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Oscars luncheon on-the-scene: Jennifer Lawrence, Ben Affleck, Hugh Jackman, and more

Before the 160 expected guests of honor could bite into their burrata arugula canapés and miso-marinated, pistachio-crusted sea bass fillets at the annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon in the Beverly Hilton ballroom on Monday, a handful of nominated actors and filmmakers dropped by the press room to talk about their celebrated projects, awards season experiences, people they’d like to work with, and big night fashion plans. There were moments of gratitude, plenty of jokes and even, in the case of Amy Adams, accidental musical accompaniment and spontaneous dancing.

Read on to see the best of what was said behind the scenes:

Prize Fighter: Oscar buzz for older actresses Field, Mirren, Dench reflect importance of female storytelling

Hollywood may be filled with talented younger actresses, their fresh skin and high cheekbones readymade for lovingly placed close-ups and leggy magazine covers. But this year’s early Oscar race for best actress has the spotlight shining on a handful of older contenders — from Sally Field in Lincoln to Helen Mirren in Hitchcock and Judi Dench in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — their veteran faces etched with experience, beauty, and perhaps a bit of wisdom.

“Older actors, especially women actors, have always been incredibly important to storytelling on the big screen,” Elizabeth Daley, dean of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, told EW. “The characters they play are often what ground the story, and these actors are so good at what they do that their performances also elevate the films. So I would argue that every year there are films that feature good or great performances by older women. And years like this one, when many of them are being considered for awards, force us to publicly acknowledge their importance in compelling storytelling.”


'Lincoln' trailer: Know your Civil War history before watching Daniel Day-Lewis bring it to life

At the Sundance Film Festival in January, Joseph Gordon-Levitt said that acting opposite Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln was “uncanny.” He said, “I had absolutely no problem fully believing that I was standing across from and speaking to Abraham Lincoln.”

After seeing the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s long-in-the-works historical drama about the last four months of the president’s life, I have an inkling how Gordon-Levitt must have felt. There are no audio recordings of Lincoln’s voice, but when Day-Lewis concludes at the end, “…shall we stop this bleeding,” who doesn’t doubt that his is the voice of the Great Emancipator himself. It just feels and sounds… right.

Seeing Abraham Lincoln living and breathing on the screen is thrilling, especially since Hollywood hasn’t really given the 16th president his due since Henry Fonda played him in 1939. (Sorry Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.) Day-Lewis instills a sadness and grace that remind us of the incredible weight on his shoulders. As Spielberg said in the Google+ Hangout video that followed the online trailer premiere last night, “We treat him as a man, not a monument.”

It’s difficult to tell exactly where the movie picks up, but it’s understood that Lincoln has been re-elected, and that city on fire just might be one of the Southern cities in General Sherman’s path on his March to the Sea, which helped break the back of the Confederacy in December 1864. Don’t expect too many such action sequences, though; Spielberg said battlefield scenes take a back seat to Lincoln’s political struggles to end the war and pass the 13th amendment to guarantee the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation. When we first meet Lincoln, the Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address have already been written and delivered. His place in history is already assured. Yet the war rages on. READ FULL STORY

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