Though the American Cinematheque‘s Tribute to the Crafts event on Monday night was thrown for a fraction of the budget of the Academy Awards, the producers of the Oscars should take note, as this awards show was a success by any measure.
Madelyn Hammond & Associates threw the below-the-line soiree on behalf of the American Cinematheque and presenting sponsor First Entertainment Credit Union. The audience was comprised of Academy members as well as members of major guilds including the DGA, PGA, WGA, and SAG-AFTRA, as well as voting bodies such as BAFTA and Critics Choice.
Producers Stephanie Allain of Homegrown Pictures and Paula Wagner of Chestnut Ridge Productions co-hosted the ceremony, which kicked off with some opening remarks from Rick Nicita, the American Cinematheque’s Chairman of the Board (and Wagner’s husband), who paid tribute to the people of Ukraine given what’s going on in the world before introducing a great sizzle reel featuring the evening’s nominees.
With that, the first award of the night was handed out, with Best Sound was given to — what else? — Dune, whose talented team said they envision a future where, instead of asking your friends or your significant other “What do you want to see tonight?” you’ll ask, “What do you want to hear tonight?” They view the American Cinematheque’s honor as proof that audiences are listening, and listening more closely than ever before.
Up next was the award for Best Stunts, which justifiably went to No Time to Die. This is a category the Oscars should really consider adding, if only to incorporate it into the live show somehow, perhaps like the live stunt shows you’ll find at Universal Studios. Lee Morrison and Olivier Schneider couldn’t attend the ceremony as Morrison (Daniel Craig‘s stunt double) is at home recovering from knee surgery, while Schneider is hard at work on Fast and Furious 10, though they sent a video message thanking director Cary Fukunaga and their fellow crew members.
There was a tie for Documentary Editing between Josh Pearson (Summer of Soul) and Bob Eisenhardt (The Rescue), the latter of whom revealed that two weeks after he locked picture, he received 87 new hours of footage, making the film the most challenging gig of his career, and one that took 15 months. The tie made perfect sense, as both documentaries were deserving winners of this award.
Following that, Justin Peck was awarded Best Choreography for his work on West Side Story. He thanked director Steven Spielberg for “appreciating the language of dance” and said he hopes that the art form will be used to help tell more stories in the future.
Don’t Look Up producer Kevin Messick then presented the award for Best Feature Score to Nicholas Brittell, who has now worked with director Adam McKay five times, including HBO’s new Lakers series Winning Time. Britell said he was asked to find “the sound of anxiety” in the face of impending doom, and I’d say he accomplished that quite well.
The mad genius that is Jenny Beavan accepted the next award for Best Costume Design thanks to her stunning work on Disney’s Cruella. She sent in a video message, as it sounded like she was hard at work on George Miller‘s Mad Max spinoff Furiosa, and said that Emma Thompson hyperventilated before her Cruella fittings because she was so excited to try on all the gorgeous costumes. Beavan also joked that she knew she’d made it in Hollywood when she was the answer to a trivia question on local TV.
The awards were paused halfway through for a special tribute to late Variety reporter Dave McNary, who passed away last year and, as his wife joked, was probably working the day he died. He just loved to work. Former Variety EIC Peter Bart called McNary a “master craftsman’ and admitted that the paper consistently gave him the toughest beats, including covering Writers Strikes, which “could be like suicide missions.” McNary also covered the Academy “back when you could be an Academy member without being booed,” joked Bart.
Bart soon brought current Variety editor Cynthia Littleton on the stage, where she fought to hold back tears while recalling her long history with McNary, which included a stint at UPI together. She said that Dave knew more about how the town’s labor unions worked than union leaders themselves and that he relished going to movie premieres and enjoying a “dinner of champions,” meaning popcorn and soda.
Dave had a huge impact on my own life, as he took me under his wing back when I was a cocky young Variety intern, and I’m grateful to have been shown the ropes of Hollywood by such a mensch. We also played basketball together for many years, and even though he had a few decades on me, he consistently ran circles around me. I miss him, and was deeply touched by this thoughtful tribute, so kudos to the American Cinematheque for making room in its crafts program to honor McNary, who was such a sweet guy, and I’m glad that his wife, Sharon McNary, was on hand to say a few words on Dave’s behalf.
The awards presentation then resumed with Flee composer Uno Helmersson accepting the award for Documentary Score. He thanked the film’s protagonist, “Amin,” for telling his harrowing story, and said he still feels a bond with director Jonas Poher Rasmussen. Helmersson’s score helped this foreign-language story transcend borders to become even more universal.
I was thrilled that the Hair & Makeup team behind House of Gucci was recognized next, as I loved what makeup artist Sarah Tanno did with Lady Gaga, and the way that AnnaCarin Lock (wig) and Göran Lundström (prosthetics) teamed up to turn Jared Leto into the pathetic Paolo Gucci. They said that Al Pacino didn’t even recognize Leto the first time he saw his fellow Oscar winner in full makeup, which took four-plus hours when you include the time it took Lock to apply the wig she made for him.
The equally talented duo of Tamara Deverell and Shane Vieau won Best Production Design & Set Decoration for their collaboration on Guillermo del Toro‘s Nightmare Alley. They sent a video message as well, as they’re currently up in Canada working with Guillermo once again on his upcoming Netflix anthology series Cabinet of Curiosities.
As one would expect, Dune took the Visual & Special Effects award, with the team calling it “an incredibly collaborative experience” and crediting director Denis Villeneuve for wanting the VFX shots to serve the story, not take viewers out of the story. They concluded by saying they hope everyone gets a chance to see it in a theater. For those who haven’t yet, WB is still screening it on the lot for awards voters.
The sandworm from Dune was quickly topped by an even bigger star, as Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell accepted the next award for Best Song thanks to their James Bond title theme “No Time to Die.” They also sent in a video in which they said it was “always a dream” to work on a Bond movie and that they’re honored to have contributed to Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007.
The Rescue then picked up its second award of the night, this one for Documentary Cinematography, as some of the shots in this film made me feel downright claustrophobic. Ian Seabrook accepted on behalf of his fellow winners David Katznelson and Picha Srisansanee, and he said that their biggest challenge — besides shooting in water during COVID — was recreating the Thai cave system and its dark, dank conditions.
The penultimate award of the night went to Dune‘s Joe Walker for Best Editing, and Walker delivered the quote of the night when he said he was “thrilled that my milkshake has brought all the boys to the yard.” Walker said it was a joy to edit together all the Oscar-nominated craft contributions from Dune into one cohesive film that earned 10 nominations from the Academy.
The final award of the night was for Feature Cinematography, which went to Ari Wegner for her breathtaking work on The Power of the Dog. She’s only the second woman to be nominated for Best Cinematography at the Oscars and though she was stuck in a hotel room with COVID on Monday night, she said she’s in love with light and she cherished working in New Zealand with Jane Campion.
Guests were given tote bags with pre-packaged meals including kale caesar salad, fried chicken tenders with both ranch and BBQ sauce, sea salt popcorn, potato chips with a caramelized onion dip, a sweet dessert, and Box water. There was also a delicious Tacos Mi Amor food truck (worth the long-ish wait) and a CoolHaus truck handing out yummy ice cream sandwiches.
Founded in 1985, the American Cinematheque is a member-supported non-profit cultural arts organization that provides year-round programming with festivals, retrospectives, and screenings. It also operates the Aero Theatre, the Egyptian Theatre, and the Los Feliz 3 Theatre, all of which are culturally significant within LA-area film circles.
In addition to Nicita, American Cinematheque Board Members include President Mark Badagliacca, Vice President Sanford R. Climan, Treasurer Charles Heaphy, Secretary Louis E. Kempinsky, Allain, Wagner and Bart, plus Bill Block, Esther Chang, Peter J. Dekom, Mary Anne Keshen, Kenneth Kleinberg, Sue Kroll, Franklin Leonard, Michael Mann, Mike Medavoy, Darren J. Moll, Eric Nebot, Mark Ordesky, James G. Robinson, Stan Rosenfield, Ted Sarandos, Paul Shurgot, and Bud Swartz.
Additional sponsors include Amazon, Netflix, Universal Production Services, WB Studio Operations, National Geographic Documentary Films, and the Honolulu Film Office.
Hopefully, the American Cinematheque’s Tribute to the Crafts will become an annual stop on the awards campaign trail each year, not just because this 90-minute event was very well done, but because I’m already hungry for more of those tacos!