The 96th Oscar nominees luncheon brought a glittering crowd of Hollywood royalty that packed the Beverly Hilton. Board member DeVon Franklin kicks things off by outlining how it’s going to work and welcoming luminaries including Laura Karpman (“American Fiction”) and Robert Downey Jr. (“Oppenheimer”).

The breakout star wasn’t human, though—it was Messi, the affable dog from “Anatomy of a Fall.” This furry scene-stealer charmed everyone, from Ryan Gosling and America Ferrera to Billie Eilish, leaving many to wonder if an Oscar made especially for dogs might one day be on the cards.

Anticipation buzzed, with journos and social media sleuths taking odds on which name would draw the loudest applause during that noisy group photo. Everyone from Greta Gerwig (“Barbie”) to Christopher Nolan (“Oppenheimer”), Celine Song (“Past Lives”), and so many more held the room breathless. AMPAS president Janet Yang chided her to ensure speeches were short, as Julian Bardem had just delivered the worst acceptance speech ever!

Whispers were in the air, though. The general consensus was that Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” seems like a slam-dunk. But with omissions that include Jonathan Glazer, Jodie Foster, and Mario Testino, well, nobody knows anything.

Then came a super cute moment between “Poor Things” star Emma Stone and “Rustin” nominee Colman Domingo and his husband. Are they planning a future team-up? (And yes, Stone failed to take the opportunity to pitch appearing on “Jeopardy” to Disney honcho Bob Iger!)

Here, the “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” crew kept the buzz alive. Producers, directors, and even voice actors such as Hailee Steinfeld (Gwen Stacey/Spider-Gwen) prowled about, which caused whispers of musical collaborations between them and Finneas and even Billie Eilish to circulate. Even Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya was in the movie as Spider-Punk started to make its way around.

The 96th nominees’ luncheon served as a delightful preview of the main event on March 10, building anticipation for who will take home the golden statuettes. Who will be taking the golden statuettes? Only time holds that information, but one thing is conclusive: it’s going to be an eventful evening!

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