WHAT could possibly compete with the handing out of the statues? Easy: the parties. First stop is always the Governors Ball, a mandatory celebration for winners, presenters and about half the audience (the ball accommodates only 1,600; the Kodak Theatre seats about 3,000). Everybody's favorite, George Clooney, was swept up in a wash of admirers and paparazzi upon entering. His publicist batted reporters out of the way, but Clooney gamely offered to come back later for a chat.
Paul Giamatti admired the glow of illuminated tubes suspended from the ceiling -- a thousand points or more of ever-changing light -- at Hollywood and Highland's Grand Ballroom. Diana Ossana, who with Larry McMurtry won best adapted screenplay for "Brokeback Mountain," walked around with her Oscar slung over her shoulder like a sack of potatoes.
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, surrounded by his wife and children, said he was delighted "Crash" won the best picture award even though he thought it somewhat exaggerated the violence and racism in Los Angeles.
"It's a powerful movie that tells the truth" about L.A., he said. Matt Dillon, who had been nominated as best supporting actor for his role in the film, said he was a little surprised "Crash" won, then lowered his voice conspiratorially and said, "Except I think I heard somewhere when the editor wins, the picture wins." Hughes Winborne, the editor of "Crash," took top honors.
Guests, whose tickets had a face value of $750, were to feast on 24-carat-gold-dusted celery root-and-apple soup, roasted chicken with black truffle risotto and chef Wolfgang Puck's traditional dessert -- Verona chocolate Oscar statuettes. Wish we could have smuggled some out for you.