Report From Oscarville

Dear David,

The first party was Endeavor’s, where all the action was at the louche terrace outside, which we thought of as a kind of “City of God.” Here you could flirt and do other things illegal—like smoke cigarettes. This Hollywood version of the favela was peopled by your run-of-the-mill publicists, agents, indie buyers, and such, brightened up by the boisterous cast and crew of last year’s sexy Y Tu Mamá También, featured Fernando Meirelles as the Boss, and the always stunning Jude Law as God.

We left the favela and headed for the hills. There was a lot of air kissing and socializing at triple-A movie star party at uber-agent Mr. Lourd’s house—never teeming at the rafters, like some other parties that will go unmentioned this year. It always has the feeling, like its host, of something not full of effort, thrown together for his friends without any pretense whatsoever, no small feat among all the wattage. And what friends he has. In one take, I saw Clooney, Julia, Warren, Aniston, Tom and Rita, Renee, tons of significant New Yorkers who had jetted in, and up from the favela, God.

The longest (and only) conversation I had was with Andrew Jarecki—the recipient of the closest thing to a smear campaign this Oscar season has going, against his Capturing the Friedmans. He was chatting with Sherry Lansing when we were introduced, and you could feel the intensity of the conversation rising above the general chit-chat. I was stunned, as were many, by Sharon Waxman’s slam in the Times, just as voting was taking place. Jarecki said he knew he had to e-mail her, as she had misquoted him repeatedly. Who was driving these articles? The first prosecutor? If this were a feature, we would suspect a competing studio. But that’s unlikely, in the case of a documentary, with the stakes too low. That Jesse Freidman’s parole would be affected seemed to torment him. Was it the judge who had prejudged him? The victims? The prosecutor? The case seemed like it would never end. But my conversation had to end after 15 long minutes as I had to gather a consensus for my “No One Would Be Surprised If …” dish. I had to find some partygoers talking about the Oscars!

The lack of big campaign events made the Best Picture category less of a horse race, even though Seabiscuit is a contender. It was as though it were an election year where campaign finance reform had actually worked. Perhaps it’s the absence of a vitriolic head-to-head contest between Miramax and someone—anyone. No gigantic rooting interest, no smear campaigns (other than the above, if it counts), no really ugly politics. It was more dramatic at the nominations, when Cold Mountain and Last Samurai were passed over. The fizzle is out of the coke this year.

The big horse race is dominated by two actors who you’ll never meet at any industry event, Sean Penn and Bill Murray, so no one roots that hard for either. There is a hint of a controversy in whether Sean Penn’s or Tim Robbins’ antiwar positions might have poisoned their respective chances. But this is lefty Hollywood, where great performances will always outweigh politics—especially left-wing politics proven right.

Off to yoga—after all, Hollywood producers have their needs. When I’m back, the “No One Would Be Surprised If …” list will be ready to post.