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Oscar freebie-frenzy reaches fever pitch

Of all the events surrounding the Academy Awards, it’s amazing how few have anything to do with the awards, nominees or, say, film in general.
/ Source: Vanity Fair

At the time of this writing, the Academy Awards are less than 130 or so hours away. For some, that means less than 130 hours to see whatever nominated films they’ve yet to see. For others, it means less than 130 hours to lose 10 pounds before hitting the red carpet. And for almost everyone buzzing around the Los Angeles pre-Oscar scene, it means less than 130 hours to flutter about the party circuit, less than 130 hours to eat and drink with gluttonous abandon, and less than 130 hours to rapturously fill one’s bags with enough free stuff to stock a fallout shelter.

Of all the events surrounding the Academy Awards, it’s amazing how few have anything to do with the awards, nominees or, say, film in general. While Sundance has been increasingly derided over the past few years for morphing from indie film festival to marketing mushroom cloud, the nuclear swag bombing at Oscar week is no better.

Perhaps people don’t lament this week’s freebie free-for-all because it’s a major, mainstream event, taking place in Hollywood and not, say, some otherwise idyllic mountain town. Or perhaps no one talks about the excess of swag because, as compared to those at Sundance, the swag suites are simply more discreet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the level of discretion is a direct corollary to the number of “gifting lounges” (otherwise known as penthouse suites, conference rooms, spas and private residences) that are dedicated to all sorts of high-tech dermatological treatments, most of which require a degree of inner-circle silence in order to best serve celebs with their free-but-crucial injectionables. There are a dozen or so of these lounges, the majority of which also offer (or “showcase”) manicures, blow-outs, makeup, waxing, and incomprehensibly complicated skincare treatments.

The suites and lounges are more than enough to keep one occupied throughout the day, but each night marks a new level of pre-celebratory frenzy.

Tonight, there are no less than three major events: parties sponsored by advertisers, perhaps a special Beck concert — you know, exactly the sort of over-the-top festivities you’d expect a full five days before the event. From here, things will only get more intense. My unconfirmed event list suggests that Wednesday will feature a fete for best actress nominee Jennifer Hudson, as well as celebrations for a newly relaunched magazine, a designer, a group of photographers, and the launch of some skincare line (skincare seems to be a recurring theme).

If possible, Thursday’s calendar is even more bloated with parties, each individually celebrating promoters, artists, designers, magazines, a few nominated films, and the former Vice-President of the United States. Come Friday and Saturday, it’s just more of the same.

Of course, Sunday — the big day itself — is another matter. After countless, self-congratulatory months, the awards season comes to a head, and all the accolades and red carpets culminate in the night of top honors from the Academy. Finally, it’s about film! Cinema! Art!

Or, it is for about 3½ hours. If even.

There are those who are privileged enough to actually attend the Academy Awards, and then there are those who are privileged enough to be invited to some six or seven private viewing parties hosted by charitable foundations, flamboyant singers, and glossy magazines. Post-ceremony, a handful of these will morph into even more exclusive soirees where the top tier luminaries, free from the confines of the Kodak Theater, will roam about, making entrance near impossible for anyone who isn’t someone. (On this matter, Vanity Fair is guilty as charged — but more on that later.)

Amidst the frenzy of activity, where are the true cinephiles who celebrate the Oscars? Probably at their homes, with a bowl of popcorn and a stack of DVDs.

Go to for more of Vanity Fair’s Oscar coverage, plus updates from its .