The weekend was filled with talk of defensive struggles and opening possessions -- and we're not talking about Super Bowl XLII.
Top those "two days of rest" off with the arrival of "Sicko" Oscar nominee Michael Moore, who had a few choice things to say about the upcoming ceremony when we caught up with him at a Polo Lounge brunch Sunday morning.
Spirits were high around town, particularly at the PGA Awards, as news had broken earlier in the day that the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and Writers Guild of America had basically come to terms on a blueprint for a deal that could save not only the fall TV season but and yes, there is a God the Oscars as we know them and love them.
This will considerably lighten the mood at Monday's annual Oscar nominees lunch which (at least earlier in the week, when things seemed especially bleak on the strike front) was starting to look like the only time we'd see most of this year's honorees all in one room.
Now Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis and show producer Gil Cates can breathe a little easier knowing this gang is also ready to walk the Oscar red carpet at the Kodak in just three weeks. And if you don't think you heard a huge sigh of relief emanating from academy headquarters this weekend, then you just weren't listening.
One nominee who was in especially good spirits was "In the Valley of Elah" best-actor contender Tommy Lee Jones, who appeared at a tribute Friday night at Santa Barbara's historic Arlington Theatre (moderated by your columnist) to receive the Riviera Award.
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The Oscar winner (for 1993's "The Fugitive"), not always known for being talkative, opened up on everything from his first film ("Love Story") to his acclaimed work in this season's "No Country for Old Men" (for which he just shared a Screen Actors Guild best-cast award) and, of course, "Elah."
Clips were shown from many of his most memorable performances, including Oliver Stone's "JFK," for which he earned his first supporting-actor Oscar nomination.
Jones spoke fondly about Stone, with whom he's worked several times. When we suggested that he might be perfect to play Dick Cheney opposite "No Country" co-star Josh Brolin's George W. Bush in Stone's next flick, "Bush," Jones paused and laughed but then more than once suggested he would rather play Gen. Tommy Franks.
Jones is clearly proud of his Oscar and this year's surprise nomination for "Elah" (his first in the lead-actor category) which he hopes will get more people to pick up the DVD of the box-office failure when it comes out this month. Jones notes that Oscars are good for business.
He also said he thought his nomination stemmed from the academy screener videos that were sent to actors, enabling them to see "Elah," which was in and out of theaters in September. As a diligent academy voter himself, Jones said, he has spent the last month watching two DVD screeners a day.
Saturday the fest hosted a rollicking directors panel featuring Oscar nominees Julian Schnabel ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"), Jason Reitman ("Juno") and "Ratatouille's" Brad Bird, along with "Hairspray"'s Adam Shankman (who stole the show), Craig Gillespie ("Lars and the Real Girl") and Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up").
Basically it was five directors of comedies, musicals and toons versus "Diving Bell's" Schnabel, who really opened things up when he called for a moratorium on the word "awesome." Someone suggested perhaps they could replace the adjective with "Schnabelicious" instead.
Schnabel also addressed actress Sean Young's outburst during his nomination acceptance speech at the Directors Guild of America Awards last week when she yelled out from the crowd that the director should "get on with it!"
"Thank you to Sean Young because I actually got more press than the Coen brothers [who won] and I had nothing to say. She was very dramatic and saved my life. I love Sean Young and wish she was here today," he said.
Young's people sent out a statement earlier in the week saying she's in rehab now, which must have made it less convenient to head to Santa Barbara over the weekend.
Schnabel also mentioned that Dick Cavett was writing his acceptance speech for the Oscars. The director (jokingly) suggested he would say that "maybe next year I will do not such a good job and get best picture," a reference to the odd fact that "Diving Bell" is nominated for directing, writing, editing and cinematography but not picture.