In less than three weeks from today, we will have the latest round of Oscar winners … but first things first:
On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences held their annual nominees luncheon to celebrate of the 86th Academy Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel.
Doors opened at 11:30 a.m. where guests entered the beautifully decorated ballroom and waited for festivities to begin. While there was no shortage of champagne or wine, attendees were treated to some remarkable hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail reception: Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna, Grilled Zucchini with Goat Cheese and Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Vegetable Rolls, and Sesame Beef with Horseradish Chive Mousse & Cucumber Salsa on French Bread.
[Related: 2014 Oscars Nominees Luncheon]
The stunning Lupita Nyong'o -- who is nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category -- was one of the first to arrive following the pressroom. The "12 Years a Slave" star seemed elated to be there, chatting with guests and showing a few friends something on her phone.
Nyong'o spent part of the reception mingling with Best Supporting Actor nominee Barkhad Abdi from "Captain Phillips." The duo caught up near Best Director nominee Steve McQueen.
A few feet away, Pharrell (with his infamous Grammys hat firmly planted on his head) was spotted laughing with "Gravity" star Sandra Bullock. Here's hoping the Best Actress nominee commented on the singer's new fashion statement!
[Related: Wait, Did CNN Really Just Spoil the Oscars?!]
Around 12:45 p.m., guests were encouraged to take their seat. One of the best parts about the luncheon is that the nominees are split up around the room. There isn't a Best Actors table — stars like Matthew McConaughey are sitting with cinematographers and sound mixers. Also, with so many famous faces packed in one room there is no such thing as a bad table. Example? Meryl Streep was seated at Table 2, while Bono was at Table 40. It's really nothing but a number!
As guests sat down to enjoy the first course (Quinoa Root Vegetable Salad with Dried Cherries), Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs took the stage to welcome everyone.
"What a remarkable year for film it's been," Isaacs began. "Being nominated for an Oscar puts you in a very, very elite group. There are 203 of you this year. Your incredible accomplishments on the screen and behind the scenes make you shining examples of our industry, and touch many people around the world … congratulations to everyone."
In between the first and second course (the White Miso Orange Marinated Pacific Sea Bass melted in your mouth), many actors and industry elite got up to say hello to one another. Christian Bale and his wife caught up with his "American Hustle" pals David O. Russell, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams, while Leonardo DiCaprio chatted with Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein.
Before nominees posed for the annual event's 'class picture,' Oscars producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron spoke to offer their heartfelt congrats — and of course give a few friendly reminders for the big day.
"We're thrilled to have Ellen [DeGeneres] as hour host, who is going to be bringing her specific brand of comedy with her, which we all love," Neil said. "We've decided this year to wrap the show in the theme of a celebration of movie heroes. And it isn't just a celebration of movie heroes that have served us through history, but the movie heroes that make the films as well. It hopefully will be a very effective celebration."
"I would like to congratulate you all on great work this year," Craig added. "The show itself is successful if the pacing of the evening feels brisk."
As the audience laughed, he continued: "The speeches that are remembered beyond Oscar night are those that are personal, funny, and heartfelt … The viewers are hoping that you inspire and touch them in some way. Please be one of those recipients that is remembered for your eloquence and passion."
Fun fact: Once the Oscar winner reaches the microphone he or she has 45 seconds until the music starts playing.
"I was told not to remind you that there are over 1 billion people watching — but I did anyways — in 225 countries and territories over the world," Craig continued. "So don't be nervous! Just prepared. Congratulations and good luck to each of you on Oscar night."
Academy governor Ed Begley Jr. then took the stage to announce the class of 2013. It was great to see the nominees all applaud one another. Leonardo DiCaprio made friends with his neighbors, while Meryl Streep leaned over to talk to Pharrell. Naturally, each actor had pride for their own movie, as well.
You couldn't wipe the smile off of Bullock's face anytime someone from the cast or crew of "Gravity" headed to the bleachers. Leo cheered especially loud for Marty and Jonah Hill, while Christian Bale gave Bradley and David a pat on their respective backs as they passed by. And Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto gave each other a head nod from across the way.
(We also have to give our pals at table 35 a shout out: Academy Governor Jan Pascal, Anthony Katagas with "12 Years a Slave," Beau Borders with "Lone Survivor," and Gene Serdena with "Her." Good luck at the Oscars!)
More than 150 nominees posed for the historic class photo (see full size here).
Academy members will cast their Oscar votes Feb. 14 - 25. Can't wait to see which of these amazing nominees will become winners when the 86th Academy Awards air on March 2 on ABC.