Oscars nominees convene for annual photo at luncheon

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Every year, the Oscar nominees get together for a lovely luncheon, coming together as equals to celebrate their cinematic accomplishments. And Kobe Bryant (who was nominated for the short film Dear Basketball) towered over the crowd (and was given a chair at the front, presumably so he wouldn't block a nominee standing behind him).

"And when I say that", he said, "I mean act that way".

"Yes you did", he said.

In the words of the veteran publicist Marvin Levy, a member of the Academy's board and Spielberg's longtime rep, who has probably attended every Oscar Nominees Luncheon, "It never gets old".

Among the assembled for the event was Guillermo del Toro, whose film The Shape of Water leads all nominees with 13. JR, the French artist who co-directed the film with Varda, arrived at the luncheon carrying three life-sized cardboard cutouts of her, because, he said, the 89-year-old nominee, this year's oldest, was too exhausted to travel.

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And every year, the producers of that ceremony come up with new ways to admonish nominees to keep their 45-second acceptance speeches pithy and exciting.

He said the academy reinventing itself in "this era of greater awareness and responsibility in balancing gender, race, ethnicity and religion".

"They've spared every expense bringing me here", he quipped.

"I don't know if you've paid attention to what's been going on this past year in Hollywood". I'm just saying, cover for yourself.

The Spirit Awards are handed out on Oscars eve on a beach in Santa Monica, California, and five of their last six winners for Best Feature have gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture the very next night: "The Artist" (2011), "12 Years a Slave" (2013), "Birdman" (2014), "Spotlight" (2015) and "Moonlight" (2016). "You don't want to have to explain to your grandkids why you thanked someone who Dateline just did a four-part series on".

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