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Awards Circuit: Things I Learned at the Governors Awards and Other Weekend Parties

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 18, 2013 at 6:00AM

"This is what the Oscars should be like," said Warren Beatty after the fifth non-televised Academy Governors Awards Saturday night at Hollywood & Highland. The night was happy/sad. One minute the dinner guests were erupting in laughter, the next choking back tears.
Dawn Hudson and Cheryl Boone-Isaacs
Courtesy A.M.P.A.S. Dawn Hudson and Cheryl Boone-Isaacs

Blue Sky animator Chris Wedge was selling me on the virtues of animated feature "Epic," which I have yet to see. Academy Governor John Lasseter gave me a hug, making me feel guilty that I keep missing screenings of Disney's "Frozen." Geoffrey Rush and Steve Coogan ("Philomena") were schmoozing (Judi Dench is back in England recovering from knee surgery) as were Nancy Meyers and her "Something's Gotta Give" and "Father of the Bride" star Diane Keaton, who was wearing a fab polka dot frock. Meyers is making her next movie not at Sony but Warners-- "The Intern" stars Robert De Niro as a retiree working for young entrepreneur Reese Witherspoon. 

'All is Lost' writer-director JC Chandor and 'Inside Llewyn Davis' star Oscar Isaac.
A.M.P.A.S. 'All is Lost' writer-director JC Chandor and 'Inside Llewyn Davis' star Oscar Isaac.

Sony chairman Amy Pascal was hanging at the "Captain Phillips" table with producers Michael De Luca and Dana Brunetti and CBS Films' Terry Press, whose "Inside Llewyn Davis" star Oscar Isaac was talking to "All is Lost" director JC Chandor, while "American Hustle" star Amy Adams was sitting at the Warners table with "Her" writer-director Spike Jonze and producer/financier Megan Ellison of Annapurna, who is happy to talk at parties but will not give interviews. "Captain Phillips" discovery Barkhad Abdi has an agent and is looking at scripts, he told me. 

Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are an unusual case of Oscar producers repeating two years in a row, with the memory of the last one still fresh. They admit that they learned a lot, and are back because the ratings were so good. If the last one was Oscars the Musical, this one with host Ellen DeGeneres is going to be the Funny Oscars, they said.

At evenings end, the Academy Governors headed over to the corner for their annual picture. It struck me this time--confirmed by Academy CEO Dawn Hudson and new president Cheryl Boone Isaacs--that there were far more women than before, among them execs Pascal and Fox Searchlight's Nancy Utley, actress Annette Bening, director Kathryn Bigelow, costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis and writer Robin Swicord. They're trying.

Craig Zadan and Neil Meron
A.M.P.A.S. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron

With so many people in town for AFI FEST and the Governors Awards, it was a jam-packed awards party weekend, as Universal threw a party Friday night at Fig & Olive for blockbuster "Despicable Me 2" (an amazing $915 million worldwide) complete with a performance of their Oscar hopeful song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Other attendees were star Steve Carrell and European animator Pierre Coffin and American director Chris Renaud, who were first brought together by Illumination Entertainment animation czar Chris Meledandri. Why was "Despicable Me" so successful? They gave global audiences what they wanted: a universally relatable and lovable beleaguered single dad with adorable daughters-- and lots of minions. A minions sequel is already in the works. 

Also on hand were Universal survivor Ron Meyer, new cable guy studio head Jeff Shell and ebullient author E.L. James, who's thrilled with the casting of Brit Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey. The "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie starts filming soon, she said. (She has a new book coming out, too.) The players all knew that Charlie Hunnam was dragging his feet. Better to have someone game and enthusiastic, people close to the movie are telling me. 

At Friday's Fox Searchlight party at Cecconi's, Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula hosted a holiday/awards fete for their two specialty hits, Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" and Nicole Holofcener's  "Enough Said." I think the critics will come through for the "12 Years a Slave" and McQueen, John Ridley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o, turning the film into an Academy must-see. 

Relationship comedy "Enough Said" could use critics awards to lend it gravitas--Holofcener has the best chance of landing an original screenplay Oscar nomination (which is why she appeared on the writers and not the directors Hollywood Reporter roundtable), although that category boasts contending scripts that could be considered adaptations, such as true stories "The Butler" and "Fruitvale Station." "Veep" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus told me she's glad to be reading taller stacks of movie scripts--she just wishes they were better. Holofcener's writing something for her, too. And studio chairman Jim Gianopulos remains optimistic about awards chances for Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." It's more likely wind up with "Enough Said" as a Golden Globes comedy.

Sunday brought dueling Academy/press brunches: Focus Features' "Dallas Buyers Club" at Craft with Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and actor/rocker Jared Leto (also needing to fly out Sunday for a concert in the U.K. on Monday), and Working Title's celebration of Richard Curtis's "About Time" and Ron Howard's "Rush" (Daniel Bruhl has a shot at supporting actor) at Chateau Marmont. 

A hot topic of conversation all weekend: when will Martin Scorsese's "Wolf of Wall Street" finish? And how long will it finally be? Two hours 30? 45?

Academy Board of Governors
Academy Board of Governors

This article is related to: The Wolf of Wall Street , August: Osage County, 12 Years a Slave, Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie, Angelina Jolie, Academy Awards, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Oscars, Awards Season Roundup, Margo Martindale, Geoffrey Rush, Chiwetel Ejiofor

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.