Lindsay Lohan 'Nuzzles' Sean Penn | Kate Winslet Had To Learn About Holocaust | Obama’s Rockin’ Inaugural | Why Batman Won’t Be An Oscar Nominee | 'E' Not Shy-a About Stealing

Lindsay Lohan 'Nuzzles' Sean Penn

Lindsay Lohan likes Milk. Anyway, she likes the star of Gus Van Sant’s longish take on the life and times of gay activist Harvey Milk.

At Sean Penn’s private dinner for Milk last week at downtown/far west eatery The John Dory — in which the former Jeff Spicoli has invested — Lohan showed up sans partner Samantha Ronson. Sources say she immediately sidled up to Penn, who took her under his wing, so to speak. “They nuzzled,” says my observer, before taking off for an after party somewhere in the bowels of Chelsea, no doubt. .

Lindsay had just missed Jane Fonda, who left the dinner early. But she did get to see Robert DeNiro and a few other Academy voters who will send Penn into the Best Actor category up against, among others, Clint Eastwood. The irony there is that it was because of Eastwood that Penn got his own Oscar in “Mystic River.” Now, even Penn will agree, it’s Eastwood’s turn. He’s never won for Best Actor, not even for “Unforgiven.”

Kate Winslet Had To Learn About Holocaust

Nothing prepares an actor for working on a Holocaust themed movie. For Kate Winslet, “The Reader” was a special challenge since she started shooting it literally days after concluding a much different film, “Revolutionary Road.”

“Of course, I’d seen Shoah and Schindler’s List, but I had a lot more to do to get ready,” she told me over lunch last week at Michael’s with director Stephen Daldry and co-star Lena Olin.

“I did a lot of reading, and talking to people. And I had to focus on my character’s — Hanna’s — illiteracy. No one knows what that’s like, and I knew that was what motivated her. We also had to be careful not to make her sympathetic in any way, but at the same time show she was not a monster. She simply did she what she did.”

Winslet’s portrayal of Hanna is making advance audiences cry — which is unusual since she’s the German guard from the Bernard Schlink novel who is found responsible for killing 300 Jewish women in a camp. It’s a credit to Winslet that you leave “The Reader” very moved. You hate Hanna, and you feel for her.

Obama’s Rockin’ Inaugural

The parties set around the 2009 Inauguration are still forming, but one has come together that should be the rocking night of the whole deal.

The Creative Coalition already announced an acoustic performance by Elvis Costello for its Harman Center for the Arts celebration on the night of January 20th.

Now the advocacy group — boasting over 50 Hollywood actors as guest stars and still growing — has more names. They’ve signed Grammy winning legend “Soul Man” Sam Moore, who’s bringing his own band and the Uptown Horns. Moore’s appearance coincides with the release tomorrow of “Original Soul Men: Sam & Dave,” a highly praised new DVD set of rare and unseen performances, from Universal Home Video. You can see it on amazon.com.

And Moore will have a special guest on one or two songs: none other than Sting, who appeared with Moore on his 2006 album, “Overnight Sensational.” Sting — currently on tour in Australia and the Far East promoting his “Songs from the Labyrinth” CD — just finished doing an opera in Paris with…Elvis Costello. The possibilities of what could happen on the Harman stage are tantalizing.

So stay tuned. More to come, I’m sure, as the various states and the main Ball all vy to compete with the Coalition. They’ll have their work cut out for them!

Why Batman Won’t Be An Oscar Nominee

Is it me, or is the quality of either movie reviewing or Oscar predicting slowly deteriorating?

Case in point: a story on the wire services yesterday suggesting that Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” movie “The Dark Knight” might “sweep the Oscars.”

Really. This is what it said.

I’m a fan of Nolan, particularly his debut film, “Memento.” Now that one should have been an Oscar movie.

Alas, “The Dark Knight” is many things, but not an award winner. It’s of course a box office bonanza, with a $530 million gross in the U.S. alone.

“Dark Knight” was well reviewed, and much appreciated by fans. It was hyped to death and capitalized on a tragic one: that of Heath Ledger as The Joker. He was superb as a villain to be feared and remembered. Was it great acting? I’m not so sure. It was certainly fun, and he went to a place that neither Jack Nicholson nor Cesar Romero ever took the Joker, that’s for sure.

But Ledger is a supporting actor in “The Dark Knight.” Christian Bale is Batman, and in this episode he was wooden, inexpressive, and unmemorable. He’s a fine actor, but this is not exactly his thespian moment.

In the end, “The Dark Knight” belongs more to Aaron Eckhart as another villain, Harvey Dent. He’s everything that Bale is not in this particular film, such as engaging, charismatic, and indelible.

As for Ledger, if he is nominated for Best Supporting Actor anywhere other than the ass-kissing Golden Globes, he’ll be in pretty tough competition. There’s Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt; Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon; Ralph Fiennes in The Reader; Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road, not to mention Josh Brolin and James Franco, each from Milk. For fun you could even throw in Brad Pitt, from “Burn After Reading.”

The case can certainly be made for Ledger. Jack Nicholson was also nominated for playing the Joker some nineteen years ago. Heath’s portrayal is iconic, over the top, and destined for clip reels. Is it his best performance? It’s not at all as good as his subtle work in “Brokeback Mountain.” For “The Dark Knight,” there isn’t any scenery he doesn’t chew — twice — and spit out. I never bought the idea that Ledger took his character so seriously that it killed him. He looks like he’s having a ball.

As for the movie itself, the conventional Oscar thinking is this: no matter how good it is, Batman is a movie made from a comic book. Half-a- billion dollars is considered reward in itself. The movie is often leaden. It has none of the verve of this year’s “Iron Man” or other, niftier comic book movies like “Spider Man 2” or “Superman 2.” The story is often hard to follow. And sadly, there is no Oscar for being a marketing juggernaut.

There are also more than a half dozen serious films waiting for Oscar evaluation. Many have not been seen yet by Academy voters. When the Golden Globe nominations come out this week, they will lean heavily toward “names” for the sake of their TV show. But when Oscar voters sit down and reflect on artistic merit, there’s plenty to consider before getting to “The Dark Knight.”

'E' Not Shy-a About Stealing

Remember the lead story in this column from last Friday about Shia LaBeouf? We told you he's dropping out of a film because his hand was so badly smashed. Well, E! Online must have really liked it. They stole it right off this page, along with a quote from our source that Shia's hand was "worse than anyone thought." The worst part of this? The E!-lifters pretended the quote came from their source. The story then went out to many places as an E! story, "E" standing, of course, for "enemy" if they try this ever again. You're on notice, kids.