The AFI Awards are always an unusually warm, intimate gathering for a major Oscar season stop — perhaps especially so since it’s the first big event of the new year. Here, there are no losers, merely representatives from the year’s 10 best TV shows and 10 best movies, as determined by the American Film Institute’s juries, each getting a whole table to themselves for a festive luncheon.
Take a seat, chat with your costars, wander over to the tables of your favorite film of the year and do a little gushing — sounds easy enough, right? A few attendees at Friday’s star-studded AFI Awards, however, had some tough decisions to make. There was Sam Rockwell, star of TV honoree Fosse/Verdon and film honoree Richard Jewell; Robert De Niro, a hefty one-two cinematic punch of The Irishman and Joker; Merritt Wever, lead of Netflix’s Unbelievable and scene-stealer in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story.
And, of course, Laura Dern. For months, the two-time Oscar nominee has been a more than game representative for both Marriage Story and Little Women, two top awards season films in which she plays supporting roles, and both of which made AFI’s top 10. She’s been jetting off to Q&As with the casts as well as directors (and real-life partners) Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig, and won the prestigious New York Film Critics’ Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress, credited for her work in both movies. (She’s expected to contend for the equivalent Oscar for Marriage Story.)
In the mingling that preceded the program, Dern caught up with fellow attendees including Brad Pitt and Phoebe Waller-Bridge. When the first part of the ceremony (honoring TV) began, she took a seat at the Marriage Story table. But then, as things shifted to the film side, she found a seat next to Saoirse Ronan just a table away, where Little Women‘s team was situated.
The AFI program celebrates the movies in alphabetical order, meaning Little Women was the first of Dern’s two films to be recognized. As with every movie, a clip was shown, and it featured Dern front and center. The moment it ended, the very next winner was announced: Marriage Story. And there was Dern, politely rushing back to her initial table to join Baumbach and co. for her other awards season darling. She made it safely before the Marriage Story clip (a two-hander between Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson) ended. That’s how do you do awards season like a pro.
See AFI’s full list of 2019 winners below.
AFI top 10 movies of 2019 (listed alphabetically):
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Special award: Parasite
AFI top 10 TV shows of 2019 (listed alphabetically):
Game of Thrones
When They See Us
Special award: Fleabag