Oscars night in Malibu

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Sophia Dimassis holds up her miniature Oscar statuette, which reads “Movie Buff.” See more photos on the Photos page. Julie Ellerton / TMT

Local cinema enthusiasts gather to view the Oscars pageantry at the Malibu Film Society’s 3rd Annual Awards Night Dinner Gala.

By Angelique LaCour / Special to The Malibu Times

The Malibu Film Society’s banner annual Oscars viewing party was a hit Sunday as a lively crowd gathered at the screening room of the Malibu Jewish Center to watch this year’s Academy Awards.

More than $8,000 in donated raffle prizes culled from about 20 Malibu sponsors highlighted the silent auction, and fine food and wine by Tarte Catering made the evening one to remember. The MFS organizers hope this is just the start of big things for the society, which was formed three years ago.

“We’re really thrilled to be able to do this for Malibu,” Scott Tallal, MFS President, said. “As much as we all love living here there just are not a lot of opportunities to gather together as a community.”

The MFS is a nonprofit, all-volunteer joint venture of the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, The Malibu Times and Tallal’s company CommCinema. Its principal patron is Lilly Lawrence.

Rabbi Judith HaLevy, who was an actor and theater director in New Mexico before becoming a rabbi, said the evening was all about making the large and impressive screening room available to the Malibu community.

“This is like ‘home movies’ for us here in Malibu,” HaLevy said. “We were so fortunate that Stan Winston’s widow donated this original projection equipment to make the Malibu Screening Room become a reality three years ago.”  

Tallal said he had dreamed of having a screening room in Malibu for many years. When Malibu Times Publisher Karen York came to him and said she had found a venue for one, CommCinema also chipped in to make the dream become a reality.

Entertainment lawyer Barry Haldeman said he became involved in the MFS because it was easy for him to tap into something he loves to do-connect with local filmmakers, and provide a venue for screening Academy Award-nominated films.

“We only have one theater with two screens in Malibu,” Haldeman said. “And we have a lot of Academy voters who live right here.”

The MFS now runs films for most of the major studios during the Academy voting season. Sunday night’s gala was the culmination of the MFS Awards Screening Series, in which Oscar-nominated films were screened in the weeks leading up to the Academy Awards. Those screenings were often followed by Q&As with actors and directors of those films.

“We encourage people who love films to join us in watching them,” Haldeman said.

Jackie Bridgeman, co-founder of the Malibu Stage Company, said that this year’s Oscars party was the best yet.

“I used to organize fundraising events for the theater, and know how much work it is,” she said. “This event is really well organized, and the food is great.”

Most in attendance agreed going in that “The Artist” would probably take Best Picture. Bridgeman allowed she had a soft spot for “Midnight in Paris.” Malibu Parks and Recreation Commissioner Skylar Peak, who is running for City Council, also said he was going against the grain, for personal reasons.

“I’m really rooting for ‘The Descendants’ to win because my good friend who lives in Point Dume, George Parra, was the production manager, and I know how hard he worked,” Peak said. “I also think it’s a great story that needed to be told.”

Gaby Santinelli, a seasoned actress who won a 2004 Olivier Award for her work on London’s West End and who recently moved to Malibu, also gave high marks to the evening.

“I was told that Malibu was a tight-knit community and I would be out of the ‘Hollywood loop’ if I moved there,” Santinelli said. “But I have been welcomed in so quickly which is a huge relief after relocating back from heaving London where I lived for years. I love it here and want to give back.”