LOS ANGELES: The wine was flowing and the atmosphere relaxed Friday at the American Film Institute Awards, which brought out some of Hollywood’s brightest stars of the moment, from Emily Blunt to Michael B. Jordan, for a celebratory luncheon in Los Angeles.
It’s an entertainment industry anomaly when no one walks out of an awards show a “loser.” But that’s the deal at the annual AFI Awards, where the winners — 10 films and 10 television shows — have already been announced, no speeches are required and everyone turns up to have fun.
In a look around the star-studded room, you could see “BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee bee-lining to give “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler a big hug, Bradley Cooper greeting his “A Star Is Born” co-star Sam Elliott, “Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron chatting with “Better Call Saul” star Bob Odenkirk, and Blunt running between the tables for “Mary Poppins Returns” and “A Quiet Place,” both of which were honorees. (She sat next to husband John Krasinski, who directed “A Quiet Place.”)
“The game is, there is no game,” AFI President Bob Gazzale said. “You have won. And more importantly, you are one.”
Films recognized were “Black Panther,” ″BlacKkKlansman,” Eighth Grade,” ″The Favourite,” ″First Reformed,” ″Green Book,” ″If Beale Street Could Talk,” ″Mary Poppins Returns,” ″A Quiet Place” and “A Star Is Born,” (“Roma,” which was not considered an American film, was given a special honor). And television programs recognized were “The Americans,” ″The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” ″Atlanta,” ″Barry,” ″Better Call Saul,” ″The Kominsky Method,” ″The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” ″Pose,” ″Succession” and “This Is Us.”
Gazzale called out some of the AFI graduates in attendance, like “Black Panther” cinematographer Rachel Morrison, “A Star Is Born” cinematographer Matthew Libatique, and “First Reformed” writer and director Paul Schrader, who was in the film school’s first class in 1969. Schrader got a standing ovation from the room.
“I see Spike Lee is wearing his NYU hat,” Gazzale said.
Not missing a beat, Lee, who was indeed wearing a purple New York University baseball cap, stood up from his seat and shouted, “I applied to AFI! I didn’t get in!”
The afternoon, on the weekend of the Golden Globe Awards and numerous events and appearances, was as laid-back as a Hollywood event can be and conversations continued long after the program ended.
But perhaps special honoree Angela Lansbury summed it up best. The 93-year-old screen icon took the stage to a lengthy standing ovation to close out the program.
“As you leave here today and are invited to endure seemingly endless parades of programs that label you a winner or a loser, I’ve been there, I’ve done that,” Lansbury said. “Remember this room, remember this group, when we are all together as one.”
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