Jennifer Aniston, one of our favorite people, is coming to New York . She’s filming two movies back to back in our fair city, and my guess is she’s not unhappy about it. Boyfriend John Mayer lives here.
Aniston and Mayer spent a big part of last night’s Vanity Fair Oscar party hanging out with two other New Yorkers, Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld, in an ante room at the Sunset Towers Hotel. They watched a tape of the Oscar show on a monitor and chatted with designer Narciso Rodriguez and photographer Kevin Mazur.
Jennifer is fairly stoked about her New York visit, and why not: she’s arriving just as the weather gets great. She’s also got just enough of an ironic sense of humor to make New York her home. Aniston has terrific comic timing. On last night’s Oscar show, she managed to not only keep up with Jack Black during their presentation, but outdo him. Her “Sorry, Mr. Katzenberg” line was not scripted. Aniston can take lemons and make them into comic lemonade. Good for her.
And just a PS to the US Weekly crowd, concerning the stuff I get a kick out of regarding who’s dating who or breaking up: from what I could tell, Aniston and Mayer seem very nice together, warm and relaxed. Will they marry? I don’t know and don’t really care. But they are a pleasant, fun couple. These days, that’s an achievement!
A few minutes after Penelope Cruz’s sensational win for Best Supporting Actress, her sister, brother and best friend all came running into the little bar area just off the main stage. The three of them whipped out phones, started speaking rapidly in Spanish, text messaging everyone they knew and high fiving each other. Penelope’s sister immediately called their mother in Madrid . Cruz’s manager, Jason Weinberg, was in tears. He nearly fainted during the supporting actress presentation waiting to hear Cruz’s name called as the winner…
…Famed composer James Newton Howard got married on Saturday to a beautiful young German woman named Annika. The happy couple told me during a break in last night’s show they’d been together for about six years. Howard has eight Oscar nominations including one this year for “ Defiance .” (He’s also got a couple of marriages behind him including one to Rosanna Arquette, FYI.) Congratulations!...
…Sean Penn’s mom, Eileen, was nervous that her son would lose to Mickey Rourke. “That’s all anyone’s been talking about,” she said. The feisty and well traveled Mrs. Penn was married to her late husband, Leo, the director, for over 40 years. She told me she considers Sean’s wife, Robin Wright, “a daughter.” She also said that her son Michael, the musician/composer, and daughter in law, singer Aimee Mann, are like “newlyweds” after 12 years. No snark here, kids. I did not ask about Madonna. If you’d met Mrs. Penn, you’d see why: she was simply too nice, and too happy for Sean…
What’s the funniest part of reading coverage of the Academy Awards and all the after parties? Reports from “sources” who weren’t there. Or anywhere.
But if you were at the 81st annual Academy Awards as well as the Governor’s Ball, and parties thrown by Vanity Fair and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, you would have seen a lot that was fun, some things that were kooky and outrageous, and a new sensibility born out of the recessive economy and the current labor problems in Hollywood.
And here’s something else: on Sunday, in the late afternoon, Snark died. The website defamer.com, which prided itself on miserable comments about Hollywood , went out of business. It was merged into its mothership, Gawker.com, a site that that has long presented itself as the web version of the long defunct Spy magazine.
One of my favorite writers, David Denby, of the New Yorker, recently wrote a whole book on the subject of Snark. What’s interesting is that snarkiness is not going to go over in the era of Obama, or in this economy. That’s why Defamer is gone. I predict that other Hollywood-bashing sites – all of which pounced incorrectly all over the Academy Awards how last night because they weren’t invited—will be gone soon. The absolute worst is one run by former New York Times writer Sharon Waxman. As usual, Waxman just doesn’t get it. Go ahead, bite the hand that feeds you, Sharon . Soon you’ll be out of another job.
This year’s Academy Awards show looked brilliant on TV—I watched part of it on a big screen monitor in the Kodak Theater (but please, can’t they get better screens with real speakers for the downstairs bars?) and about half from my seat in the theater. The Kodak never looked so good. Hugh Jackman was just terrific. The Swarovski crystal curtin was dazzling. Beyonce, Queen Latifah—knockouts. Ben Stiller was hilarious sending up Joaquin Phoenix. Steve Martin and Tina Fey got off an excellent bit mocking Scientology. And so on.
What also worked: those tributes during the acting nominations. Meryl Streep was totally blown away, she told me, by Sophia Loren’s speech. And because of Sean Penn, we actually got to hear Robert DeNiro speak, from the heart, on national live TV. He was outstanding. What those speeches did was connect old Hollywood to new, and introduce viewers to the legacy of the business. Those speeches—or toasts—celebrated the best of Hollywood , and guaranteed a renewed interest in it for viewers around the world.
As for snarkiness—well, there’s always a place for it. A little bit goes a long way. But in the last four or five years, that’s all it’s been. And the snarkers—the people who live off the crumbs of the ones who take the creative leap—simply got out of hand. They’ve crossed a line. Now it’s time to go get a real job, and pay the bills that have been piling up. A little cynicism is always a good thing. But it can become a self fulfilling prophecy. It’s one thing to comment and observe—just be careful you don’t destroy the object of your snarkiness. Like Defamer, you can put yourself out of business.
Just as this column predicted, Oscar night 2009 was all about Kate Winslet, Penelope Cruz, the Slumdogs. Dreamgirls director Bill Condon and producer Larry Mark put on the best Academy Awards show in years, bar none. No matter what the TV ratings were, the Academy can be proud of a job well done.
And yet there was much the viewers didn’t see, starting with the sub rosa appearance of Prince, who was waiting in the wings to congratulate his pal, Penelope, after she won. Prince was rumored to be playing a show later last night, like at 3 a.m., where Cruz and some other stars with stamina were supposed to show up.
I asked Jerry Lewis what his longtime partner Dean Martin might have said about Lewis getting a lifetime achievement award. Lewis, who’d just eaten two chocolate Oscars from Wolfgang Puck’s dessert plate at the Governor’s Ball, didn’t miss a beat: “Show off,” he said with a laugh. Lewis told me his plans to bring The Nutty Professor to Broadway as a musical are moving forward quickly now.
Meantime, the bar area of the Kodak Theater was like Grand Central Station all through the show. After she’d lost to Cruz, Benjamin Button star Taraji Henson showed up in the bar and could not get a drink. “I was with Brad and Angie,” she told me, “but I don’t know what happened to them.” So we helped Taraji get a margarita, which someone else paid for. After all, Oscar nominees shouldn’t be waiting on bar lines during the show.
But plenty of celebs do, like rock star Seal who left wife Heidi Klum in her seat while he went out to score sandwiches. He was obviously not used to this sort of task. “They wouldn’t let our security people in with us,” he noted. When I told him he was safe among the Oscar crowd, Seal replied, “It’s just good to have an assistant with you.”
Yes this is Hollywood, where even legends like Mickey Rooney and Jane Russell showed up to cheer on the new generation. They are the last of their generation. And Goldie Hawn — it was so appropriate that she toasted Taraji since she, Goldie, like Benjamin Button, appears to be aging backwards. She really looked sensational.
Some stars skipped the Governors Ball. Meryl Streep went with family and friends to Dan Tana’s, for example. But Sean Penn hung around with his second Oscar, chatting up Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates. His mom, Eileen, was escorted to the show by family friend Michael Nouri.
Mickey Rourke, who had been Sean’s chief competition, also skipped the Governor’s Ball. But early in the show he took a bathroom break. I asked him if he’d be replacing his recently deceased pooch.
“I have four other dogs,” he said, but then added: “But you can never replace a dog.”
Or teach it new tricks. I’m told that soon after the Golden Globes back in Janaury, Penn and Rourke had dinner at the Four Seasons in West Hollywood. Rourke left the table many times, and didn’t appear to take good care of himself. His recent rehabilitation could be like the book “Flowers for Algernon.”
And then there was Kate Winslet. At the Vanity Fair Oscar party, she and director husband Sam Mendes met and greeted new VFFs Diana Krall and Elvis Costello. Kate was near tears as waves of people stopped by to wish her well. What’s she going to do next, after The Reader and Revolutionary Road?
“Take a break!” she declared. That is, at least for the moment.
More about the Oscars and the parties later today…
Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein still has "it," the magic to pull together a bunch of stars for a private bash.
Last night, after The Night After fizzled over at the Beverly Hills Hotel – public protests are such a downer — and all the other studio gatherings came and went, Weinstein partied like it was 1999.
That was the year that Shakespeare in Love and Life is Beautiful won a raft of awards. Weinstein could only be happy because during the day Saturday Woody Allen picked up his first ever Indie Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for Vicki Cristina Barcelona. And Penelope Cruz got her Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress in the same film. She also seduced the crowd with a charming acceptance speech that was also a funny anecdote about Allen’s infamous hypochondria.
And so it was on the roof of the beautifully renovated Sunset Hyatt Hotel — now called, strangely, the Andaz — that Weinstein summoned a small turbo charged group of A listers. On the outside terrace, sitting in a tight little tableau were Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, with Benny Medina at their side, plus Robert DeNiro, actress Kerry Washington, director-producer Lee Daniels — whose hot film Push with Mariah Carey will be retitled Precious, Jessica Alba, as well as Weinstein’s Marchesa designer wife Georgina Chapman, and Leonardo DiCaprio (wearing his clamped down signature baseball cap), Kevin Connolly, last year’s Best Actress (and soon to be in Weinstein’s Nine) Marion Cotillard, Zack Braff, Chace Crawford, Bai Ling, designer Ozwald Boateng and Spirit Award nominee Anthony Mackie.
While the group chatted about babies, movies, the lightly falling rain and their next movies, who breezed through but the one and only Lindsay Lohan. She looked great, was sober as a judge (or as judges used to be), and talked excitedly about new projects and plans. She was sans companion Samantha Ronson, but that means nothing, and introduced everyone to a (platonic) male friend who owns local luxury car dealerships.
Inside the rooftop loft, staying away from the impending wet weather were the rich guys: billionaire Ron Burkle, and media investor Vivi Nevo with fiancée Ziyi Zhang, the great and beautiful young Chinese actress.
And still more stars and bold faced names wandered in and out, some coming from a dinner party at the great Italian restaurant, Madeo in Beverly Hills, where British talent agent Charles Finch took over the dining room (with the help of Chanel) for an intimate, elegant dinner. His guests included Clare Danes and Hugh Dancy, Miramax chief Daniel Battsek — who just hosted his own bash for Doubt and for director Mike Leigh at the new London Hotel, plus a natty and healthy Dominick Dunne, Milla Jovovich, Peggy Siegal, a whole gang from The Reader including Stephen Daldry, David Kross, producer Donna Gigliotti, and Frost/Nixon writer Peter Morgan (he also wrote The Queen).
Why weren’t some of these people at the annual Beverly Hills Hotel bash for the Motion Picture Fund? What we kept hearing all night: it was very dull, there were no gift bags, there were protesters outside the hotel making noise about the Fund shutting down the hospital at the Motion Picture Home — strange after all these years of million dollar fund raisers — and so on.
“The crowd was terrible and seemed like no one actually paid for their tickets,” cracked one observer. “They just filled the room with extras.”
Not the case over at the Chateau Marmont, where the Diamond Information Center hosted its annual dinner with guest star Julianne Moore. The DIC’s elegant Sally Morrison introduced the former president of Botswana, the much praised Festus Mogae, to a group that also included a Diamandi-encrusted Sharon Stone, Debra Messing, Angie Harmon and Dita von Teese.
And the Oscars? Everyone’s watching, and everyone’s going. I’m amazed by the snarky naysaying on blogs and in some gossip columns. Here in Hollywood, the party’s on, and no one wants to miss it!