Steven Spielberg, enthusiastic, showed up on Monday February 12 at the traditional Oscar nominees luncheon in Los Angeles. In front of a fine selection of films in competition, the American director, always respectful of the work of his colleagues, praised an exceptional cinematographic vintage. “This is a great and eclectic year for films, one of the best in terms of quality, in my opinion, of the last decade,” declared the filmmaker, between champagne and petits fours. A month before the Oscars ceremony, the contenders meet each year at this lunch organized with great fanfare in a Beverly Hills hotel. Steven Spielberg attended as producer of Maestro, the biopic of conductor Leonard Bernstein, who hopes to steal the show from Oppenheimer, ultra-favorite for the Oscar for best film.
Maestro is a “triumph for Bradley” Cooper, who works both in front of and behind the camera on this feature film, said Steven Spielberg. But he is far from being the only quality competitor to Christopher Nolan's portrait of the father of the atomic bomb. Between the Cannes Palme d'Or winner Anatomy of a Fall, the box office phenomenon Barbie, or acclaimed festival films like American Fiction, Winter Break and Past Lives, favorite Oppenheimer is in good company.
At the center of this competition, the actors showed their best face on Monday. Like Robert Downey Jr (Oppenheimer), always ready to joke in order to lighten the atmosphere while the group photo dragged on. The two favorites for the best actress award, Emma Stone (Poor Creatures) and Lily Gladstone (Killers of the Flower Moon), spoke at length before falling into each other's arms.
And even after the controversial absence of Barbie in the best actress and best director categories, Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig were present at this event. Nominated for her screenplay, the director received loud applause from her peers, while the actress dressed entirely in pink attracted all the attention of the photographers. “It could be hectic,” predicted Billie Eilish, while other stars asked for a selfie. After being voted song of the year at the Grammy Awards, his title What Was I Made For?, written for Barbie, was also nominated for the Oscars.
In the middle of this audience of celebrities, however, it was an unnamed one who delighted all hearts: Messi, the loyal dog from Anatomy of a Fall, who came with director Justine Triet to defend the colors of France.
Academy President Janet Yang hailed “an incredible year for cinema” and highlighted the diversity of this year’s nominees, selected by voters from 93 different countries. Beyond the glitter, the lunch was also an opportunity to recall the convulsions of a world marked by the return of wars and the rise of authoritarian temptations, thanks to the documentary category.
Wearing his eternal red beret to complement the tuxedo, Ugandan Bobi Wine was particularly visible among the distinguished guests. The ex-singer, whose 2021 presidential campaign was the subject of violent repression, was followed by a team for a film now in the running for the 2024 Oscars.
An Oscar next month could be a “game changer,” he recently said in an interview. “The United States and the European Union will no longer have the luxury of pretending that they do not see what is happening in Uganda.” To be voted best documentary, the film will have to win against 20 Days in Mariupol, a chronicle of the atrocities of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “It’s not enough to make films and survive. It’s important to talk about it,” explained its director, Mstyslav Chernov, because today, “Almost no one still pays attention to Ukraine.”