JESSE EISENBERG joked that ACADEMY AWARDS season feels like the endless bar mitzvahs he went to when he was 13. MELISSA LEO said the road to the OSCARS is like a nonstop energy drink. MARK RUFFALO admitted he’s just happy to get a free meal out of the awards marathon.

An annual luncheon for OSCAR contenders drew 151 of the nominees on Monday. Other honorees on hand included past winners JAVIER BARDEM, awards season veterans such as ANNETTE BENING and newcomers like JENNIFER LAWRENCE.

BEST ACTOR nominee JESSE EISENBERG told reporters before the luncheon that the many Hollywood gatherings leading up to the 2011 OSCARS remind him of his early teens.

“I had to go to bar mitzvahs every weekend and this is like the same feeling. Putting on a suit every weekend to go meet with a lot of Jews.”

MELISSA LEO, considered the favourite to win the SUPPORTING ACTRESS category, said she tries to keep up her strength during the awards rush with “water, vitamins. And the excitement of it is pretty much of an energy drink right there.”

First time nominee MARK RUFFALO said he was surprised he earned the honour given that his role probably was the least showy in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, whose cast includes ANNETTE BENING and JULIANNE MOORE.

“It’s taken me a long time to get here. So I really have been, as a meditation, making myself enjoy the hell out of it every single day. And I love free lunches, man. I came up as a starving, struggling actor, so I’m very grateful for a gift lunch.”

Nominees shared a fine meal at the luncheon, whose menu featured appetizers of Indochina spiced beef with avocado mousse, an entree of Alaskan black cod and a dessert selection that included mini lemon meringue tarts with blueberries and raspberry sorbet in cookie shells.

Talk inevitably touched on what nominees would wear to the OSCARS, one of the world’s biggest fashion showcases.

Fourteen year old HAILEE STEINFELD, nominated as SUPPORTING ACTRESS for her debut performance in TRUE GRIT, said that in past years, she watched the ceremony at home “mainly for the red carpet, just to see what everyone’s wearing.”

MICHELLE WILLIAMS, a BEST ACTRESS nominee for BLUE VALENTINE, said she had settled on one pair of shoes that she’s been wearing to every event this awards season.

NICOLE KIDMAN, nominated as BEST ACTRESS for RABBIT HOLE, joked that her 2 year old daughter has strong fashion opinions that will be taken into consideration.

“She chooses what she calls pretty dresses. She has a very strong voice in terms of what I will be wearing on the night of the Oscars. Fingers crossed, guys. I could be wearing a tutu.”

NATALIE PORTMAN, pregnant with her first child, said picking out an OSCAR gown is more challenging with an expanding waistline.

“It’s certainly all about leaving space for growth,” said NATALIE, the BEST ACTRESS front runner for BLACK SWAN, who lamented that fashion has become such a fixation in awards season.

“It is always surprising also that that’s become the conversation instead of the movies now. What are you wearing?”

Last year’s BEST ACTOR recipient for CRAZY HEART, JEFF BRIDGES is competing in the same category this time for TRUE GRIT. OSCAR night again pits him against COLIN FIRTH, who was nominated last year for A SINGLE MAN and now is in the running for BEST PICTURE favourite THE KING’S SPEECH. Like most people in Hollywood, JEFF thinks this is COLIN’S year.

“He’ll probably take home the trophy this year. (Colin) gives a wonderful performance.”

COLIN FIRTH ā€” starring as Queen Elizabeth II’s stammering father King George VI, who reluctantly took the throne in 1936 after his brother abdicated ā€” joked that he sometimes gets royal treatment since the film came out.

“I do get the odd bow, which I put down to either confusion or facetiousness.”

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