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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 04:52 GMT
The Oscars: Reporter's diary
Californian dreams are being made on the podium of the Kodak Theatre as the film industry honours its finest movies of the year.

The BBC's Victoria Lindrea reports from Los Angeles at the 79th annual Academy Awards.

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 2245 local time (0645 GMT)

It's all over. The last of the stars have filed through the press room, clasping Oscars and cocktails.

Al Gore
There was Oscar success for Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth

It's been a night of international success, and many reporters are delighted by the wide-ranging nature of this year's honours.

Even the biggest winner of the night, studio thriller The Departed - which picked up four of its five nominations - was based on an original movie from Hong Kong.

And while it was undoubtedly a commercial success, becoming Scorsese's highest-grossing film yet and taking more than $250m worldwide, there were also nods aplenty for art-house features, like Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth and the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Host Ellen DeGeneres went down well with the celebrity audience, and if it wasn't a classic year, there were flashes of brilliance, the minimum of gush - and barely a political diatribe in sight.

Even the speeches were short. Which should please the Academy, the guests and the press.

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 2030 local time (0430 GMT)

The surprise success of the German film The Lives of Others was a popular win here in the press room.

The film, which also won best foreign film at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday, beat widely-tipped nominee Pan's Labyrinth - itself a winner of three Oscars.

Huge applause also greeted the honorary Academy Award winner, composer Ennio Morricone.

But sadly one of the difficulties with having a multi-cultural awards is you need to be fluent in several languages to follow the questions and responses.

Babel turns out to be more pertinent than I ever thought.

Still no sign of the acting stars of the night. Jennifer Hudson has obviously been working the stage with Dreamgirls co-stars Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose, but what's Alan Arkin's excuse?

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 1820 local time (0220 GMT)

Damn.

The lovely Mr O'Connell missed out on the sound mixing Oscar for the 19th time.

Still from Pan's Labyrinth
Pan's Labyrinth delves into the fantasy world of a young girl

As he predicted, it went to the big musical of the night, Dreamgirls. Watch out, Marty.

Pan's Labyrinth has already taken two awards, for art direction and make-up, so it's a good start for the hispanic community.

Needless to say, there is a lot of Spanish being spoken in the press room!

With wins for the short animated film The Danish Poet, and Ari Sandel's West Bank Story - a comedy about Israelis and Palestinians and their rival falafel stands - in the short live action category, it does indeed look like being a truly global celebration.

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 1740 local time (0140 GMT)

The press room has filled up with those of my privileged colleagues who had a spot on the red carpet, and we are all awaiting the start of the ceremony with baited breath.

Ellen DeGeneres
DeGeneres is the second female to present the Oscars by herself

Or perhaps not.

In a change to the traditional running order, which begins by honouring the best supporting actress, we are kicking off with art direction.

An important award of course, just not quite as high profile.

New host Ellen DeGeneres seems to have avoided the risque humour of Chris Rock or the political jibes of last year's Jon Stewart, choosing instead to sing the praises of this year's "most international Oscars ever".

There is clearly an emphasis on honouring the nominees not just the winners - which may not bode well for Scorsese, or my mate Kevin O'Connell.

Is this the Academy's way of avoiding giving the awards to those long-suffering 'losers'?

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 1700 local time (0100 GMT)

It's oddly pleasing to watch the arrivals without any of the inane commentary of the E! Channel.

There goes Spike Lee in black beret, cream jacket and polka dot cravat, definitely the most flamboyantly dressed male of the evening that I have spotted so far.

And doing their bit for British style is the dapper Mr O'Toole - in a maroon jacket - and Mr Daniel Craig, who told the BBC at yesterday's Independent Spirit Awards that he would be backing The Queen to win this evening.

John Travolta seems to be having trouble cracking a smile, his face is curiously tight...

My complete lack of fashion expertise (I sense my colleagues nodding) can only tell you that there seems to be a lot of black and white on the red carpet - though barely is the statement out of my mouth than our own Kate Winslet cruises by in pale green.

And there's the Queen herself, Dame Helen, in gold, an Oscar-winning colour if ever there was one.

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 1630 local time (0030 GMT)

It's freezing in here.

I'm in the press room surrounded by journalists dressed in their finery and hunched over laptops. Stars are arriving on the red carpet just outside - but a world away.

Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster has previously won two best actress Oscars
In here we have the multi-coloured, vomit-concealing carpet common to business hotels all over the world. But at least there's a buffet... though no cocktails, I note.

Early celebrity shows include Cameron Diaz, Catherine Deneuve and Jodie Foster (ah, perhaps she was the tiny blonde in blue spotted leaping into a limo outside my hotel), but as usual the big guns are waiting until the last minute to make their entrance.

Still it's a starlets' masterclass in how to pout and preen for the camera and, as ever, the more naked, the bigger the coverage.

Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano has just turned up, looking like a teenager at his high school prom. It will be a curious party that sees him mingling with cinema's elder statesman Clint Eastwood and Peter O'Toole after the awards. And here's Leo. Looks like the nominees might finally be en route.

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 1400 local time (2200 GMT)

Talking of extreme makeovers...

Robin with her Will Smith earring on show
Robin with her Will Smith earring on show
The bleachers, the stands which line the red carpet, are filling up and the excitement is growing, as crazed film fans whoop and scream at every passing camera.

For every man there are at least three women, perhaps predictably, given the female penchant for celebrity magazines and the focus on red carpet fashion.

Kathleen Reid, 61, has been hosting Oscar parties with her 61-year-old friend Joanna Kelleher for 36 years, but it was the ladies' first year in the bleachers.

Kathleen told me she was here to see George Clooney (and who among us girls isn't?) and would be supporting The Departed for best picture.

Sitting along from them was Jennifer Mays, 33, also enjoying her first red carpet experience and backing Babel for best picture.

"I'm looking forward to seeing Clint Eastwood, because my father was a big fan of his, and because I think he has made two great films this year," she told me.

Robin Golden-Joyas, 48, from Miami, was seated with her mother, a Californian native who, at 83, claims to be the oldest Bleacher-goer at the Oscars.

Oscar preparations
Preparations for the big night are under way at the Kodak Theatre
Sporting earrings with pictures of Will Smith and Abigail Breslin, Robin told me she began accompanying her mum 10 years ago when the bleacher seats used to be decided on a first come, first served basis, and fans used to queue up for weeks beforehand.

The system changed in 2002, following the 11 September terror attacks, and the tickets are now distributed by ballot.

Nowadays Robin and her mother have to ensure they are among the first to return their ballot form in late August to qualify for their spot.

She assured me they received was no special dispensation. But who could turn down Oscar's oldest "Bleacher Creature"?

SUNDAY 25 FEBRUARY, 0800 local time (1600 GMT)

The roads are closed off, the helicopters are buzzing overhead, the sun is shining and Oscar is getting his final nip and tuck. Hollywood's extreme makeover is complete - tonight is the big one.

It's the event that industry watchers, film publicists and studio honchos spend their year building up to. A win at the Oscars can see a leap in profits, and puts a film or star centre-stage on a global platform.

Last night I dreamt I met Dame Helen Mirren and she asked me to put a shot of whisky in her tea! Clearly the Oscars have taken over my brain, though I gather soup and Sudoko are the actress's preferred indulgence ahead of an awards show.

I almost certainly will see the dame tonight - in the press room - and if I don't, it will be the biggest upset in this year's Academy Awards.

Now I have just a few hours to perfect my own extreme makeover. Fortunately, LA is the home of plastic surgery.

SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY, 2200 local time (0600 GMT Sunday)

My Oscar experience frequently swings from the sublime to the ridiculous. Sitting behind a bank of cameras from such far-flung places as Italy and Japan, it's hard to believe the level of global attention that the Razzies attracts.

(l-r) Kathleen, Joanna and Jennifer
Clooney-spotting: Kathleen, Joanna and Jennifer
"Dis-honouring the worst achievements in film in 2006", the Golden Raspberry Awards have evidently secured their place in the Hollywood calendar - albeit a date that most stars choose to ignore.

Voted for by a mere 737 film fans, the ceremony rarely rises above the level of a school production, complete with grown men squeezed into Dreamgirls-style frocks and high heels, and a propensity for raspberry-blowing.

And yet, the world's press (myself included) are there.

And if nothing else, these guys know how to showcase a terrible movie.

Sharon Stone's Basic Instinct 2 took home four Golden Raspberries, including worst picture and worst actress, while "comedy" Little Man took three "dis-honours".

M Night Shyamalan's sorely misjudged Lady in the Water saw the Sixth Sense film-maker named both worst director and worst supporting actor.

Of course, the somewhat weary press entourage - who rushed from the Independent Spirit Awards to grab their spot in downtown Hollywood - were hoping Stone or Shyamalan might turn up to retrieve their awards, as Halle Berry did so memorably a couple of years back.

But no such luck, though having seen a parade of screen clips from Basic Instinct 2 - here entitled Basically, It Stinks Too - I can understand any reluctance on Stone's part to relive those memories.

As for Wicker Man, I can't believe it didn't make good on one of its five nominations. If this is the future of Oscar winners - the Wicker Man boasted Nicolas Cage and Ellen Burstyn - how long until we see Dame Helen coming to a multiplex, in a bear suit.

SATURDAY 24 FEBRUARY, 1100 local time (1900 GMT)

Met up with a couple of BBC colleagues this morning, who had spotted both Elizabeth Taylor and David Gest in the hotel, the latter plugging his latest desperate bid for fame, an autobiography entitled Simply the Gest.

Dame Elizabeth will no doubt be attending Elton John's annual Academy Awards party tomorrow, which sells off tables at $50,000 to benefit the singer's Aids Foundation. Apparently this year there will be no post-Oscar party, just an exclusive 650 guests arriving at 4pm and partying through the night.

Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct 2
Basic Instinct 2 swept the board at the Razzies
Or until James Blunt gets up to sing.

But it could be worse. Among the high profile guests expected to attend are LA's newest celebrity residents David and Victoria Beckham. No mention of a duet with Posh though.

Meanwhile, the red carpet is being spruced up for tomorrow. The plastic covers have come off the Oscars, and glossy TV presenters everywhere are rehearsing that ubiquitous line: "so what are you wearing?"

A glimpse of the flower arrangements suggests that red and yellow are the chosen colours of this year's Academy decoration - which surely bodes well for Little Miss Sunshine.

Speaking of which, must get myself to the beach and the Independent Spirit Awards.

FRIDAY 23 FEBRUARY, 1400 local time (2200 GMT Friday)

Having failed to get myself invited for dinner with Orlando Bloom and James Blunt, who were spotted in the hotel restaurant last night, I resorted to lunch with a classic Hollywood old-timer.

People removing flowers from truck
Could this year's colour scheme spell joy for Little Miss Sunshine?
Johnny Grant, a well-known face around Tinseltown, goes by the title of honorary mayor of Hollywood. Among his "official" duties, the 83-year-old presents the celebrities with their stars on the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

A former announcer on the Oscars red carpet, he told me how much the Academy Awards had changed since his heyday in the 1950s.

"It was a lot less hectic and a lot more collegial than it is nowadays," said Mr Grant, who bemoaned the domination of the press.

"I think they've oversaturated it. I'm getting so tired of the same faces."

Still, he said he would be watching it at home "in his shorts" and backed The Departed to win best picture - an increasingly popular choice among industry insiders.

Could it finally mean a double win for Marty?

Meanwhile, the stars are ducking into private parties all over town.

There may no longer be goody bags at the Academy Awards, but those stars will get their swag one way or another
Dame Helen Mirren and Peter O'Toole were among the guests at last night's Miramax party, and tomorrow there will be a small private party in honour of best supporting actress nominee Jennifer Hudson, right here in my hotel.

Elsewhere, studios Warner Bros and Fox Searchlight are among those hosting Oscar parties on Saturday night, with the latter offering a live performance by Cirque du Soleil and a $1000 ice cream sundae with 23 carat gold-plated cookies - according to People magazine.

There may no longer be goody bags handed out at the Academy Awards, but it looks like those stars will get their swag one way or another.

THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY, 1630 local time (0030 GMT Friday)

Just back from an interview at Sony Picture Studios, with sound mixer Kevin O'Connell, whose claim to fame is that he is the most nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards never to have won.

Oscar preparations
A 32-ft Oscar statuette is lifted into place outside the Kodak Theatre

The Scorsese of sound mixers, Mr O'Connell received his 19th nomination this year, for Apocalypto.

He was charming, and I will be keeping my fingers crossed that we meet again in the winners' press room after the ceremony.

The interview also provided a fascinating opportunity to see just what an intricate and complex art sound-mixing really is.

His office, the Cary Grant Theatre, is decked out like a cinema, in the centre of which is a huge deck of sound controls.

This allows the sound specialists and director to appreciate just how their film will be heard by an audience. Spiderman 3 was frozen tantalisingly on screen, but no sneak peeks I'm afraid...

Back from movie-making land, and the rain is chucking it down, prompting much frustrated horn-blowing outside my hotel window. I'm off out again shortly to interview the man behind 'the 27th Annual Worst Achievement in Film Dis-Honours', better known as the Razzies.

Meanwhile the news is full of the violent storms battering southern California, Britney's return to rehab in Malibu, and a judge sobbing in court during the final hearing into the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Preparing for his Oscar perhaps?

THURSDAY 22 FEBRUARY, 1130 local time (1930 GMT)

Having covered the Oscars via a television screen in Shepherd's Bush for the past five years, it's hard to believe I am actually here - a stone's throw from the Kodak Theatre in the heart of Hollywood.

Kodak Theatre
The Kodak Theatre is gearing up to welcome the Oscar hopefuls

But how come no one ever tells you the Oscars take place in a shopping centre?

After collecting my accreditation at a nearby hotel, I took a walk down the somewhat soggy red carpet which leads to the theatre - part of an upscale shopping mall on Hollywood Boulevard.

Here, celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck - and a host of flunkies - were giving the press a taste of what the stars will be eating at this year's Governors' Ball.

All the Oscar guests are invited to attend the annual ball following the Academy ceremony, and for the past 13 years, Mr Puck has been in charge of the kitchen.

He told me this year's event has been designed to have a relaxed, supper party feel, with four different seating areas and four kitchens, so the 1,500 guests can move around at their own volition and eat what they fancy.

"The food is going to be cooked right in front of the people," said the Austrian-born Mr Puck. But they don't eat anyway, do they?!

For those in need of liquid refreshment, there is this year's specially created cocktail, The Patron Star - a blend of tequila and orange liqueur with fresh lime, lemon, orange and 'naked' blueberry juice (I kid you not).

I had a taste - all in the name of research of course - and it's powerful stuff.

With Jack Nicholson and Peter O'Toole at the party, the evening should go with a bang!

As a parting gift, Mr Puck gave me a chocolate Oscar - his own creation and now part of an Academy Awards tradition.

"People expect to take two Oscars home, so we wrap them up and have them so they can take them home at the end of the dinner."

I think I'll save mine for the mantelpiece - after all, it's the closest I am likely to get to my own award!

WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY, 2100 local time (0500 GMT)

Touchdown in LA, and my Hollywood adventure begins.

Three Oscar nominees on the plane over, but none of the Dame variety, just a trio of best picture contenders - Babel, Little Miss Sunshine and The Departed - on the in-flight entertainment menu.

Wolfgang Puck
Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will be cooking for the Oscar stars

If only I had known, I could have done all my research en route.

Still, it was a timely reminder of the diversity of films on this year's shortlist.

Just five days to go before the Academy Awards, and with the voting ballots signed and delivered, the race for the Academy's most coveted prize still appears wide open.

Some claim this proves what a weak year it has been for film, with no single dominating movie, but it can only make the ceremony more exciting - especially since the lead acting awards appear to be a foregone conclusion.

No sign of Leonardo or Brad on my travels, but I spotted Robin Hood bad boy Keith Allen waiting for a taxi outside the airport.

Apparently Damien Hirst is throwing a party tomorrow at the swanky Chateau Marmont, ahead of his latest exhibition which opens here this weekend.

His advance entourage looked foreboding. Not sure it's such a good idea to gatecrash - I could end up sliced, diced and pickled in formaldehyde.

Royle Family star Ralf Little and Georgina Bouzova of Strictly Come Dancing fame were also in evidence - perhaps chasing the Hollywood dream and looking for the TV role that will launch them into the star stratosphere.

After all, it is TV pilot season here in Tinseltown, and look what House has done for Hugh Laurie.

So far I've seen palm trees, Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood Hills - from a taxi window - but it's 0500 in the UK and I've been up for nearly 24 hours.

The red carpet and the little bald men lined up outside the Kodak Theatre will just have to wait until tomorrow.




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