When I was asked to attend the Governors Awards, it wasn’t until I entered the ballroom that it really hit what incredible of an event this actually is.
This marked the christening of Awards Daily’s presence at the Governors Awards. I reached out to my friend Scott Feinberg from The Hollywood Reporter who advised me to “take it all in” and so I did. It was a black-tie event and there’s nothing I love more than painting my nails and getting into an elegant dress. Thank you Karen Millen!
Off I went to the Ray Dolby ballroom at the Lowes Hollywood Hotel. The event started at 6pm with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, as I passed by Alexandre Desplat conversing with The Shape of Water editor Sidney Wolinsky and witnessed the arrival of Denis Villeneuve while Call Me By Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet shared a joked with director Luca Guadagnino.
In another corner, the cast of Sean Baker’s The Florida Project seemed to share my awestruck feelings. Last week, I had sat down with Brooklynn Prince the young star of film who had told me her favorite actresses were Gal Gadot, Elle Fanning and Dakota Fanning and she wanted to work in movies with all of them. Last night, her dreams began to take shape. Seeing her meet her idol was a joy, watching Wonder Woman inspire the next generation of Wonderful Women.
As I made my way through the ballroom to my table, I bumped into writer-director Jason Hall (Thank You For Your Service) who was there with actor Beluah Kole. Hall said he was already working on his next project, Rasputin. Nearby, Helen Mirren and Richard Gere were engaged in conversation. At the A24 table, Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan broke bread with Good Time actor Robert Pattinson. Singer/ songwriter Diane Warren was with Cries From Syria director Evgeny Afineevsky. Warren spoke with tangible pride about “Prayers For this World” performed by Cher and “Stand Up For Something.” Warren said both songs, though very different carried the same stirring message.
I was seated at the Annapurna table, with some of the cast and collaborators from Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit. I sat next to Algee Smith and across from Questlove, whom I had interviewed earlier that day. Jason Mitchell who had also starred in the film was sitting at the next table with his Mudbound co-stars. Questlove told me that writing the song “It Ain’t Fair” took 18 takes to record in the studio. He had pulled off a first by bringing in his band to the studio to record the Best Original Song Contender on 8-track. Will Poulter was sitting at the head of the table. Though Detroit premiered in August, it’s getting a December re-release to bring the film to voters’ attention. On Sunday, there’s a luncheon honoring the film.
Detroit’s new trailer features words from Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” and serves to remind us of the impact of this incredibly, raw, brutal and honest film about a tragic night during the Detroit riots of 1967.
Sitting with Poulter and Smith, it was clear the two actors who hadn’t known each other prior to filming had become very good friends, often sharing jokes and laughing, enjoying the events of the evening.
The show kicked off with John Bailey opening remarks honoring the recipients Charles Burnett, Owen Roizman, Donald Sutherland and Agnès Varda. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu would be bestowed with an Honorary Oscar for his LACMA installation Carne Y Arena of which Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki says, “Everyone must see it while they can.” (Tickets are sold out through February 2018).
Owen Roizman was the first of the night to receive his honorary Oscar. With credits such as The Exorcist, The French Connection, Tootsie, Wyatt Earp, and The Addams Family, Roizman was feted by Dustin Hoffman who had worked with him on Tootsie. Hoffman talked about working with Roizman before presenting the five-time Oscar nominee with his Oscar.
Agnes Varda was next to be honored as Kimberly Pierce took to the stage first to introduce clips Varda’s work. The French filmmaker, a pioneer of New Wave cinema, was celebrated by both Jessica Chastain and Angelina Jolie both of whom she referred to as “my feminist guardian angels.” Accepting her award, Varda thanked her family and grandchildren who were there with her. She said “I tried telling stories with both actors and non-actors” and admitted that there were times when she found it hard to find funding for her films. In her tribute, Jolie said Varda had reminded her of “the importance of joy” — and in what was the most applauded moment of the night, Varda said she “felt like dancing” and broke into an impromptu tango, with Jolie game to be her dance partner. The room went wild. Watch the cute little video below.
Sean Baker, Chadwick Boseman and Ava DuVernay took to the stage to present Charles Burnett with his award. DuVernay honored Burnett by saying, “Charles Burnett has made the black community visible. You have been a giant to us.” Burnett, whose films include the milestone Killer of Sheep, mentioned one of his former professors who had told him he wouldn’t amount to anything in life, acceoted his Oscar and said: “I hope he reads the trades.”
“I dedicate and receive this beautiful recognition on behalf of all the immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia , Africa, and all corners of the world whose reality has been ignored and held hostage by ideologies and definitions, denying them the possibility of being understood and loved.” Alexander Gonzalez Inarritu was on stage accepting his fifth Oscar for his visionary work in Carne Y Arena. He was awarded a special Oscar for his grousbrealing virtual reality experience currently on display at LACMA, in an exhibition that follows the plight of immigrant workers as they trek across the Mexican/US border.
The last award of the night went to Donald Sutherland. Sutherland who has never won an Oscar was introduced by Jennifer Lawrence and Colin Farrell. Thanking “all the characters in my life” Sutherland recalled the night he had been in Rome when Academy President John Bailey called him to tell him he would be receiving the honorary Oscar. On hearing the news, his wife who was in the room told him they’d have to lose some weight, Sutherland said they had just ordered a bowl of Alfredo pasta and they agreed the diet would “have to wait until tomorrow.” He added, “I don’t deserve this. But I have arthritis. And I don’t deserve that either.”
With that the gala evening came to a close, the distinguished honorees reassembled on the stage for a group photo. The Governors Awards ceremony is now in its 9th year and is an important event in the Oscar campaign calendar. What makes this night so magical and special is that every luminary being honored arrives knowing that they’re already a winner.
Annapurna Pictures, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the invitation to join you on this memorable night and the chance to enjoy the experience in the presence of so many cinema legends. Thank you to the cast of Detroit who had me in fits all night long. Your exceptional talent and moving performances in this important film have stuck with me, haunted me. And, thank you Awards Daily and our fearless leader Sasha Stone for making opportunities like this possible.
Watch highlights below: