Oscar nominees lunch Tom Cruise takes center stage Malala Yousafzai

Oscar nominees’ lunch: Tom Cruise takes center stage, Malala Yousafzai endorses short film and ‘Everything Everywhere’ cheers

Tom Cruise attends the 95th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton on Monday, February 13, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Tom Cruise attends the 95th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton on Monday, February 13, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Jay L Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

If there was any doubt Tom cruise is the biggest movie star in Hollywood, who was obliterated on Monday afternoon at the 41st Academy Awards Nominees’ Luncheon at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where the producing nominee for Top Gun: Maverick made his first appearance of the season on the awards circuit – was by practically everyone else in the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom.

Awesome first time nominees lined up and were greeted with Cruise’s eye contact and a million dollar smile, a handshake and a selfie. Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani Nobel Laureate, who was attending the event on behalf of the documentary nominee Stranger at the Gate and might otherwise have been the biggest star in the room, was escorted to him and warmly greeted. And even veteran A-listers Steven Spielberga candidate for producing, directing and writing for The Fabelmans, and Guillermo del Toroa nominee for Best Animated Feature for Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, made his way through the crowd to say hello, receiving bear hugs in the process.

As Academy President Janet Yang said in her remarks welcoming the 186 nominees (or, in the case of four, directors of Oscar-nominated international feature films) who were present, “You are all winners” – which, she politely refrained from adding, is not the case So on March 13th, when the 95th Academy Awards takes place across town at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, only a fraction of the nominees go home with a gold statuette. (The ceremony will be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel and aired on ABC.)

A dark cloud hung over the merry gathering for a moment when Yang — unnamed — pointed it out. Will Smith‘s on stage pat of Chris Rock that affected the 94th Academy Awards. “Today, I think it’s important to seize this rare opportunity as we gather here to address some of the Academy’s recent challenges over the past year,” she said. “As I’m sure you all remember, we witnessed an unprecedented event at the Oscars. What happened on stage was totally unacceptable and the organization’s response was inadequate. We learned from this that the Academy must be fully transparent and accountable in its actions and especially in times of crisis. We must act quickly, compassionately and decisively for ourselves and our industry. You shouldn’t and shouldn’t expect less from us in the future. We are committed to upholding the highest standards while bringing about the changes we want to see in our industry.”

The Academy’s first-term president also implicitly rebuked last year’s controversial decision not to broadcast the presentation of all 23 awards live on the Oscars television show. “Our focus for the upcoming Oscars will indeed be unity, partnership and the collaborative nature of cinema,” she explained. “We’re going to celebrate the power of entire film crews and the magic behind the scenes that makes films possible and powerful.” And she added with even louder applause: “We’ve worked really hard to present all the awards live on the show this year – so we have to watch our running time. You must work with us. This is live television, after all. Translation: keep it [acceptance speeches] short, sweet and to the point please.” (She noted that winners have a maximum of 45 seconds to deliver a speech before being cut off.)

After a montage of clips from social media posts of a handful of this year’s nominees reacting in real time to the announcement of their nominations on Jan. 24, Academy Governor DeVon Franklin called on the nominees one by one to take their seats in stands set up for the annual “class photo.”

From my point of view, the loudest applause in the room, no matter what it was worth, went to the following people: All Everywhere, All At Once, Supporting Actress Nominee Jamie Lee Curtis (given the first name), nominated Lead Actress Michelle Yeoh and Supporting Actor nominees Ke Huy Quan (The fact that the film was represented by nominees in 11 leading categories couldn’t have hurt); Women Talking nominated for an adapted screenplay Sarah Poley; Nominated for Supporting Actor of Causeway Brian Tyree Henry; Elvis main actor nominated Austin Butler; and yes, cruise.

Does any of this reflect the taste of the Academy as a whole? We’ll find out in just 27 days!