Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Angela Bassett and Brendan Fraser were among the attendees at the event, which has become a must-stop on the Oscar campaign trail.
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So much of the Oscar race is simply showing up: being seen, staying in mind, schmoozing at parties. It can feel like work (especially for stars of an antisocial stripe) and by that way of thinking, the Academy's swanky Governors Awards, held at Los Angeles's Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel Nov. 19, was definitely work. Virtually everyone in the awards conversation was there, including Cate Blanchett and her TÁR director Todd Field, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Colin Farrell, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Lawrence and her Causeway costar Brian Tyree Henry, Viola Davis, Ana de Armas, Florence Pugh. To the small group of press members invited to cover the event, it felt like there were more celebrities in the ballroom than waiters.

But aside from the dog-and-pony show, there's another, more generous way of looking the Governors Awards — and it may be the reason why the event feels more star-saturated than ever. It's private and not televised, so everyone feels a bit more relaxed. Speeches are not timed, nor cut off. And it's important to remember that all movie stars begin as movie fans first. That's what the Governors Awards are really about: celebrating Hollywood's history and those who make industry-changing contributions. Everyone in that room was a film fan.

Michael J. Fox and Woody Woody Harrelson
Credit: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

My favorite moment was seeing Tom Hanks lean in, enraptured, as director and honoree Peter Weir (Witness, Dead Poets Society, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) shared anecdotes from a career full of triumphs — but not, until this night, an Oscar. Woody Harrelson told riotous off-color stories while introducing his old friend Michael J. Fox, celebrated for his tireless humanitarian efforts combating Parkinson's disease. Songwriter Diane Warren, an Academy Award finally in hand after 13 failed nominations endured gentle teasing from Cher (those are the kind of celebrities who show up for these nights).

And when Martinique-born director Euzhan Palcy — the first Black woman to ever get a greenlight from a major Hollywood studio for 1989's A Dry White Season —  reached the crescendo of her acceptance speech, you could feel an entire room of power players being called to task. "Black is bankable, female is bankable, Black and female is bankable," she said to a standing ovation, and if there was ever a crowd who could turn Palcy's hard-earned wisdom into action, it was this one.

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