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Oscars 2014: So what are you doing tonight?

November 13, 2013|By Glenn Whipp
  • Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, the stars of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," will be attending the movie's AFI gala in Hollywood.
Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig, the stars of "The Secret Life of Walter… (Wilson Webb / MCT )

Do you meet the "Fockers" guy? Or do you like Spike? How about a biopic and a chance to shake hands with the daughter of the film's subject? Or perhaps you'd like to listen to some toe-tapping musical performances from the Coen brothers' "Inside Llewyn Davis." Or tune into modern hipster folk singer Jose Gonzalez. Or rewatch "12 Years a Slave" and (gulp) learn about modern human trafficking. Or ... or ... or ...

Even in an awards season already overstuffed with brunches and cocktail parties, fetes and meet-and-greets, Wednesday night's calendar seems just plain insane in the membrane, an example of the extreme measures studios are taking this crowded Oscar season to attract academy members and well-connected movie lovers.

Here's the skinny: The American Film Institute's AFI Fest offers competing events on Hollywood Boulevard. Ben Stiller's whimsical "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" will screen at the TCL Chinese Theater, followed by a party with Stiller and the film's cast, including Kristin Wiig and Sean Penn. Swedish indie folk singer Jose Gonzalez, whose artful strumming can be heard throughout the movie, will perform.

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Down the street, Spike Jonze will answer questions following a showing of his affecting and wry comedy, "Her," at the Egyptian Theater. The film, which opens in Los Angeles, New York and Toronto on Dec. 18, tells the story of a lonely man (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls in love with his advanced, almost-human computer operating system.

Meanwhile, across town at the film academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, the Weinstein Co. will host a special screening of its biopic "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom." Sydney Poitier will introduce the movie, and Zindzi Mandela, daughter of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, will greet guests at a reception following the film.

For those who want to skip the moving images and concentrate on the soundtrack, "Inside Llewyn Davis" filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and their musical pal T Bone Burnett will present an evening of the movie's folk songs at Santa Monica's Buffalo Club.

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Too lightweight? Well then, "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen is participating in a Q&A following a screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance. The talk will include three leaders in the movement to combat modern-day human trafficking. 

Wednesday's clash of the galas is somewhat extreme, but hardly atypical for this time of year. With a large number of would-be best picture contenders competing for voters' attention, studios and awards consultants believe that merely screening a movie without dangling a carrot -- celebrities, libations, actual carrots -- simply cannot be done.

Voters are getting the message, though the avalanche of invites arriving in their inboxes might be having the reverse effect.

"It's out of control," one academy member said of the barrage of events. "It's not even Thanksgiving and people are already burned out. I'm just going to put on my pajamas and wait for the screeners to start arriving."


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