January 30, 2023


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Al Pacino stole the show at the AFI Awards with an impromptu speech

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While most kudos events are competitive, the annual AFI Awards, honoring 21 film and TV works, have proven communal. Sarah Polley chats with Michelle Williams, Jerry Bruckheimer is deep in conversation with James Cameron, the “Better Call Saul” talent involved with “Reservation Dogs” and the crew of the Steven Spielberg show and FX’s John Landgraf are enthused about “The Bear.” .

The January 13 luncheon at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills was packed with 250 industry heavy-hitters, but the scene-stealer was someone with no connection to any of the venerable works: Al Pacino, who closed the event with a 10-minute speech that sounded both surprising and hilarious. Happened, but it was pointed and ended with a bang.

Stephanie Hu, Daniel Scheinert and Mike White at the AFI Awards 2022.
Michael Buckner for diversity

Before the ceremony began, Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley praised the annual gathering diversitySaid: “It reminds us of the dignity and elegance of art as we gather here to celebrate artistry.”

In December, the AFI announced its 2022 honorees for “notable achievements.” Films cited are “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Elvis,” “Everything Everything All at Once,” “The Fablemans,” “No,” “She Said,” “Tar,” “Top Gun: Maverick,” ” The Woman King” and “Woman Talking.” For TV: “Abbott Elementary,” “The Bear,” “Better Call Saul,” “Hacks,” “Mo,” “Pachinko,” “Reservation Dogs,” “Severance,” “Somebody Somewhere” and “The White Lotus. ” “The Banshees of Inisherin” received an AFI Special Award, since the traditional honor — chosen by two juries, for film and TV — goes only to American works.

After Salmon performed, the ceremony began when AFI President-CEO Bob Ghazale asked for a moment of silence for some of the honorees who have suffered recent losses. He did not mention “Elvis” or the Jan. 12 death of Lisa Marie Presley; He doesn’t have to. He said “this event was founded in community, not competition” and he wanted the team to “feel we’re here for them.”

David Zaslav and Baz Luhrmann at the AFI Awards 2022.
Michael Buckner for diversity

The format has remained the same since 2003. A judge reads the “rationale” for each honoree (ie, the reason for selecting it) followed by a one-minute clip. Arguments were read Friday by TV jury chief Rich Frank and film jury member Anne Hornaday. Sometimes the crowd’s reactions offer a surprising insight into the industry’s choices in the Oscar race, but the applause seemed evenly split.

The event traditionally ends with a benediction — a solemn toast — but Pacino rewrote the rule book. He was there to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Godfather”. He said he prepared the comments, but after watching all the clips and thinking about the great work, he threw those comments away. “What I mean is so strange… I’m shaking, look at my hands!” Observations and anecdotes about going through a “sad phase” followed when he was nominated and was Oscar-nominated for “Sorpico.” His speech seemed ad-libbed and formless, though consistently funny and entertaining, and he wrapped it up with the idea that artists aren’t hard-wired for competition.

Sarah Polley, Carey Mulligan and Seth Rogen at the AFI Awards 2022.
Michael Buckner for diversity

said Nick Meyer from Sierra/Infiniti diversity “This is my favorite event of the year,” said Mike De Luca, CEO of Warner Bros. Pictures. For a while.

Notable attendees included former AFI director-CEO Gene Picker Furstenberg, Gail Berman, Todd Field (one of 30 AFI alumni there), Vince Gilligan, Baz Luhrmann, Martin McDonagh, Jordan Peele, Ted Sarandos, Ben Stiller and Mike White.

Steven Spielberg and Quinta Brunson at the AFI Awards 2022.
Michael Buckner for diversity

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