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Hollywood hums with activity as Oscars near

If the Academy Awards are like the Super Bowl of entertainment, then it's game week in Tinseltown. All of Hollywood is gearing up for Sunday's big game — the Oscars.
/ Source: The Associated Press

If the Academy Awards are like the Super Bowl of entertainment, then it's game week in Tinseltown.

There are cocktail parties in every corner of the city. Gift lounges have sprouted up like spring flowers. Calendars are crammed with dress fittings and shoe fittings and diamond fittings, not to mention countless lunches and dinners in honor of various nominees. Meanwhile, rehearsals are going on inside the Kodak Theatre.

All of Hollywood is gearing up for Sunday's big game — the Oscars. Here's the latest:

Fancy foodsThe Academy Awards Governors Ball will be set in an art-deco nightclub drenched in bronze and purple, from the tablecloths and napkins to the custom-made outfits on the wait staff and orchestra.

“It will be a very, very grand, elegant evening,” says Cheryl Cecchetto, producer of the official Oscars after-party, held at Hollywood & Highland’s grand ballroom.

Chef Wolfgang Puck is preparing dinner for the ball’s 4,600 guests, and he gave the press a preview Thursday of what’s on the menu.

There are bite-size Kobe beef burgers, topped with tomatoes and pickles so tiny that a chef used tweezers to artfully assemble each appetizer. Guests can also nibble on ahi tuna cones and Oscar-shaped smoked salmon finished with caviar before the main course: “A twist on the old classic chicken pot pie,” Puck says.

For dessert there will be chocolate Oscars of all sizes, along with various cakes and fancy pastries.

It will take more than 300 chefs and 600 waiters to serve the post-show meal.

“Preparations are going fantastic,” Puck says. “We are ready.”

The custom-made outfits for the Governors Ball wait staff and all-female orchestra are new this year, designed by Jeffrey Kurland, governor of the academy’s art directors’ branch and an Oscar-nominated costume designer.

Also new this year: A special engraving area where Oscar winners can have their names affixed to their just-won statuettes, which are marked only by a serial number when they’re presented on stage.

An Oscar educationOscar nominee Carey Mulligan already knows what it’s like to stand on the Kodak Theatre stage.

The 25-year-old star of “An Education” came to the theater Thursday to practice presenting on the big show. Wearing a blond pixie haircut, a black blazer and slacks, Mulligan was surrounded by stand-ins posing as presenters and winners. She ran through her lines, passed out prop Oscars, then disappeared through one of the theater’s back doors.

Red carpet, green dressMost women attending the Academy Awards choose their dress weeks in advance and keep it a secret until the big day.

James Cameron’s wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, started looking for her dress more than a year ago and she showed it off on a mannequin at a party Wednesday night.

Suzy Cameron held an eco-dress design contest to raise funds for Muse Elementary, the eco-friendly school she founded in Los Angeles. She unveiled the winning dress and its designer, 21-year-old Michigan State senior Jillian Granz, at environmental organization Global Green USA’s seventh annual pre-Oscar party.

The long, flowing gown is made almost entirely from sustainable materials. It’s one shouldered, with a big slit up the side, and it’s “Avatar” blue.

“Suzy likes blue,” said James Cameron, an Oscar nominee for best director and best picture for “Avatar,” which features a blue humanoid species living on a faraway moon called Pandora.

Cameron said it was just a coincidence that the eco-friendly message of his film echoes the message of his wife’s gown and the eco-friendly school it’s supporting.

“We have the same value system,” he said. “We believe that it’s absolutely critical for us to live sustainably.”

Other celebrities attending Global Green’s annual pre-Oscar call for increased environmental awareness included David Duchovny and Jessica Alba.

Mirrors everywhereInstead of returning to their seats after presenting or accepting an Academy Award, Oscar’s stars might opt to relax in the Architectural Digest green room backstage at the Kodak Theatre, where they can have a drink, watch the show on a flat-screen TV and check their reflection in multiple mirrors.

Interior designer Roger Thomas, who is responsible for the look of the Wynn hotels, says Oscar’s green room was inspired by Hollywood’s golden age. Black lacquer furniture is trimmed in shades of cream and white, flanked by end tables topped with orchid plants and oversized crystals. An outdoor garden space connected to the green room provides celebrity smokers with a private, covered place to light up. The floor inside is splattered with paint, like one might find in the art department on a studio lot. And there are mirrors everywhere.

Besides creating light and reflection inside the room, ample mirrors allow stars stepping onto Oscar’s worldwide stage to see themselves from every angle.

“You feel your best when you look your best,” Thomas says.

Maybe that’s why there’s also a makeup chair right outside the green room.

Kodak Theatre comes to lifeJust outside the Kodak Theatre, a giant golden Oscar stands wrapped in plastic, waiting for his big day. Meanwhile, inside the theater, rehearsals are in full swing.

The Kodak has become an intimate speakeasy, its traditional seats replaced with a new arrangement that brings guests closer to the stage and to each other. Clusters of seats are set apart with a railing dotted with tiny lamps, lending to the nightclub feel. Cardboard placards sit where the stars will on Sunday.

Stand-ins wearing giant nametags that say which celebrities they represent walk on and off the stage, presenting and accepting prop Oscars while their colleagues clap. An invisible director guides the action, his voice booming over a speaker. Other workers, meanwhile, monitor how the stage appears on screen.

Framed by a crystal curtain and anchored by three giant video screens, producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman say their set is the most high-tech ever seen on an Academy Awards show. And after three days of technical tests, the stage welcomed its first stand-ins Wednesday.

Drinks with historyThe week just started and the Oscar parties have already begun. Entertainment site held its Oscar soiree Monday night at the Four Seasons, and Los Angeles Times' awards section The Envelope celebrated the season Tuesday with a cocktail party at the Hollywood Museum.

Costumes from Oscar-nominated films filled the exhibition cases inside the historic Max Factor building. There were the military uniforms from "The Hurt Locker," Sandra Bullock's dress from "The Blind Side" and the romulan pistol from "Star Trek." Also on display: Meryl Streep's costumes from "Julie & Julia" and Brad Pitt's Nazi-killing garb from "Inglourious Basterds."

The museum also holds such relics as Judy Garland's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz" and the first Irving Thalberg award, presented at the 1937 Oscar ceremony.

Guests from the media, the actors union and nearby studios toasted Hollywood history as they geared up for the latest chapter at Sunday's 82nd Academy Awards.

Hollywood haltedHollywood Boulevard — and its merchants — are martyrs for the Academy Awards.

The famous street shuts down for several blocks each year to accommodate Oscar's red carpet, fan bleachers and stages outside the Kodak Theatre.

Hollywood Boulevard is closed between Highland Avenue and Orange Drive until March 9. The subway stop at the Hollywood & Highland complex will also be closed beginning Saturday.