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The high-powered try to get casual

February 27, 2007|Rachel Abramowitz | Times Staff Writer

FOR the would-be cognoscenti who want to know if the post-Oscar Governors Ball differs from the typical Hollywood premiere -- the answer is yes.

The atmosphere on Sunday night lacked that predatory quality, mixed with giddiness that accompanies hits, and the doleful prevarication that accompanies flops. Power players had to check their egos at the door as they shared the rarefied airspace. Time Warner super chief Richard Parsons hobnobbed with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while Apple chieftain Steve Jobs holed up in the corner near the sushi bar with Disney topper Robert Iger and his wife, Willow Bay. Even the global-warming, Hollywood-blessed messiah Al Gore ate standing up, as he hovered by the banquette with his team.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried to foster the relaxed air by ditching the traditional chicken dinner routine to opt for an elegant evening in Napa Valley. Gone was the sit-down dinner, to be replaced by arbors of grapevines housing a Wolfgang Puck buffet.

Any mogul who could get his picture taken with an Oscar seemed to jump at the chance. Paramount topper Brad Grey practically stopped all incoming traffic at the entryway as he posed for photographers with Oscar-winning "Babel" composer Gustavo Santaolalla, while in a corner, the Sony crew -- among them honcho Howard Stringer and studio Chairwoman Amy Pascal -- seemed like a goofily down-to-earth family as they crowded around the ebullient Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of "The Lives of Others," which won best foreign-language Oscar.

The evening did seem light on twinkly People-caliber stars, as anyone not intimately connected to one of the pictures appeared to have bailed out for more private climes. Exceptions included a still excited Jack Black, who admitted, "I was nervous" during his bitter comedian song.

And then there was Leonardo DiCaprio, who began the evening as the dutiful son, eating politely next to his mother, at what was going to be the Helen Mirren table. When Martin Scorsese, the undisputed king of the evening, finally arrived, DiCaprio moved on to the director's banquette, where the flashbulbs were popping off intensely, and a throng of well-wishers hovered over the extended Scorsese family. Ultimately, DiCaprio blocked out the din by looking at his BlackBerry. Finally, an Oscar extraction team -- composed of several security guards -- arrived to usher Scorsese and his inner circle out.

The Governors Ball's new casualness did allow the filmmakers and their teams to set up encampments like Bedouin tribes. "Pan's Labyrinth" creator Guillermo del Toro and team lay against one wall with their Oscars arrayed on the table in front of them, while Del Toro's compatriot and pal, "Babel" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, held court nearby. Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg sat in another corner. As the evening continued, a crowd tried to rub shoulders, which required another crack Oscar extraction team to whisk the high-powered duo out the door.

Nominees without Oscars seemed giddy in a black humor kind of way. "Children of Men" director Alfonso Cuaron gabbed with longtime pal cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki until, finally, the lounge music began, and then he shouted boisterously, "When they start playing the Pink Panther, it's time to go on to the next party."


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