| BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. Feb 10 This year's Oscar
nominees gathered for the ultimate Hollywood power lunch on
Monday in a celebration of the old adage "it's an honor just to
be nominated" three weeks before the film industry's biggest
The annual Oscars nominees luncheon convened more than 200
contenders pursuing an Academy Award on March 2 - from 18-time
nominee Meryl Streep for best actress in "August: Osage County"
to Lupita Nyong'o, who won a best supporting actress nod for her
first film role ever in "12 Years a Slave."
The eclectic group of movie stars, directors and technical
wizards even boasted U2 frontman Bono, who lined up for the
"class picture" thanks to his best song nomination for "Mandela:
Long Walk to Freedom."
While no one is foolish enough to look confident of a win
before Academy members begin voting on Friday, Monday's luncheon
was a chance to turn on the charm by praising the Oscars, the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the magic of
"I'm going to celebrate no matter what," said Matthew
McConaughey, the presumed frontrunner for best actor for his
role as an unlikely AIDS activist in the low-budget "Dallas
Buyers Club," for which he won the Golden Globe and Screen
Actors Guild awards.
"This is my first time nominated and if I ever get nominated
again, who knows," he added. "But there will never be another
first time, so I'm going to enjoy this."
Cate Blanchett, the favorite to win best actress for her
role as a disgraced socialite in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine,"
said this nomination "certainly took me by surprise."
"You're part unconscious when you're working deeply, but
it's always a thrill, particularly because I've been away from
the film industry for so long," Blanchett said.
'INTERESTED IN CHALLENGING FILMS'
This year's Oscars nominations reflect a field crowded with
high-quality films and a large number of strong performances
that resulted in notable exclusions. At the luncheon, many
attendees lamented that Tom Hanks was not there for his
acclaimed role in the Somali piracy thriller "Captain Phillips."
For the nine films nominated in the best picture category,
odds appear to be strongest for the brutal slavery drama "12
Years a Slave," space thriller "Gravity" and 1970s corruption
caper "American Hustle," which have all won top prizes in the
awards season and lead the Oscar nominations.
One challenge facing "12 Years a Slave," is the reputation
it has earned as a film that is hard to watch. But British
director Steve McQueen said he believed he was winning the
battle against that notion.
"It just shows you that audiences are interested in
challenging films. Audiences are interested in films that give
them a perspective of their history," said McQueen.
Actor nominees made a point of praising their directors for
their good fortune, like best actor nominee Leonardo DiCaprio
and best supporting actor nominee Jonah Hill, co-stars in Martin
Scorsese's tale of financial greed "The Wolf of Wall Street."
"Money is never a concern to work with people like Martin
Scorsese," said Hill, who took a pay cut and worked for union
scale wages for his role as a drug-addled swindling side-kick.
"I would do whatever...I would paint his house if he asked me
Producers for the 86th Academy Awards gave advice on
acceptance speeches at the show, hosted this year by comedian
Ellen DeGeneres: deliver something heartfelt and meaningful
rather than a list of people to thank and make it quick.
At the lunch, though, nominees played it cool about their
chances and what a win would mean for their careers.
"Everybody regards the Oscars as the ultimate stamp of
approval," said Nyong'o, the Kenyan actress nominated for her
role as the hardworking slave Patsey. "I don't know. I guess,
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)