the oscars

It’s in the Bag for Scorsese

As Oscar night approaches, New York film critic David Edelstein and Hollywood producer Lynda Obst are discussing the race. Check back through the weekend for more.

From: Lynda Obst

Sent: Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:14 PM

To: David Edelstein

Subject: Re: The Parties

Dear David,

Can I tell you about the parties? And I’ll get to your questions along the way. By the time I arrived at Bryan Lourd’s affair, the New York contingent (Graydon Carter, Fran Lebowitz) was leaving, and the line was ten minutes just to drop off your car at the valet. I was worried we had actually come too late, but no. Somehow, the coziness of Bryan’s sprawling architectural home, combined with his now traditional detail of camellia wrist corsages given to the women on our entrance, made the crush of wall-to-wall movie stars less unmanageable than I feared.

I meant to start asking everyone for their prognostications, I swear, as soon as I stopped bussing cheeks. But I was so disconcerted by the sight of George Clooney leaning against a table in rapt conversation with Daniel Craig — the two most handsome men I’d just about ever seen, laughing away, like a perfect buddy picture, but real — that I forgot everything for the longest time. Al Gore was holding court at the door with his divine daughter Kristin. Katie Holmes and Penélope Cruz were there. Apparently Sean Penn ran into ex-wife Madonna. Tabby stuff like this was happening everywhere, as always.

Happy Feet’s George Miller — my favorite director and person on earth, as you know — was chatting with fellow Best Animated Feature nominee Gil Keenan, of Monster House. They were deciding where to sit on Sunday and told me that they had both animated winning and losing characters for the presentation. Gil said he worked harder on the losing one and graciously told George he wanted him to win. This lack of Schadenfreude was so disconcerting that I needed a drink.

Finally I got around to my undercover job, and it was worse than I had suspected. A famous actress (who will go unnamed, of course) said she left Best Picture blank — one of many times I heard this. Peter O’Toole, who sat alone on a couch until I joined him, looked adorable and very relaxed. A recurring theme among women over 30 was that he was hot enough to have sex with. So even if he loses to Forest, his performance in Venus was extremely effective (and productive) nonetheless.

The most genuine emotion I heard all night was for Alan Arkin and Eddie Murphy: Best Supporting Actor is the race now. They’ve broken tradition and moved it to the back of the broadcast, so we have nothing to watch but stupid production numbers for the first three hours. The drama here comes down to love and hate. The very angry and passionate Dreamgirls contingent, who feel bitterly excluded, want more than just Jennifer Hudson, some technical awards, and songs. They want Eddie. It is also a bountiful, remarkable performance for an actor who has been dialing it in for years, and many in the Academy want to honor that.

But some actors might remember stories of Eddie’s less-than generous behavior to co-stars on the sets of his run-of-the-mill comedies when they mark their ballots. And Alan Arkin might be a way to honor Little Miss if Departed starts looking like the depressing sweep it could become. He’s an actor’s actor, a great comedian who doesn’t work enough. It’s the star versus the New York actor: Up for grabs. I don’t see Jackie Earle Haley getting a leg in this race, though it is an honor for him to be nominated. (Sorry.)

The whole Departed contingent were at Ari Emanuel’s Endeavor party, where Sasha Baron Cohen, Mark Wahlberg, and Adam Sandler were the headliners until Marty Scorsese entered like a movie star, entourage and all, shielding himself from the photographers — so different from the years when he seemed to be campaigning. It was clear that it’s in the bag. There were many more potential winners at this party. It’s Endeavor’s year at the Oscars. They have The Departed, and it has the mo. The love is strongest for that film among the young. But in general, people see it as a good bloody popcorn movie with terrific performances: not worthy of an Oscar, but the most Oscar-like of the nominated pictures.

I sat at a banquette and discussed Sunday night with my sister-in-law, a partner’s wife — she knows everything — and a crowd of agents. Everyone seemed to be delighted that Ellen was hosting, though I admitted to trying to talk Laura Ziskin into Martin Short months earlier. Ellen has apparently been instructed to be apolitical. (What is this, the Washington correspondent’s dinner? This is Hollywood, folks! This is our job, to offend!) Someone had heard, probably from Nikke Finke, that Sasha Baron Cohen was not going to be a presenter because they were afraid he was too uncontrollable — but it wasn’t yet settled, so there’s something to root for. The task of outraging has been left to the nominees, and not much time has been allotted for that. Cut, cut, cut were the instructions we heard from the last rehearsal, which ran some four hours plus.

At the valet, where the paparazzi literally roared, I asked a very smart manager (he delivered Lindsey Lohan to rehab) who he thought was going to win. “The Departed,” he said. “And Little Miss Sunshine will come in third.” “Who will come in second?” I asked. “No one,” he answered.

It’s in the Bag for Scorsese