We are just weeks away from the official start of Oscar season when the Venice, Telluride and Toronto film festivals kick it off, but Thursday night at the Beverly Willshire Hotel the Hollywood Foreign Press Association decided to get a jump on everyone by holding their annual Grants Banquet and inviting several would-be contenders in both Movie and TV categories to be among the stars handing out the money.  It’s all for a good cause and the HFPA , flush with cash from their NBC broadcast deal for the Golden Globes, spread out the wealth to numerous non-profit entertainment organizations to the tune of $2.4 million.

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Host Jamie Lee Curtis, while also making an impassioned plea to get out and vote this election year, said she likes the idea that the evening was all about giving. “We’re not here to get anything. What we’re going to get is the feeling when we go home tonight, that we participated in something.” That’s true but judging from the large turnout of awards consultants and studio reps in the room, this was also a way to mingle with Globe voters and start the buzz about contenders.

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You can always tell at these events which studios may be holding a hot hand just by who shows up for this August dinner. For instance, Lionsgate  has a particularly promising awards slate this Fall with at least four films they will be campaigning, and studio honchos Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger were front and center at

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this charitable show,  as were many other execs like Illumination’s Chris Meledandri (Sing) with films they hope this small body of voters will notice. FX’s John Landgraf was among the execs there, still beaming not just about his strong Emmy showing with The People Vs. O.J. Simpson and Fargo but also finally landing The Americans a Drama Series nomination after three years of being shut out. “Yes, that one meant a lot,”  he told me before the presentation began.

Among those handing out the grants were stars with awards-buzzed movies including Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins), Nate Parker (Birth Of The Nation), Emma Stone (La La Land), Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge) and Warren Beatty (Rules Don’t Apply). Others included past TV Globe winners like

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Christian Slater, Joanne Frogatt and Gina Rodriguez (who was actually there because of her role in the upcoming September 30 release of Deepwater Horizon), along with Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Chris Evans, Renee Zellweger (she has a new Bridget Jones film that could land her in the Comedy or Musical Actress category again after multiple past wins), Vince Vaughn, Justin Timberlake and more. Landing the biggest HFPA donations were Film Independent for two projects totaling $185,000, Sundance Institute for $100,000, UCLA for $125,000 and Film Foundation for $350,000. The latter is the film preservation organization supported by Martin Scorsese   that has received millions from HFPA over the years to restore classic films, a great cause since many studios don’t have the same passion – or financial desire –  to take care of their own library gems. Several colleges and universities are beneficiaries, along with groups like American Cinematheque ($45,000), Film Aid International ($60,000), Outfest ($35,000), American Film Institute ($30,000), The Motion Picture and Television Fund ($67,665),  and even the Toronto International Film Festival ($15,000). In all 74 grants were awarded last night.

“We live in difficult, complicated and very divisive times, but we should not and we will not despair,” said HFPA President Lorenzo Soria in his opening remarks. “For the arts bring us relief and understanding, they bring us light and hope, they bring us joy and wonder, and they can unite us regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.”