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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 09:38 GMT
Reporters' log: Oscars 2006
The Oscars are upon us once again and the world's media is descending on Hollywood for the annual awards ceremony.

The BBC News website's Jackie Finlay is joining other BBC reporters to cover the event. They will report on their experiences in this Oscar diary.

Monday 5 March 0830 GMT

It was a night of excitement backstage at the Kodak Theatre.

We had the chance to question winner after winner and despite accidentally offending my favourite actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, by asking if as a character actor he now hoped to take on more lead roles ("I don't think a character role is a supporting role"), it was a great evening.

The delighted cry that went up when Crash was pronounced surprise best film was the measure of how seriously the hundreds of reporters in the room - and by implication their readers - take their Oscars.

I couldn't hide my delight when Wallace and Gromit won best animated feature, and I got a kiss from Aardman's PR into the bargain.

Steve Box revealed that his wife had made the mini bow-ties for their statuettes in the past couple of days.

Teri Hatcher
Teri Hatcher was one of the stars at the Vanity Fair party
Rachel Weisz told me her win was "absolutely not" one in the eye for Bafta, which had, after all, put her in its lead actress category against the unstoppable Reese Witherspoon.

Later on, I had the dubious honour of being thrown out of the Vanity Fair party, despite having the proper accreditation and a nice empty spot on which to stand, although not before Teri Hatcher and Dolly Parton left the venue (in protest, obviously).

I was told that as a website reporter I had to bring you the atmosphere of the party from inside the BBC satellite truck.

A satellite truck contains several tiny TV screens and two harried producers. And a few empty sandwich wrappers - atmosphere certainly, but not the kind that makes a huge amount of copy.

I watched with the public as Madonna arrived at the party to huge cheers. I should have taken shears to that hedge while I had the chance!

It's been a great few days in LA and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. Now its time to finish up, go shopping and reflect on the new set of movies and actors anointed by Oscar.

Sunday 5 March 2000 GMT

Jackie Finlay at Vanity Fair

We were at the entrance to the big Vanity Fair party this morning - this is where all the stars head after the post-ceremony dinner to celebrate their win or nurse their wounded egos.

They were setting up the camera positions so that shows like BBC Breakfast can get the best shots of the stars coming in, and grab a quick post-show interview.

I'm going to be there as well, doing my best to get a quick peek through the waving microphones.

The huge hedge cut to spell out Vanity Fair is certainly an arresting sight - let's hope it stops enough celebrities in their tracks long enough to talk to the BBC.

Sunday 5 March 1900 GMT

Oscars red carpet
Fans and media descended on the red carpet early on Sunday
It is really hotting up on the red carpet now. The fans are all in their seats and getting very excited, and helicopters are constantly circling overhead.

Sandi and Glenice are installed in the front row and told me they were delighted with their position, almost directly opposite the first TV meet-and-greet interview area.

There are already several glamorous dresses in evidence as the female TV presenters try to outdo each other. Pink and red seem to be the colours of choice so far.

The large Oscar statues at the entrance to the red carpet are being given a final spray of gold paint, and I overheard the supervisor telling one sprayer in all earnestness that there was still a pimple on one of the statue's shoulders that had to go.

I treated myself and walked the length of the carpet, which has to be one of the plushest and luxurious I've ever trodden. It is being constantly vacuumed and swept even now, and actually feels bouncy underfoot.

They do get the best, these stars, although I am slightly concerned for Rachel Weisz. One of Britain's best hopes for an award, her name is being mispronounced regularly by the Americans, who are calling her Rachel "Wees".

It's "vice", guys, "vice". Let's just hope they get it right at the podium, or her acceptance speech may be less than gracious.

Sunday 5 March 1542 GMT

Here are my three favourite moments in the lead up to today's Oscars.

A man stands in for Heath Ledger during rehearsals for arrivals
Stand-ins were used during rehearsals for the red carpet arrivals
1) On Saturday, there was a full Academy Awards rehearsal at the Kodak Theatre. We went down to the red carpet for a look. Everything was at it would be on the night - except that obviously the stars were not there. Instead, "extras" were assigned to play their parts. This resulted in the beautiful sight of an 18-stone black woman with a sign round her neck reading "Dolly Parton".

2) We are staying in The Roosevelt Hotel. Whenever we tell people this in LA they all say: "Oh, the bar there Teddy's is the hottest in town."

Excellent, I thought. For once, I can't be turned away as I'm actually staying there. Hot footing it to the front desk I asked to be directed to what is fundamentally our hotel bar. The reply? "If you have to ask where Teddy's is then you won't be getting in."

3) Last night, I was interviewing the supermodel Helena Christensen live from the red carpet preparations for BBC Radio Five Live. She was wonderfully accommodating (hanging around in the cold for 10 minutes as Sport finished a Powergen Cup semi-final preview, when she could have been hanging out with A-listers). On air, Helena was talking us through the THREE top drawer parties she had been at in the last four hours. "The second was a little private affair at the home of a producer friend," she told me.

"Were there good nibbles?" I asked.

"Oh the nipples were great." she replied.

After a second's pause we both realised what she'd said and dissolved into fits of giggles.

Now I really wish I was invited to more of those exclusive dos.

Sunday 5 March 0700 GMT

I've just been to the Razzies, which target the worst American films of the year rather than the best.

You can see who won here and how the evening went here.

It was a hugely low-key affair after the easy-going and possibly coincidental glamour of the Independent Spirit Awards this afternoon.

Many were expecting the Razzies to be the exciting event out of the two, but it was the Indies that shone this year, mainly thanks to a similar nomination list to the Academy's, giving their guest list a little extra glitter.

George Clooney at the Independent Spirit Awards
The Independent Spirit Awards brought a brush with George
With the press room only one-third full, we were up close and personal with several of tomorrow's big hopes - something that certainly won't be the case in the huge and busy backstage interview area at the Kodak.

At one point I even almost walked directly into heartthrob of the moment George Clooney, who was heading off purposefully in the opposite direction - although I'm afraid we were both going too fast for me to pass on messages on behalf of all you ladies.

The Razzies, by contrast, seem to have lost some sparkle after last year's surprise visit from Oscar-winner Halle Berry.

It was still a very witty and necessary event, but needed more impressive highlights than a few clips and running gags to retain its sharpness and growing influence.

Sunday 5 March 0300 GMT

The day before the big event then - thankfully the sun's shining again which is good, as there are still large patches of the red carpet that need to dry out from the rain before it's suitable for, say, Jennifer Aniston's high heels.

She's one of the many presenters confirmed for Sunday's ceremony, along with Ben Stiller, Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon.

I heard that Angelina Jolie was invited but will be remaining in Paris with the kids - Brad Pitt has been spotted in LA though so am hoping he'll turn up.

One of my favourite tales from pre-Oscars crazy Hollywood has been the Tom Hanks DVD sent to all nominees.

This is the second year the Academy's done this apparently - and it's Tom's turn to front a presentation telling you how to behave should you be lucky enough to win a golden statue.

Timing is key - apparently it should only take you 60 seconds from the moment your winning name is announced to stand up, get over the shock, make it on stage, give your speech and exit stage left (or right, can't remember having never won an Academy Award before).

According to Tom, quick high-fives to your loved ones / fellow cast members / agent in the audience are all you've got time for before legging it on stage - hugs are out. Oh, and if you survive all that in your remaining seconds at the podium, you should put some creativity into your speech, make it memorable, witty and entertaining.

By this point, I'm sure I don't need to make it clear that if you bring out a crumpled piece of A4 listing everyone you've ever worked with, you'll be played off stage by the orchestra quicker than Gwyneth Paltrow can blub.

Am looking forward to seeing which A listers take Tom's advice to heart, and who's brave enough to shun it...

With less than 24 hours to go then - in my humble opinion the preparations seem to be going well - was funny seeing the big US shows having red carpet stand-ins with placards round their necks saying Eric Bana and Nicole Kidman. Even stars arriving gets rehearsed in la la land.

Sunday 5 March 0200 GMT

So the ones who have been winning all season have also won at the Indies.

No surprises, but it was great to be in the tiny press tent with the big names all coming in for a chat.

Felicity Huffman receives award
Huffman won an award for the film Transamerica
We got to meet Felicity Huffman, who said she was going to Velcro her award to her chest and was more worried about fitting into her Oscar dress than who would actually win (oh really!).

Matt Dillon was slightly "emotional" and said his worst Oscar nightmare was taking a date and not remembering her name.

Philip Seymour Hoffman talked down his threat to bark his Oscar acceptance speech should he win, saying it was a promise made when he was 19 and very drunk, and that his friend had called to let him off.

And Ang Lee reflected on the Brokeback Mountain jokes in circulation: "When I made the movie I didn't know gay cowboy was catchy or funny."

Now I've got 10 minutes to change outfit (such as it is) and get to the Razzies.

Everyone says this is the hot ticket - although no-one is expecting nominee Tom Cruise to show up.

Saturday 4 March 2230 GMT

Just one day to Oscars and the smaller award ceremonies are getting under way.

I'm installed in the press tent at the Independent Spirit awards on Santa Monica beach, with a ticket to tonight's Razzies as well.

The ceremony is about to start and the atmosphere is buzzing.

A small but voluble crowd has been cheering the many celebrity arrivals, including Felicity Huffman in a pretty full-length white gown.

Terrence Howard worked the crowd and posed with a security guard for the cameras.

And George Clooney had the biggest cheer of the afternoon - he spent several minutes signing autographs and threw his pen into the crowd.

It was all really laid back, even though the security is tighter than in previous years, according to the other press here.

A great practice run for tomorrow's Academy Awards, as many of the same films are nominated, unusually.

Will be fun to see how the winners compare.

Saturday 4 March 0500 GMT

Have met two lovely ladies, Oscar fans who have been going to the bleachers - the raised seating alongside the red carpet - for an amazing 37 years.

Glenice and Sandi
Glenice and Sandi are ready for the clambering and screaming
"Babe" Glenice Churchill, 75, from Chino, California, and little sister Sandi Stratton, 63, from Escondido, California, are addicted to the event.

They told me they hadn't missed one year since they started going, except for the year Ronald Reagan was shot and they sent the fans home, and the year of the second Gulf War when there was no red carpet.

Back in the early days it was a matter of queuing up and camping out overnight, whereas now they have to fill in myriad forms which ask applicants to reveal any previous convictions.

They wear T-shirts with the slogan "Bleacher Creatures" and even though Glenice is in a wheelchair waiting for a knee operation, they are ready for the clambering and screaming that must be done on Sunday.

Lou, Sandi's husband, never comes with them. "I don't want him to come," Sandi says. "He wouldn't have a good time."

Watch out for them in the front row.

Saturday 4 March 0015 GMT

Heavy rain today and even snow in the mountains. Everyone got into their car and queues formed right across the city.

Jackie Finlay on the Oscars red carpet
Heavy rain didn't dampen spirits on the red carpet

The bad weather wasn't just confined to LA - apparently Ang Lee's LA-bound plane was having its wings de-iced moments before taking off into blizzards in New York. (He made it safely though).

The director isn't the only nominee with problems - Wallace and Gromit animator Nick Park's luggage, including tuxedo, has gone missing, he told me at his hotel.

He has nothing but the clothes he was wearing on the plane, and a Paul Smith bow tie specially designed for the ceremony.

A few minutes later his luck changed - a heavy light fell over during a TV interview, but missed the back of his head by inches. Surely a good omen!

He and co-director Steve Box chatted to me about their acceptance speech, should they win, and we all came up with a fun idea.

I can't reveal what it was, as they might just do it on Sunday - watch this space.

I was also lucky enough to meet the voice of Wallace, the venerable Peter Sallis, who has also flown over for the ceremony and told me he was delighted to be going.

And talking of luck, I bumped into some photographers with Newspix International, who had a spare pass for the red carpet and we headed straight over there.

Peter Sallis
Peter Sallis is looking forward to the ceremony

It was buzzing with media, all filming previews for the big day. It was great to be on the spot - although the rain had made a little muddy pond on top of the plastic flooring protecting the red carpet.

Not a great day for wearing baggy linen trousers.

Earlier I'd rushed over to interview Oscar veteran reporter Sandy Kenyon, who has been covering the event for 19 years, knows everyone and gets the best of access.

He played me his just filmed tapes of a personal tour of the Kodak with the show's producer Gil Cates, who showed him the newly finished green room as created by the Oscar set designer Roy Christopher.

The green room is an area that hardly any media get to see, and Sandy was the first to see it this year.

It looked incredibly glamorous, with plush white velvet seating and huge vases of fresh flowers, just like a Hollywood starlet's lounge. But not much bigger either - definitely celebrity room only.

Friday 3 March 1730 GMT

While my visiting UK colleagues have been sitting around the pool or buying dodgy souvenirs on Hollywood Boulevard, I've been trying to fathom out the sudden rush in interest in Crash.

Could Crash make a late splash?

The bookies have slashed the odds on the film taking best picture and Hollywood insiders are talking up the chances of Paul Haggis's crime thriller taking the top award.

The 11th hour buzz reflects what many in Hollywood have been saying for months.

The feeling is that the long standing favourite, Brokeback Mountain, is good - but not an all-time great.

Apparently at the last official academy screening of the film "only about three people" applauded at the end of the movie.

But then, the film hardly leaves you in the mood for whooping and cheering. Perhaps the last minute speculation is nothing more than idle gossip stirred up by bored journalists looking for a story.

After all, everything has gone very smoothly in the run up to the ceremony this year. No stolen Oscars, no global crisis threatening to cast a dark shadow over Sunday's show.

Friday 3 March 0400 GMT

A strenuous afternoon. Started off with a quick lunch by the pool with a couple of colleagues, in glorious sunshine, because it seemed churlish not to.

Blossom Room, site of the first Oscar ceremony
The Oscars have long outgrown their first venue

We dropped in on the hotel room in which the first ever Oscar ceremony was held in 1929, the Blossom Room.

We agreed its gently faded grandeur, including impressive ceiling, made it a great room for a wedding - certainly too modest for the giant thing that Oscar has now become.

Then I set off to pick up several press passes to the various award ceremonies being held over the weekend.

First stop, the Academy Awards themselves. The security feels almost as tight as at the airport, as reporters are planted four in a row in front of harsh spotlights while their passports and ID are checked and their photo taken.

Having just bought my fake statuettes from a stall and actually taken them with me into the room, I was worried I'd be arrested for purchasing non-Oscar copyright goods.

I could take a photo of my pass and print it here, but I'd be executed on the spot.

Then on to pick up Vanity Fair party credentials - although by the time I'd got there a thoughtful colleague had already got them.

So on to the Independent Spirit awards press table in yet another part of town, and a pass promising me access to the do "in a tent on Santa Monica beach".

Oscar souvenirs
No shortage of souvenirs
Hope the tide stays out.

Then back to Hollywood Boulevard to see how the red carpet was progressing.

Have found that my room is next to the radio production room as well as the TV room.

Have decided to rechristen my room the online production room - despite my travels round LA I am in it filing a lot of the time - although it does mean I'll have to tidy away my clothes in case anyone drops in.

Friday 3 March 0345 GMT

I have come to LA to cover the Oscars for Radio 2 and Five Live. So far both stations have only wanted me to talk about one subject - James Blunt.

James Blunt
Thank you, America! There's no escaping Blunt as he rides high in the US charts
Many people would travel 5,000 miles to escape You're Beautiful, but 10 hours on a plane has deposited me in a country where James Blunt is a novelty.

He has finally hit number one in the US with that song he sings on an iceberg.

This has made him the first Brit to top the charts since Elton John in 1997 - a time so long ago that Elt was not a Sir - nor even married to a man.

So for now the gay cowboys of Brokeback Mountain are having to take a back seat (or should that be saddle) as I explain on air how Blunt has gone where Robbie Williams and Oasis have failed.

But for you Blunt haters out there, do not despair.

Instead take solace in the knowledge that when it comes to the albums chart Back to Bedlam may be at number five, but it is being outsold by three albums aimed at toddlers.

The top three places are filled by brand new kids' CDs.

James Blunt may have served in Kosovo, but he was no match for the Disney's Channel's High School Musical, the Curious George Soundtrack or the magnificently titled Kidz Bop Vol. 9.

Tot pop rules.

Perhaps his life's not so brilliant after all.

Thursday 2 March 2000 GMT

It's almost lunchtime and the sun is warming the tourists, pavement stars and handprints on Hollywood Boulevard.

Quite a surprise after weeks of freezing temperatures and snow back in England. The thought of sending my copy from the hotel poolside is very tempting.

Better than my room, with view of the car park and gentle sound effects of a busy BBC production office in the room across the hall - my poor BBC One Breakfast colleagues were working until 4am this morning.

From that room one can hop out on to the roof and admire the frantic activity around the red carpet, with last-minute polishing and golden drape-adjusting.

The plastic cover is staying put for the rain predicted for Friday, but the exuberant weatherman on local TV station KYLA predicts fine weather for the weekend.

Went to interview the two accountants in charge of counting the Oscar votes.

Zoomed up 49 floors in a lift in 3.5 seconds, to an astounding view over several tower block helipads to the whole of LA and the Hollywood sign.

If you're going to be an accountant, do it in Los Angeles.

This morning my New York Times (why not LA Times?) provided by the hotel told me that Philip Seymour Hoffman had made a bet with Capote director Bennett Miller that whoever won an Oscar first would bark their entire acceptance speech like a dog.

It also says spoof Brokeback movies are becoming popular on the net - titles such as Brokeback to the Future and The Empire Breaks Back (try www.dailysixer.com or www.gorillamask.net).

Proof, if any more were needed, that the movie has made its mark. The film and director Ang Lee already have the best bookies odds, at 1/6 on for best movie and 1/12 on for best director at William Hill.

Anyone for spoof Oscars?

Thursday 2 March 0500 GMT

Arrived after a gruelling flight watching movie after movie back-to-back - all in the name of last-minute extra research, of course.

Gorged on Harry Potter (best of the series so far), Hustle and Flow (Terrence Howard is a worthy best actor nominee, and what a cool film), Paradise Now (compelling but will the Academy back it to win?) and North Country (not outstanding, but then it was getting late!).

At the airport, one security guard revealed he was set to be on duty at the red carpet on Sunday.

His first time at the Oscars too, he said, as he offered to buy me a drink.

Isn't LA a friendly place!

Passed the Kodak Theatre, the venue for the awards, on the way to the hotel and glimpsed a row of large Oscar statues wrapped in cellophane, ready to be hauled into place.

Must get the camera out as soon as it's light tomorrow.

Thursday 2 March 0030 GMT

Hollywood Boulevard is closed to traffic as preparations get underway for Sunday's ceremony.

So far, torrential rain has posed the biggest challenge to the guys rigging up the infrastructure outside the Kodak Theatre. The red carpet went down today and the bleachers have been erected.

The entire structure is shrouded in clear plastic to protect it from the elements.

It is sunny today but more rain is forecast for Friday. Everyone's hoping the next storm will head out of town before the big day.

There are noticeably more tourists hanging around - all snapping photos of the frenzied activity.

Some are disappointed that they won't be allowed into the bleachers. The free seats were assigned weeks ago to fans who've been subjected to background checks.

Security is getting tighter by the minute.

Wednesday 1 March 1400 GMT

To say I'm excited is a bit of an understatement. This is not only my first time at the Oscars, and my first time in Hollywood, it's the first time I've been to the United States.

My dress is ready, my suitcase packed, my interviews set up after a frenzied few weeks of calls and e-mails.

Normally I'm covering the awards on a night shift in the office - but finally I'll be there in person after years of writing about the stars and movies from London.

Colleagues - and the man at the US embassy who granted my journalist's visa - have warned me not to judge America by the Oscars.

But celebrity glitz aside, there are several Americas at this year's ceremony - for example, the natural vastness of Wyoming in Brokeback Mountain (although the scenery is actually Canadian).

Then there is the clash of urban cultures in Crash, or the country as seen through the prism of some of its cultural heroes from the past century via Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote or Walk the Line.

But it's hardly an exhaustive list - so instead of worrying about the US I'll see, I'll just get into Oscar mood and buy a fake statuette.

In the meantime, I'm ready to board the plane and wave to my film world contacts as they file past me into executive class while I squash up in economy.

It'll be the same sort of dynamic at the red carpet on Sunday, no doubt - but at least I'll be there.


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