During his opener to the Governors Awards on Sunday night, Jamie Foxx name-checked his “Django Unchained” collaborators Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio, heaped praise on Tom Hanks with such enthusiasm that Hanks had no choice but to stand and do a little dance in response, and then finally brought a reluctant Eddie Murphy on stage because ... why not?
But the real charge in the ceremony came a bit later when two of the evening’s honorees, actress and activist Geena Davis and Italian director Lina Wertmüller, called on film industry leaders and academy members to take a hard look at gender inequity in movies and actually do something about it.
Davis asked studio executives and producers to do an immediate gender and diversity pass on their projects, noting that “no matter how abysmal the numbers are in real life, they’re far worse in fiction.”
“People characterize Hollywood as full of bleeding-heart liberals — hardly!” Davis said. “If we are supposed to be a bunch of ‘intersectional, gender-fluid feminists,’ then let’s do it up right.”
Later, filmmakers Greta Gerwig and Jane Campion took the stage to honor Wertmüller — who, in 1977, became the first woman to earn an Oscar nomination as a director for her film “Seven Beauties.”
Campion, after providing a brief history of female directors and the Oscars (“more of a haiku, really,” she said), counted by tens the number of men who had earned nominations for direction over the years, starting at 10 and ending at 350.
“How do you correct centuries of patriarchal domination?” asked Campion, who with Gerwig, Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow are the female filmmakers nominated after Wertmüller, a woman she called a “godmother.” “It started with Lina Wertmüller.”
For her part, the 91-year-old Wertmüller, once she got past marveling at presenter Sophia Loren’s beauty (“she made a pact with the devil”), asked that the Oscar be given a more feminine name. She chose Anna.
“Women in the room, please scream, ‘We want Anna, a female Oscar!’ ” implored actress Isabella Rossellini, on hand to translate.
The Governors Awards, an untelevised event that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established in 2009 as an evening to bestow its honorary Oscars, also serves as something of an unofficial first campaign stop for contenders trying to capture academy members’ attention.
There was plenty of star power in the Dolby Theatre’s ballroom from DiCaprio (“Once Upon a Time in ... Hollywood”), Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver (on hand to represent their movie, “Marriage Story”) and Jennifer Lopez, who breezed in at the last second wearing a strapless silk gown, its gold color nearly matching the statuette she’d like to win for her turn as the enterprising stripper in “Hustlers.”
Before dinner was served, Tarantino, one of the first to arrive, cornered “Dolemite Is My Name” co-screenwriter Scott Alexander, offering a passionate review of his movie. (He loved the authenticity of the “Dolemite” ensemble’s attempts at bad acting).
The diminutive Dr. Ruth Westheimer posed for countless selfies and asked for help in finding Steven Spielberg. And filmmakers Pedro Almodóvar (“Pain and Glory”) and Bong Joon-ho (“Parasite”) fielded congratulations for their latest celebrated films, with Bong noting it was hard to take everything in on this, his first time attending the event.
“It’s like a weird dream,” the South Korean auteur said.
Speaking of weird dreams, filmmaker David Lynch was the first to receive an honorary Oscar on Sunday. Lynch, 73, was feted by Rossellini and then, after a clips package that wasn’t quite weird enough for its subject, her “Blue Velvet” costars Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan.
When Lynch took the stage, he got straight to the point in a 45-word speech that lasted all of 15 seconds.
“To the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, thank you for this honor, and to all the people who helped me along the road. Congratulations to all the other honorees tonight. And everyone, have a great night.” Then, looking at the Oscar, Lynch added: “You have a very interesting face. Goodnight!”
Cherokee American actor Wes Studi had a finer appreciation for the spotlight, holding his Oscar aloft and even doing a few bicep curls with it. And why not? Studi, 71, is the first Native American to receive an Academy Award, honoring a career that has spanned more than 30 films, including “Dances With Woves” and “The Last of the Mohicans.”
“I’d simply like to say: It’s about time,” Studi said, accepting his Oscar from Christian Bale, his costar in the 2017 Western “Hostiles.” “It’s been a wild and wonderful ride.”
It’s a journey, one ending with an Academy Award in hand, that a great many in attendance Sunday hope to take in the coming months.