Jessica Chastain charms and Rene Russo holds court at pre-Globes gatherings

Posted by · 6:34 pm · January 10th, 2015

LOS ANGELES – It was pencils down at 5pm PST Thursday afternoon as balloting for the nominations stage of the 87th annual Academy Awards drew to a close. This weekend, then – until the competition takes hold once again Sunday night at the Golden Globe Awards – provides a beat to breathe. But not too much. It's still the circuit. And this year's toasted talents were out in force Saturday at events like the morning's Film Independent Spirit Awards brunch in West Hollywood and the annual BAFTA Tea gathering down the street in the afternoon.

At the brunch – a notable 30th anniversary celebration for the Spirits – it was a nice mix. That event has gotten bigger and bigger just in the last couple of years. It used to be a modest check-in at the door. Now the street is teeming with paparazzi and lookie loos.

Team “Boyhood” was still in stride after Wednesday's soiree, with Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette mingling about. I caught up with “Nightcrawler” writer/director Dan Gilroy, still sort of gobsmacked over the industry support for his film and particularly relieved that his star in life and on screen, Rene Russo, got the BAFTA recognition she did last week. (More on her in a moment.) “Dear White People” maestro Justin Simien was on hand, and I was happy to catch up with Keith Stanfield, mostly just to talk about his upcoming roll as Snoop Dogg in F. Gary Gray's “Straight Outta Compton.” He says it's going to be “funny as f**k.”

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” producer and FIND member Bonnie Arnold was there, beaming after taking on a major upstairs gig at DreamWorks Animation last week. The cameras ignited for “A Most Violent Year” star Jessica Chastain, who remains so charming it's outrageous. (She's stoked to be deemed this year's “MVP” at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards next week.) And Ava DuVernay was looking fabulous as always, though still trying to shake off her film “Selma” being this year's political football in the Oscar race.

A personal aside: As I was digging into the eggs Benedict and kale salad, I looked up and saw “Land Ho!” director Aaron Katz walking in the door. Aaron and I went to film school together and I don't get to see the guy nearly enough. His film was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Spirits this year.

(Longtime readers of this space will remember one of our other classmates, Chad Hartigan. He was also mingling about. His film “This is Martin Bonner” was an indie darling last year, winning an award at Sundance to start the circuit and wrapping things up with the John Cassavetes Award at the Spirits. Neither Chad nor I thought he had any shot at winning that one. We happened to be sitting a table apart at the show and when his name was called, I went off like a bottle rocket, the one guy clapping like a buffoon at the shoestring budget honor. Anyway, I'm of course a big “Blue Ruin” fan, but let's just say I hope Aaron is a table apart this year; maybe I'm a lucky charm. Either way, stoked for those guys. Chad's looking to shoot his next film in Germany very soon. Aaron isn't quite sure what's next but he's eager to get to work on something.)

Over at the BAFTA Tea, Team “Boyhood” was back at it, and I caught Ellar Coltrane this time around, too. I think the pressure of the season might be getting to him, and I can't blame the guy – this has been a long haul, both in the awards season (going back to Sundance a year ago) and, obviously, in production (going back, you know, 12 years).

I circled around to “The Imitation Game” writer Graham Moore, who I haven't seen since we sat down in Silver Lake for a coffee right after Telluride. I told him at the time to be prepared for a campaign maelstrom with this film, and he admitted today to wondering “how bad can it really be?” Well, now he knows. It's a roller coaster, particularly if you have a film, like he does, that catches its own whiff of controversy. He's just happy he was able to make exactly the movie he wanted to, but we did chat about the spat “Selma” is going through. “It devalues what art is and what art can be to look at films like that,” he said of all the historical fact-checking.

You know who was pretty popular at the BAFTA Tea? Rene Russo was pretty popular at the BAFTA Tea. “It's thanks to young'uns like you that this film is where it is,” she said, which of course made me laugh because, well, it's interesting. You'd expect “Nightcrawler” to break down along age lines, but it hasn't. Older voters really like the film and I think there might be enough passion to secure it a Best Picture nomination. I also have had a good feeling about Russo's chances of sliding into the supporting actress race since before the surprise BAFTA nod (which I loved, as I've been banging the gong for her for some time).

We also spent some time talking about the look of her character in the film, the slathering of makeup, as if Nina has to put on a facade to go to work every day, the hair reminiscent of when she herself would have been on the air in the '80s, etc. But she demurred regarding her own Oscar prospects, of course. Whatever happens, I'm glad she ended up getting a little love amidst the (deserved) Gyllenhaal worship.

I also bumped into “Foxcatcher” star Steve Carell at one point, who showed up rather unexpectedly in the supporting actor category with BAFTA. I asked him if he was shocked by that, but he of course just noted that “I'm shocked by all of this.”

Others from the “Imitation Game” crew were around, including composer Alexandre Desplat, editor William Goldenberg and director Morten Tyldum. Curiously absent was star (and BAFTA nominee) Benedict Cumberbatch. “Gone Girl's” Rosamund Pike was seen and adored. “Birdman” producer John Lesher mingled after hitting up the brunch earlier in the day. Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, screenwriter Anthony McCarten and director James Marsh were there repping for “The Theory of Everything,” a big BAFTA favorite it turned out. And the “Boxtrolls” boys – directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi and Laika honcho Travis Knight – were soaking it up as well. I told them Deborah Cook deserves a Best Costume Design Oscar for the film. (She does.)

There were more. I'm sure I missed a few. And the day wasn't done as there are a number of other gatherings and such, including the Los Angeles Film Critics Association's awards gala. But the day was done for me. I'm in my TMNT pajama pants now. It's raining. I'm good.

Sunday brings the Golden Globes. Fox's viewing party will be where it's at in the early hours and then the usual afterparties – Weinstein, Warner Bros./In Style, Paramount's small gathering, NBC/Universal's rooftop jam, the exclusive HBO swank, etc.

All as the folks at PricewaterhouseCoopers do their tallying…

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