Emma Stone enjoyed a mini "La La Land" reunion with Ryan Gosling. Margot Robbie chatted with Billie and Finneas Eilish. "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig and "Oppenheimer" director Christopher Nolan — whose two films will forever be fused in the public imagination and box office history — each greeted a parade of well-wishers.
Read more: The 2024 Oscar nominations: Full list
And despite the din of hundreds of people schmoozing around him, a border collie named Messi, better known as the scene-stealing Snoop from the thriller "Anatomy of a Fall," curled up quietly under a table, unimpressed by all the Oscar nominees around him. (Already the Palme Dog winner at last year's Cannes, Messi may be over such dog-and-pony shows at this point.)
In all, 184 of this year's 205 Academy Award contenders gathered Monday afternoon at the Beverly Hilton to toast their accomplishments at the annual nominees luncheon and pose together for Hollywood's most exclusive class photo.
With the Oscars just weeks away on March 10, the annual lunch gathering — a ritual dating back to the 1980s — offered the chance for the nominees to mingle in a convivial and competition-free environment, momentarily free from the reality that only 20% or so of them will actually emerge victorious when Oscar season reaches its climax.
For many, including acting nominees such as Cillian Murphy ("Oppenheimer"), Sterling K. Brown ("American Fiction"), America Ferrera ("Barbie") and Da'Vine Joy Randolph ("The Holdovers"), it was their first time attending the event. For others, like "Maestro" director and star Bradley Cooper, "Holdovers" star Paul Giamatti and "Poor Things" director Yorgos Lanthimos, this is not their first Oscar rodeo.
Taking in the collective star wattage, some of the less familiar faces, like Mstyslav Chernov, first-time director of the documentary feature nominee "20 Days in Mariupol," seemed stunned simply to be there. "It's incredible, the journey this film has taken," said Chernov, whose picture chronicles the harrowing experience he and a group of fellow Ukrainian journalists faced trying to document the Russian invasion of their country while under siege — about as far from the glamorous soirée as one can imagine.
Taking the stage to welcome the starry crowd, which also included executives like Disney's Bob Iger and Netflix's Ted Sarandos, Academy President Janet Yang lauded what many regard as a particularly strong crop of nominees.
"I hope you've each taken time over the past few weeks to reflect on your achievements and absorb the feeling of being a part of this esteemed class of filmmakers," she told the nominees. "It might sound cliche but it's true: to receive a nomination is an honor of the highest order, particularly because you're nominated by your peers."
That said, come Oscar night, with the telecast's producers under never-ending pressure to trim down the often overlong show, Yang said the nominees need to do their part to keep things moving and deliver emotional moments.
"Please keep your speeches short — meaning under 45 seconds," she urged the nominees, noting that there will be a "thank-you cam" set up backstage for winners to express their gratitude to as many people as they want. "Speak from the heart. Be authentic. Allow yourself to feel the moment. Throw in a dash of humor if you'd like. Also, we want to see your beautiful faces rather than tops of your head, so let's not read from a piece of paper or your phone."
For the nominees, Oscar season can come to feel like an endless march of screenings, cocktail parties, Q&As and receptions. But the luncheon marks the only Oscar-season stop at which a majority of the nominees are actually in the same room prior to the awards themselves.
Gazing around that room, Ben Proudfoot, who co-directed the documentary short "The Last Repair Shop" — a co-production of the Los Angeles Times and Fox Searchlight — marveled that virtually everywhere you looked there was someone famous, summing up the vibe in a single word: "It's electric."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.