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Seasonal Highs & Lows

Shining moments, dark places and strange detours on the road to Oscar.

February 21, 2007|Tom O'Neil; Susan King; Elizabeth Snead; John Horn; Mark Olsen; Tom Tapp; Robert W. Welkos; Sheigh Crabtree

Look who's bringing

sexy back

IF 61-year-old Helen Mirren wins best actress, it's because "The Queen" star shrewdly conquered an age-old Oscar curse. Actresses over 50 don't usually win. Only one has in the last 15 years: Judi Dench (best supporting actress, "Shakespeare in Love"). Otherwise, most recent champs look more like winners of a beauty pageant (Hilary Swank, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry and Julia Roberts).

Last September, Miramax execs discussed the issue at the opening-night banquet of the New York Film Festival when "The Queen" made its U.S. debut. However, they deny that they've done anything strategically since then to address her sex appeal as part of her campaign.

But it seems someone is. The highlight reel for the actress' Santa Barbara International Film Festival tribute included some of her finest cinematic nudie moments. And during the show, Mirren picked up a large hand mike, and eyeing it said, "God, this thing is so phallic." She then pretended to lick it with her tongue. The audience, of course, went crazy. The actress also appeared on the cover of Los Angeles magazine's February issue parting a white top to reveal a peekaboo black bra underneath.

Backstage at the Golden Globes, she got bawdy with journalists: "You know, when an Essex girl has an orgasm, she drops her fries."

When asked about her prospects of winning the Oscar, she said, "I've never had an 'O.' They said the Earth moves. I can't wait. I'll definitely drop my fries for that."

As the Santa Barbara highlight reel revealed, Mirren has been fearlessly frisky throughout her career, appearing nude in more than a dozen films, most recently in "Calendar Girls" at 58. But she's made a special point of playing up her sauciness while chasing that naked golden boy Oscar.

-- Tom O'Neil

Please don't make O'Toole do this

LAST month, Peter O'Toole made the round of talk shows in New York to promote "Venus," for which he received his eighth best actor Oscar nomination. Nattily dressed and wearing what can be best described as a bemused expression, the 74-year-old thespian appeared on, among other things, "The View."

"Can you believe that?" O'Toole quipped about his "View" tour. "It was extraordinary and a bit alarming."

"When the world was young, actors didn't do interviews," O'Toole said. "We didn't open our months except when we were doing some author's words. We were required to turn up and put on a pretty frock and a dinner jacket [for the Oscars] and that was it. But now things have changed utterly. We are supposed to be the salesman and woman of the piece."

So does he feel awkward becoming a pitchman?

"Let me put it this way," said the veteran actor. "I confess I have done so much, I am running out of things to say."

-- Susan King

If it's Oscar night, then Sienna Miller is finally out of sight

IT was her off-screen performance that made Sienna Miller the hardest working actress in Hollywood this season. She schmoozed endlessly at cocktail parties, lunches and awards shows to promote her film "Factory Girl," which gathered no awards, or even awards buzz, despite her best efforts and Harvey Weinstein's considerable pull. In less than a month, Miller presented at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, hit the Screen Actors Guild Annual Tea the next day, was feted with a lunch at Mr. Chow, hit the "Bobby" Globe nomination party at Drago, unveiled Godiva's One Million Dollar Hearts on Fire diamond shopping spree at Century City, and hosted a chic Chanel dinner (with Lauren Hutton, Lindsay Lohan, Cameron Diaz and Dustin Hoffman) at Chateau Marmont for a new couture fragrance line.

She was also a presenter at the Globes but got less-than-stellar fashion reviews for her Heidi-Ho braided do and Marchesa dress designed for her by Georgina Chapman, Weinstein's squeeze.

Still, she gamely snapped photos of photographers at the Weinstein post party in Trader Vic's and made an appearance at the WB/InStyle bash. Lastly, she opened the Santa Barbara International Film Festival with, oh yeah, her film about Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol's doomed muse who was born -- and died of an overdose -- in Santa Barbara.

Asked about her non-stop awards season activities, Miller explained, "This is the first time I have really had to carry a film and I felt a responsibility to support it. Besides, Harvey can be very persuasive. But I'm looking forward to going home."

No offense, Sienna, but we're glad you're going home too.

-- Elizabeth Snead

There's always more gas in the van

IT screened for the first time more than a year ago, debuted in theaters last July and already is available at Blockbuster. By most objective measures, "Little Miss Sunshine's" moment in the spotlight should have long since gone.

Yet as countless other Oscar contenders and pretenders went off the rails, the ensemble comedy grew only stronger, and will enter the Academy Awards with a strong chance to win the best picture trophy.

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