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Report from L.A.: Oscars feel understated

Courtney Hazlett reports from the pre-Oscar madness in L.A. Parties are fewer, and swag suites are smaller, reflecting the tough economic realities.
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Hello from L.A.!

Only been here for a handful of hours, but my immediate first impression is that there is definitely an understated feeling to this year’s Oscars. There are not nearly as many parties, and swag suites are fewer and far between.

That’s not to say Hollywood isn’t replete with celebs and buzz.

“Slumdog Millionaire’s” Freida Pinto was out and about in Beverly Hills (rolling deep, I might add.) If the number of handlers and odds of a best picture win are proportional, “Slumdog” has it sewn up.

“The Reader’s” David Kross — the most underrated actor in the film, in my opinion — was poolside at the Four Seasons.

One of my favorite sightings of the day was at the GBK gifting suite, where I “met” the wrinkled, twitchy, prosthetic baby who portrayed Benjamin Button during infancy. Regardless of how you might feel about the film, seeing the baby and then thinking back to how it translated onscreen into a living, breathing human viewers cared about was a fantastic reminder of the magic of filmmaking, and why we’ve all descended on L.A. in the first place.

Up next: A party thrown by Vanity Fair, then tomorrow morning, it’s off to Santa Monica for the Independent Spirit Awards. Keep checking back for updates.

Back in NYCWatching 'Project Runway' in reverse
The sixth season of "Project Runway" could take months to make it out of court and onto the air, but the three unknown finalists showed their collections Friday at Bryant Park. Identities were kept under wraps, the designers didn't take the stage, but no one knows who they are, anyway.

"Normally we have all the fans rooting for the designers as they come out, so I'm a little bit sad they don't have that recognition today," said Heidi Klum, clad in a sleek fuchsia pantsuit.

Celebrity Sightings

Slideshow  26 photos

Celebrity Sightings

Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. on the "Let's Be Cops," red carpet, Selena Gomez is immortalized in wax and more.

Nonetheless, the collections didn't disappoint. The first, in line with fall 2009 trends, was heavy on leather pants and chunky sweaters, the second delightfully packed with girly ruffles and the third, the crowd's apparent favorite, combined woven black leather and sequins with black Peter Pan hats.

Christian Siriano sat in rapt attention in the front row alongside John Varvatos and Akon. Not many celebs and only a sad cluster of photogs paid tribute.

After the show, "Runway" mentor Tim Gunn described himself as a "proud dad."

"We wish we could bring out the three finalists, but we can't," Gunn said. "We have a smashing, sensational season waiting for you."

Benicio Del Toro does G-Star fashion show right
I want to take a few moments and backtrack to last week’s G Star fashion show to address something I didn’t have time to specifically cover in my Hot/Hot Mess video, and that would be the appearance of Mr. Benicio Del Toro.

Yes, I mentioned he closed the show by reading the lyrics to the Joy Division song “Candidate,” but I didn’t get the opportunity to make clear the idea that I liked this use of celebrity in the show.

As I’ve been saying with respect to all programming, from late night to awards shows, now is time to re-think the model (no pun intended here).

Fashion shows routinely recruit celebrities for their 10-minute-long shows by paying for their flights, hotel room and transportation, and other various and sundry demands.

And for what, exactly? A few stiff photos in the front row? Put them to work!

Although the circumstances of Del Toro’s involvement, or how he got there aren’t clear, I can say this: what a good use of celebrity!

With additional reporting by Katy Hall

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on