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They’re Feeding on Excitement at the Oscar Luncheon

TIMES STAFF WRITER

From Tom Cruise congratulating the creators of “South Park” to Hilary Swank excited to meet Meryl Streep, Monday appeared to be a day of generosity in Hollywood.

Academy Award momentum seemed to be with “American Beauty” going into the 72nd Oscar nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, sponsored every year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Directors, writers and actors guilds had all showered honors on “Beauty” in Hollywood’s annual awards season, which kicks off with the Golden Globes nominations just before Christmas and culminates March 26 with the Oscar ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium.

A hundred of the nominees had RSVP’d, and nearly all were refusing to see the awards as a competition, at least publicly.

Best actor nominee Kevin Spacey (for “American Beauty”) said the Oscar prizes were “an unnatural pitting of actors against one another, and I’m honored to be a part of one of the more extraordinary years for actors, inventive filmmakers and for studios taking risks.”

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Julianne Moore, nominated for best actress for “The End of the Affair,” said she wasn’t really expecting to win, that she was sure it would be Swank (for “Boys Don’t Cry”) or Annette Bening (for “Beauty”).

First-time nominees like Swank and Russell Crowe seemed almost giddy and somber, respectively, with the attention the nominations afforded them.

“I’m really, really excited about today, mostly because there is not that anxiety and your heart is not pounding” as it would be at the actual ceremony, “and I’m really excited to go into the lunch and talk to Meryl Streep and Annette Bening.”

The brooding Crowe, nominated for his role as a tobacco industry whistle-blower in “The Insider,” on the other hand, took a more serious view.

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“I don’t have a very cynical or humorous opinion about the Academy Awards,” said the Australian actor, wearing a long black leather coat. “To me it’s a very important thing and you have to accept it with a great deal of grace.”

Richard Farnsworth--decked out in an Espes International Tractor Co. baseball hat, white slacks, beige coat, blue striped shirt and an orange-and-blue striped tie--said he was happy to join the celebrity circus, for a day at least.

“I’m pretty elated over this,” said the 79-year-old actor, who traveled from his New Mexico farm to Beverly Hills, presumably by some means other than a tractor, for the luncheon. “If I wear this outfit two more weeks,” he quipped, “they’re gonna let me keep it.”

Nominees’ Day Out: Good feelings and generosity of spirit were much in evidence Monday at the 72nd Oscar nominees luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. F3

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