Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

Oscar nominees including Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, Gary Oldman, Timothee Chalamet, Daniel Kaluuya, Sally Hawkins, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Greta Gerwig, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Sam Rockwell, Kobe Bryant, Mary J. Blige, Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Jordan Peele, and Octavia Spencer attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards Nominee Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 5, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Jokes, and selfies with Kobe Bryant, at Oscar nominees lunch

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif: The Oscar nominees’ luncheon is like an exclusive clubhouse where every member is an outstanding artist and film super-fan.
So the production designer of “The Shape of Water” is free to geek out over meeting Mary J. Blige, who herself shared a moment with Gary Oldman.
Actress Sally Hawkins embraced Margot Robbie while Greta Gerwig chatted with Meryl Streep. Jordan Peele talked shop with Willem Dafoe. First-time acting nominees Daniel Kaluuya and Timothee Chalamet high-fived every time they saw each other.
Even nominees who couldn’t attend were there in spirit, or at least in cardboard-cutout form. Street artist JR brought a life-sized cardboard portrait of “Faces Places” co-director Agnes Varda. He brought the Varda cutout on the red carpet and into the risers for the annual Oscars “class photo.”
But the person perhaps enjoying the Oscar luncheon the most was retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Nominated for his contributions to the animated short “Dear Basketball,” Bryant wore a beaming grin throughout the event, practically skipping his meal to pose for photos with his many fans in the room, including fellow nominees Allison Janney and “Logan” screenwriter James Mangold. Bryant said being in the Oscar mix is “better than all those championships put together.”
“I don’t know what’s going on!” the 39-year-old said, practically giggling. “I love this.”
An annual tradition since 1982, the Oscar nominees’ luncheon brings together the year’s nominated artists for a collegial meal, extended mingling and the group photo. This year’s event drew 170 of the 200 artists nominated.
Film academy president John Bailey explained the history of the film academy before telling nominees that they each embody “this 90-year academy history.” He dropped the words “envelope malfunction” in a passing reference to last year’s best picture flub, but more pointedly offered a new hashtag to replace #OscarsSoWhite, a criticism that inspired sweeping changes for greater inclusion in the film academy. Bailey’s new hashtag: “Oscars so 90th.”
He said the academy reinventing itself in “this era of greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion.”
Addressing those issues and perhaps the #MeToo movement, Bailey said, “I may be a 75-year-old white male, but I’m every bit as gratified as the youngest of you here that the fossilized bedrock of many of Hollywood’s worst abuses are being jackhammered into oblivion.”
Actress Laura Dern called for greater compassion and representation throughout the industry. She then announced every nominee’s name as each took their places on risers for a group photo.
“Radicals, subversives and wild ones,” Dern said, “Thank you for getting us through this last year with every one of your films somehow reflecting the wealth of emotions that we are all going through.”
Telecast producers Jennifer Todd and Michael De Luca briefly greeted the nominees, with Todd saying, “It’s our honor to produce the show in a year where the nominations are finally starting to reflect the world that we live in and the way it looks, speaks and tells stories.”
Then they brought actor-comedian Patton Oswalt out to give eventual Oscar winners tips for delivering memorable acceptance speeches.
“They’ve spared every expense bringing me here,” he quipped.
His first tip? Hustle to the stage. “If you need something to speed you up, think of the hot, murderous glares of your colleagues on your back as you’re moving up there. Let it fuel you.”
He also put the kibosh on “trips and falls” on the way to claim an Oscar. “We know it’s adorable,” Oswalt said. “Jennifer owns it. That’s her thing now.”
Jennifer Lawrence famously fell on her way to accept the best actress Oscar for “Silver Linings Playbook” in 2013.
Tip two? Be concise. And don’t say you didn’t expect to win.
“Yes you did,” he said. “You were nominated.”
He also cautioned against thanking managers and agents. “Just cover for yourself, all right?” he said. “You don’t want to explain to your grandkids why you thanked someone that Dateline just did a four-part series on.”
He told nominees they don’t need to hunch over at the microphone.
“Think Freddie Mercury, not Tom Waits,” Oswalt said. “Look up and project.”
Finally, he said, “be heartfelt and be meaningful.
“And when I say that,” he said, “I mean act that way.”


‘Christopher Robin’ a timeless message even if Pooh lacks spark

Updated 16 August 2018
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‘Christopher Robin’ a timeless message even if Pooh lacks spark

CHENNAI: The American fantasy drama “Christopher Robin” has something significant to say, and it seems as relevant today as it did in World War II England.
Companies slave-drive their employees to increase profits and to fill the pockets of their owners to such an extent that men become machines, forgetting the simple pleasures of life and neglecting their families. Nothing can be truer than the quip by Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) in the Marc Forster-directed film. You no longer laugh, she tells her husband, Christopher (Ewan McGregor), who is in the titular role.
Adapted from a story by Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson, and inspired by A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard’s delightful book, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” “Christopher Robin” is a live-action/CGI extension of the Walt Disney franchise with the same name. Here, in the latest adventure of the honey-loving bear Pooh, the focus shifts to Christopher who, on the eve of his departure for boarding school, bids adieu to his forest friends, Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl and Rabbit, promising that he will never forget them.
But as he grows up and quickly matures after the death of his father and a stint in the army, his childhood friends fade away from his memory. Married with a nine-year-old daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), Christopher has no time even for them. He works long hours as an efficiency manager in a luggage company, whose boss desperately wants to cut costs. In the mad scramble in which Christopher lands himself, Pooh finds him in London and urges him to travel toward a magical realization.
Unfortunately, this comes after dull, rather long scenes between Christopher and Pooh, and they seem labored. The bear looks clearly unhappy, devoid of any spark, and one wonders how he manages to draw the grown-up man back into the joys of childhood, nay, life itself. McGregor sleepwalks through his fantasy journey to the Sussex countryside that was once his playground, for the rendezvous with his animal friends.
The women are not very impressive either, and the overexposure of Pooh makes it apparent that the teddy has passed his sell-by date. However, Jim Cummings’ voice for Pooh is spot-on, and imaginative production design, costumes and cinematography lift this tale to a higher notch.