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The Red Carpet Campaign

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A few manage to cocoon themselves within a Zen calm. “I started on [The Hurt Locker] three and a half years ago,” says Renner. “I haven’t seen it in a very long time—it’s difficult for me to watch. But no, this is not hard. After three years, what’s another three months? Just do it.”

But others are struggling to find brave faces. “I feel that I’ve gone through at least three of the stages of grief,” says the producer of one awards hopeful. “A month ago, I felt like we were going to be in it. We never would have been in the top five, but with ten, there was a real possibility. And then I realized, no, we were only going to be in the top fifteen, which is not good enough. You see the winds of change in everything from reading the blogs to watching the other nominations come in. And then you second-guess, and you get angry. There could have been more money spent on our campaign, and to think that if that had happened, we would have had a better shot—it’s depressing that it didn’t happen, and depressing that it’s necessary at all.”

In the afternoon, the celebration moves to the BAFTA tea, an immense party with crustless sandwiches and creamy desserts that’s held by the British Academy at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Pete Docter, the talented co-writer-director of Up, has taken this ride before (he’s won four previous Oscar nominations), but he still seems unnerved. “The biggest thing I learned is that there’s basically nothing I can do, so I should stop worrying about it,” he says. “But of course I’m worrying anyway. I come to these parties and I think it feels better because at least I’m trying to do something, but I can never remember what that is supposed to be.”

And then James Cameron goes too far. He does the one thing no winner should ever do: He disses Meryl Streep.

At this point, the talk has turned almost entirely to the Best Picture race. Avatar is on everybody’s lips, and, in the reading of the tea leaves that provides a constant background hum, it’s a gainer, not a waner. Today’s waner seems to be Up in the Air, which is enduring unwelcome speculation about perceived tension between Reitman and Turner. But is it actually waning? Nobody knows if it’s true, or just what people are saying, or if the mere fact that people are saying it makes it true.

At the InterContinental Hotel that night, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards are doled out. Wes Anderson, sighting the modest red carpet, lowers his head, darts through the doors, never to return. “I told him to go have a drink and come out again as soon as he feels relaxed,” says a publicist. “Huge mistake.” But everyone else walks the line, and why not? They’re aglow with the knowledge that they’ve already won. “This is nothing to get jaded about or slack off from,” says Best Supporting Actor winner Waltz. “This is fantastic! And honestly, who knows if I’ll get to participate ever again?”

A night after her Critics’ Choice win, Mo’Nique works the carpet with enthusiasm. When I ask if she can imagine taking on another heavyweight role, she laughs and says, “I’m an entertainer, baby!” (Anyone in conversation with Mo’Nique gets tagged “baby,” “mama,” “brother,” or “sister.”) “I love to entertain. Now, what will come under that umbrella, I don’t know … but of course!” She glides into the hotel, in a sweet groove. Thanks to a couple of angry bloggers and a surge of support in response, she’s copped her narrative: Mo’Nique is The Comeback, 2010 edition.

Globes day arrives with torrential rain. Red-carpet catastrophe! Actresses who look like they’ve survived on Tic-Tacs for three days edge tentatively toward the entrance, encased in dresses they can’t move in, ornamented with jewelry they don’t own, and protected by umbrella-wielding publicists.

“You know what was really great about today?” an actress in attendance says later. “The rain. Seriously. Because I spent the weekend doing this, like everyone else, and suddenly, in the middle of all this acclaim for all these people, I found myself feeling greedy and insecure. You start to feel that if you’re not winning, you must be losing. If you’re not ‘the best,’ maybe you’re not any good. And then it rained, and I was on the red carpet, and suddenly everybody looked a little worse for wear. Everybody was wet, with shit in their hair. It was a relief. We were human again. Mostly.”

If the spirits of many of the nominees have flattened somewhat, it’s not just the weather, or that another set of wins for Bridges, Mo’Nique, and Waltz is starting to feel like a horror-movie version of Groundhog Day for the other nominees. The tragedy in Haiti, now filling the front pages, has made many of them self-conscious about the whole fiddling-while-Rome-burns excess of this weekend.


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