By Dave Karger
January 15, 2011 at 06:33 PM EST

Image Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty ImagesThe non-stop parade of award shows began in classy fashion yesterday as the American Film Institute held its annual luncheon, which served as a pep rally of sorts for the upcoming Oscar-season crunch. Virtually every major awards player was in attendance: Colin Firth, Christopher Nolan, Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Annette Bening, David O. Russell, Davis Guggenheim, Jeff Bridges, Melissa Leo, Ben Affleck, Aaron Sorkin, Christian Bale, Darren Aronofsky, Helena Bonham Carter, Hailee Steinfeld, and the list goes on. With no competitive categories (the AFI simply lists its top 10 films and TV shows alphebetically), the mood was genial, and it was fun to see Firth and Bridges, Best Actor rivals for two years running, greet each other with a spirited bear hug.

The lunch began with a clip reel of 2010 film highlights. The crowd erupted most boisterously at Amy Adams’ brilliant Fighter threat, “Don’t call me skank. I’ll rip that nasty hair out of your f—ing head.” Each film and TV program received its own mini-tribute including a clip; it was a particular hoot to watch Jane Krakowski and Will Forte’s priceless “two black swans” bit from 30 Rock knowing that Aronofsky and Portman were also in the room.

But the afternoon’s true highlight was an inspiring speech from Kirk Douglas, there to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the release of Spartacus. Noting that all his cast members from the film are now deceased, Douglas said, “The tragedy of being old is loneliness,” before recounting Spartacus screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s battle against government anti-Communist forces and ultimately raising a glass to his son Michael’s apparent victory in his war against cancer. For the entire room, it was truly an honor to be there.

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