Los Angeles this week has been a little like the Iowa caucuses. Although the Oscars are still almost two months away, nearly every movie star has been out and about, appearing at awards shows whose names you can barely remember, heading out in borrowed dresses to parties that cost tens of thousands of dollars, and chatting up Academy voters. If you consider that most studio films are shot in three months while their indie counterparts are done in a month and a half (or less), most of the celebrities working the circuit will actually spend more time campaigning for their Oscar than they did acting in the film they're promoting.
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Twenty years ago, few other awards ceremonies besides the Globes and the Oscars were broadcast, and there was no red carpet serving as a showcase for the fashion industry. Now stars get decked out for the National Board of Review, events at the Palm Springs Film Festival, two sets of Critics’ Choice Awards, The New York Film Critics Awards, The L.A. Film Critics Association Awards, the SAG Awards, the DGAs, the Independent Spirit Awards, and on and on.
People can talk all they want about what a bad attitude Mo’Nique has, reportedly asking to receive appearance fees to pick up her trophies for her turn in Precious, but one thing's for sure: The awards show circuit is work, even if almost no one else will admit it.
Festivities kicked into full swing Thursday night at a party for A Single Man, the debut film from designer Tom Ford. The cocktail party was held at La Dolce Vita, and Julianne Moore (who stars in the film), Anne Hathaway, and Robert De Niro all turned out. Ford was standing in the back engaged in conversation with Matt Tyrnauer, the documentarian promoting his own debut film, Valentino: The Last Emperor. "We can afford to like each others’ movies," Ford said, when someone made a joke about him talking to another director during awards-show season. "We're in different categories."
On Friday night, the Critics’ Choice Awards took place at the Hollywood Planetarium and it was almost as star-filled as the Academy Awards. Among the attendees were Quentin Tarantino, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Tobey Maguire, Bradley Cooper, and Susan Sarandon. Ever-controversial Adam Lambert presented an award with Sarah Silverman in an R-rated exchange.
Kathryn Bigelow ( The Hurt Locker) became the first woman ever to win the best director award, and then wound up back on stage with her crew when the film took best picture. Among those cheering her on was her ex-husband James Cameron, whose blockbuster Avatar lost out to her in both of those categories.
Meanwhile, Jason Reitman took home the adapted screenplay award for Up in the Air and initially forgot to thank his wife, his co-writer, and Walter Kirn, the man who wrote the terrific book he adapted. Whoops.
He did, however, give a big shout out to his dad, Ivan, who produced the film, and who was sitting at his table. Moments later, Reitman was allowed to come back to the microphone and thank his wife.
And Jeff Bridges took home the best actor award for Crazy Heart, while Meryl Streep ( Julie & Julia) and Sandra Bullock ( The Blind Side) tied for best actress. When Bullock went up on stage to accept her award, Streep gave her a mock glare, and the two began circling one another as if they were getting ready to fight. Bullock went up to the mic and cried out, "This is bullshit." Of course, it was all a big joke, and the two embraced a few seconds later, as Bullock gave Streep a big kiss right on the mouth. She also said, "To the critics, I bet you never saw this coming. You might not ever again."
Afterward, the party moved to the Chateau Marmont, where T, The New York Times' fashion magazine, was having its annual Golden Globes pre-party. Among those attending were Chace Crawford, Tom Cruise, and Katie Holmes (who spent more than two hours circulating in the crowd), Ben Stiller, Ashley Olsen (with boyfriend Justin Bartha, who starred in The Hangover), Jane Fonda, Tom Ford, Woody Harrelson, and Sofia Coppola. Down in the lobby, a well-known director whose film is an awards-season favorite was explaining to a group of his friends how the weighted Oscar ballot worked. "Putting something in the No. 1 slot is worth 10 No. 7s," he said.
And Saturday evening, there was a giant party for Paramount at the Chateau, which drew in Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jon Hamm, Marion Cotillard, and much of the cast and crew of Up in the Air, including leading man George Clooney and the film's breakout star, Anna Kendrick. Jon Voight, who said he was happy to be out at a fun party, thought it was fair to ask whether the whole circuit is a little out of control. "It's wearing," he said. "How many awards shows are there now? 85? 100?"
Certainly, things have gotten a little insane when even Mike Tyson, a memorable cameo player from The Hangover, is standing around gamely answering questions from reporters on behalf of his film (which is hoping to be that ninth or 10th Best Picture nominee). "I didn't think it was going to be no great movie," Tyson told The Daily Beast, as people walked up to him at the bar and asked for pictures. "But I liked Old School and someone had said [ The Hangover's director Todd Phillips] directed it. I had no idea it would reach the magnitude it did."