Mara, who went through this process four years ago when she was nominated for Best Actress in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Leonardo Di Caprio-Sylvester Stallone

Photo by Leonard Maltin

I was having a nice conversation with Sylvester Stallone, who came to my USC class last November, when I became aware that Leonardo Di Caprio had entered the ballroom and the fotogs were eager to get the two actors together. I said this to Stallone and his publicist mouthed a “thank you” as she nudged him toward Leo, where cameras and camera-phones broke into a shooting frenzy. Here’s my souvenir of that moment.

George Miller Oscar Luncheon 2016

Photo by Jessie Maltin

           Outside the ballroom, my colorful daughter Jessie was handing out unicorn stickers, as she is wont to do. Leave it to an Aussie like Mad Max director George Miller to put it on his lapel without a moment’s hesitation. Two of the Spotlight producers told me later that they were going to keep theirs as good luck tokens.
Bryan Cranston Oscar Luncheon 2016

Photo by Leonard Maltin

Because so much of his career has been in television, Bryan Cranston is a newcomer to the world of Oscar, but he earned his way in with that performance in Trumbo.

Matt Damon - Ridley Scott - 2016

Photo by Leonard Maltin

           When I complimented Matt Damon on his work in The Martian he said, “It helps to have a great director.” I was glad that although Ridley Scott isn’t nominated in that category he is an Oscar nominee as one of the producers of The Martian. It’s one of my favorite films of 2015.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024