UPDATE: Check out a few photos from the Oscar night Vanity Fair dinner.
Welcome to the first ever HuffPost Oscar Watch. I know many of who you only care about the big weighty issues of the day are already planning your comments about how frivolous the Oscars -- and Oscar Watch -- are.
Well, let me save you a case of carpal-tunnel syndrome: I agree! It is frivolous and, compared to the war in Iraq, Katrina, giving a nuclear okay to India, irrelevant.
That's what's great about the blogosphere: it's not a zero-sum game like a 22-minute network newscast. Think of Oscar Watch not as a replacement for serious commentary (including Russert Watch, which is being ably handled today by Jane Hamsher, who will be blogging in Yves Saint Laurent, with jewels by Harry Winston), but, rather, as an addition.
And with that throat-clearing out of the way, here we go. The envelope please...
Let me start by saying that all commentary here today has been supervised and certified by former accountants from Arthur Andersen (we couldn't afford Oscar-worthy Price Waterhouse) and that updates will be posted throughout the day.
2006 Oscar Campaigns: Who Ran the Best Race?
New York Times' David Carr's biggest takeaway from his time blogging the Oscars is how much the Awards are like presidential campaigns. He learned "in punishing detail that the Oscar season, with its endless run of precursor awards, speeches and drama, is as twisted and closely fought as a presidential campaign."
So here's my take on the campaigns:
Munich. The most mishandled campaign. Worse than Dukakis '88. Considered the can't-miss pre-campaign presumptive favorite, Munich held back, refusing to be seen as campaigning for the nomination... then once it tossed its hat into the ring wasn't all that impressive on the stump. Think Al Gore in 2000. A big target so it took a lot of hits from commentators and 501(c)3 hit squads. Now seen as having too much baggage. Never really got off the launchpad. Joe Lieberman '04.
Crash. The pre-scream Howard Dean of this Oscar race. Got in the race well before anyone else, and began picking up under-the-radar support. A classic word-of-mouth candidate, its supporters are very passionate about its message. "Crashiacs." Its win at the SAG awards was like Bobby Kennedy taking Indiana. Ugly protracted infighting among the film's producers recalls the battles in the Kerry campaign between the Mary Beth Cahill/Bob Shrum faction and the Carville-led Clintonistas. But Crash is coming on strong, and could be a surprise winner if the frontrunner falters.
Capote. Has run a low-end yet dignified race. No chance of winning the top slot, just happy to be in the race. Think Kucinich '04. Or maybe Al Sharpton. Actually more like John Edwards: not going to win but by running an effective race can land the consolation prize (VP for Edwards, best actor for Philip Seymour Hoffman).
Good Night, and Good Luck. Has run a terrific race thanks to the media savvy of George Clooney, the Karl Rove of the '06 Oscars. Has appeared "aw shucks" and "who, me?" but with his TV appearances, speeches and interviews has helped turn the film into the darling of the Hollywood politically aware. Think Obama '08. Only chance is if Brokeback and Crash divide the Academy/Convention and Good Night, and Good Luck is able to slip in as a third- or fourth-ballot compromise candidate.
Brokeback Mountain. Has run a very, very smart race. Entered late, with a platinum campaign staff (Ang Lee! Larry McMurtry! Annie Proulx!) and a powerful special-interest-group appeal. Began racking up endorsements left and right until the CW became that it couldn't be beaten. Superb work by the campaign's messaging team, highlighting the strong emotional bond of the Jack Twist/Ennis Del Mar ticket as opposed to the sweaty gay sex. Has avoided any major campaign faux pas (although Heath Ledger's mincing at the SAG awards came close). Its time as the frontrunner has made it the target of commentators, comics, and parodists, but it has, by and large, avoided an all-out Swift Boat attack. Convincing win at the final Spirit Awards primary bodes very well for its chances. Cue the balloons and confetti.
First, of course, Oscar fashion. But not the usual Oscar fashion. I figured everybody would be focusing on what the women will be wearing, and in the blogosphere you learn early on -- play to your strength. We're not going to outdo the mainstream media machine on who is wearing which gown. So here is a HuffPost exclusive on what the men will be wearing.
A word about my sources. The setting for this sleuthing was the pre-Oscar party given on Saturday by Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, in, by the way, the most beautiful Oscar setup in town -- oriental carpets on the grass, luscious pillows on the carpets, roaring fires in the garden, and children running around everywhere. My investigative cohort for this mission was Fashion Forensics Expert Ari Emanuel, Endeavor founding partner, inspiration for Entourage's Ari Gold, and, most important, blogger on the Huffington Post.
Ari (who, incidentally, will be wearing Brioni) took to his role as the poor man's Joan Rivers almost too well. At least he didn't pull an Isaac Mizrahi and run up and squeeze anybody's boob. Not that I saw. And here's what we found out... READ MORE
Cutting and Running
As everyone knows, the most exclusive place to be on Oscar night is your own couch. So here's what a few Diller luncheon attendees will not be wearing to the Oscars. Or, I should say, what they'll be wearing to the not-Oscars. Or, well, in any case:
Writer/producer/director JJ Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Alias, Lost: "I'll be watching it in my blue pajama bottoms and one of my weird T-shirts. I wish my PJs were made by someone special but they're not. I have no slippers so if anybody wants to get me a present I'm slipperless." But please, no glass slippers -- they're hard to walk in.
Toby Emmerich, president of New Line Productions: Green cashmere Loro Piana dressing gown with nothing else except his red hair that complements the green of the dressing gown.
Warren Beatty: "Not sure if I'm going to the Vanity Fair dinner or staying at home with the kids, since Annette is working" (in Chekov's Cherry Orchard at the Mark Taper Forum).
Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel: Jeans and a T-shirt. "I did so much of that when I was at Warner Bros., now I'm leaving tonight to go to San Diego for a Monday Yahoo! conference."
Tux You! UPDATE: Bill Maher is wearing Dolce & Gabbana with a gorgeous striped shirt, Greek mask (tragedy and comedy) cufflinks, and a black (not bow) tie.
Dressing the Power Players' Wives
Richard Tyler is this year's hot designer when it comes to decking out the wives of some of Hollywood's biggest players, including the gorgeous quartet of Wendi Murdoch, Kathy Freston (wife of Viacom CEO Tom Freston), Elizabeth Wiatt (married to William Morris chief Jim Wiatt), and Ann Gianopulos (whose husband Jim chairs Fox Filmed Entertainment), all of whom will be wearing Tyler (Elizabeth in vintage Tyler). He's also designed a new tux for Rupert Murdoch. (I wonder if he has his own MySpace profile.)
The Hottest-est Party in Town
"I'm the type who'd be happy not going anywhere as long as I was sure I knew exactly what was happening at the places I wasn't going to. I'm the type who'd like to sit home and watch every party that I'm invited to on a monitor in my bedroom." --Andy Warhol
The hottest thing in town is supposed to be an invitation to Vanity Fair's 5 p.m. Oscar dinner at Morton's. But even hotter is turning down the Vanity Fair dinner, and watching the whole thing in your own screening room at home... which is what David Geffen will be doing.
In Hollywood, Everyone's a Star
Tom Ford and Richard Buckley threw a pre-Oscar party at their Richard Neutra home in Bel-Air. The guest list included Condé Nast chairman Si Newhouse, Ron Perlman (sans wife, from whom his divorce is pending), Graydon and Anna Carter, Jeremy Piven, Fran Lebowitz, Anjelica Huston, Robert Graham, and the most attractive and helpful collection of waiters I've ever seen. When, having arrived on a flight from Orlando, I asked for coffee, I was asked if I could wait for a few minutes to get me a freshly brewed cup. I mentioned this to Tom Ford, who told me that before the party started the waiters had all been attended to by a team of hair and makeup stylists.
I forgot to ask if the valet parkers were given pre-party makeovers as well.
And the Award for Best New Party Goes to...
The Oscar newcomer of the year may be Heath Ledger, but the pre-Oscar-party newcomer title definitely goes to Ari Emanuel. Up until this year, the Friday party schedule was dominated by two top agents, Ed Limato from ICM, and Bryan Lourd from CAA. This year Ari decided to break into the field, and put not one but two tents in the backyard of his sumptuous new home, which comes complete with a basketball court -- indoor, of course.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was there, along with Congressman Ed Markey and his wife Susan Blumenthal. Which is perfectly Ari -- given that his life is a combination of entertainment and politics, his brother is Rahm Emanuel and his obsessions of the day are almost all political.
In fact, I had such a good time, I'm currently hiding in his bathroom -- I've decided to never leave (just heard someone go by -- have to type very quietly).
Reality Doesn't Bite
After Ari's party, I headed over to Ed Limato's. There was plenty going on, but I could not take my eyes off the spectacle of Hugh Hefner and his three platinum blondes. I know it's all part of his charm, but the guy is actually shuffling. You wonder if with all that Viagra maybe there just isn't enough blood going above his waist.
But what was truly horrifying were the women. At some point they must have been lovely. Maybe they still would have been -- but we'll never know. That level of construction can never be undone.
I know there's a lot of talk about how America can't manufacture anything anymore, but there seems to be an endless supply of these manufactured women. I guess Bangladesh and India haven't found a way to undercut us on this yet.
The only thing that could take me away from that spectacle was the appearance of a true Hollywood freak: a beautiful non-twenty-something woman who had not had plastic surgery!
It was Connie Nielsen, the Danish actress who was in Ice Harvest, One Hour Photo, Gladiator, etc. She was sitting at an adjoining table to the HefnerBots. As I was talking to Connie, it was impossible not to note the contrast. She's forty and is still in possession of her own face. She's serious, passionate, and looked stunning in an elegant black dress.
I'm hoping it's the beginning of a renaissance of soulful women with no facelifts.
She told me she'd just finished a movie about Iraq called The Situation, and the best part of all: she promised to blog about it when it comes out.
"I'm all excited," Bill Maher told me as we were driving to the Vanity Fair dinner, "that there is one party that we aren't going to have to see Paris Hilton at."
Friday night on Real Time, Graydon Carter told Bill Maher that he would not be seeing Paris Hilton at a Vanity Fair party. "On second thought," Bill said, "she'll be there if she has to burrow in through the air-conditioning system. Like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible."
Michael Caine on Jon Stewart
Sitting next to Michael Caine at the dinner, I ask him to evaluate Jon Stewart as an actor: "He comes from left field," Caine tells me. "He is more intelligent than you are but he doesn't make you feel that. Because you are laughing together. He doesn't make a point of it. He makes a laugh of it."
Mick Jagger on Jon Stewart and the Internet
Mick Jagger on Jon Stewart: "Very different in tone. No broad comedy... being himself.... effortless... relaxed. I really like him."
And Mick Jagger on the Internet: "The problem is, I spend more time on line than on my guitar."
From the Vanity Fair Dinner to the Vanity Fair Party, with Designer Basil Walter
I'm talking to Basil Walter, the architect who seven years ago started designing the space for the Vanity Fair party. For the dinner he has used cherrywood panels to create walls in which are embedded 13 TVs so that 160 dinner guests can watch the awards. We just finished dining on burrata with a salad of red and yellow tomatoes (which at our table Aaron Sorkin has been eating off Maureen Dowd's plate since quickly clearing his), New York strip steak, thyme-crusted tuna or buttered squash ravioli, and apple tart with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. In a few minutes the party will begin.
As Basil walks me through the transformed parking lot, he explains what I see:
As the dinner comes to an end there's a drape that opens straight into a vestibule made of topiary where there is a cigar bar. The lounge is 7000 square feet, dotted throughout by 17 TVs, and beginning with a large open area that doubles as a dance floor. The main feature of the space is an undulating ceiling like the interior of a cave. It has lights above (designed by Patrick Woodroffe) and couches all around -- a warm and cozy place to spend the rest of the evening after the Oscars.
He forgot to mention the carpet -- soft enough for barefeet, as Laurie David and I found out, having quickly shed our high heels.
A Prairie Home Pairing
If you're wondering why Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin appeared together to present Robert Altman with his Lifetime Achievement Award, wonder no more. Colin Callender, the president of HBO Films, solved the mystery for me. The pair are starring together in a film called Prairie Home Companion, along with Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Kline, Woody Harrelson, and many others. It comes out in June by HBO Films.
Salman Rushdie: 100% Correct
"I predicted all the winners," Salman Rushdie tells me, "and when Jack Nicholson appeared to present the Best Picture award, I knew it wasn't going to be Brokeback Mountain. The world won't let Nicholson give the award to a 'gay' movie."
Best and Worst, Great and Terrible
Best joke: Bjork and Dick Cheney. Who'd have thought they'd ever end up together?
Worst decision: Choreographing the songs. It was like bad Broadway.
Weirdest fashion choice: The box on the shoulder of Charlize Theron. If she'd had a parrot on her shoulder, it would have been less distracting.
Great speeches: George Clooney and Robert Altman.
Terrible (but true) answer to the question from the March of the Penquins winners, about whether the penguins will still have a habitat in the year 2041: Not if the current President has anything to say about it.
HuffPost Movie Mashups
Memoirs of a 40-Year-Old Virgin Geisha: A nine-year-old is trained as a geisha in pre-World War II Japan -- and then doesn't get asked out for three decades. Transerella Man: A Depression-era pre-op transsexual dreams of becoming heavyweight champion of the world. Batman Begins to Walk the Line: The Caped Crusader falls for a vivacious country singer who disapproves of his late-night carousing and addiction to latex. READ MORE
Memo to Jon Stewart: Tread Lightly and Carry a Big Schtick
I know a lot of people are hoping you'll hit the Oscar stage with your political guns blazing and the Bush crowd in your crosshairs but -- and it pains me to say this -- I'm hoping you proceed down that road with extreme caution. It pains me because I'm not exactly a flashing-yellow-light kind of girl -- especially when it comes to mercilessly ridiculing our leaders on their lies and hypocrisies. But politics and the Oscars have a long history of going together about as well as Muslims and Danish cartoons. And I can't stand the thought of you ending up a bug on Oscar's windshield. READ MORE