LOS ANGELES — Jewels and parties. Stars and stand-ins. Rehearsals and news conferences. So much swag even Hollywood canines could rack up free goodies. The city is abuzz with all things Oscar as celebrities flock from all over the world for Sunday's Academy Awards...
NOTHING LIKE HOME: They don't have shopping quite like this in Kazakhstan. Sergei Bodrov, the Russian director of "Mongol," Kazakhstan's entry in the Oscars' Best Foreign Language Film category, spent Friday afternoon browsing luxurious swag at the Main Event Red Carpet Lounge and Green Suite at the 9900 Club in Beverly Hills.
Celebrity attendees were invited to fill green gift bags full of such gratis goodies as jewelry from Alyse Ziede and Heather Hyde, bottles of Icelandic Glacial H20, desserts from Nothing Bundt Cakes and watches from Curtis and Co.
There were even some goodies for pampered celebrity pooches and kitties, including accessories and clothes from John Paul Pet, Happy Go Lucky Dogs and K9 Duds.
Non-Oscar-nominated reality TV stars such as Tia Carrere ("Dancing with the Stars"), Joanie "Chyna" Laurer ("The Surreal Life"), Jason Whaler ("The Hills") and Beth Stolarczyk ("Real World/Road Rules Challenge") also showed up for some free stuff.
TALKING OSCAR: The 80th annual Academy Awards show promises lots of surprises and less than 3 1/2 hours running time, producer Gil Cates said Friday as he, director Louis J. Horvitz and film academy President Sid Ganis took questions from the press about Sunday's show.
Sitting beneath a clear plastic rain tent that shielded the red carpet and its occupants from drizzly skies, Cates promised a dry Oscar day.
"I'm confident the weather is going to be OK Sunday," he said, ignoring a current forecast to the contrary.
"If it rains, it'll be good for the flowers," added Ganis, who sat beside a bucket of yellow roses.
As the trio talked about the rain tent, red-carpet show host Regis Philbin popped in to say hello and to thank Cates for inviting him to "the biggest circus in town."
"I started the red carpet segment for KABC when I worked here in the '70s and it was a big hit," Philbin said. "We just took a camera down there and the red carpet was there, Army Archerd was in the stands calling out the names of the stars and one by one they came: Richard Burton, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly. ... It was the thrill of my life."
Viewers can also expect a thrill when they tune into the Academy Awards, Cates said, which will reflect Oscar's 80-year history.
Jack Nicholson and Keri Russell have been added to the roster of A-list presenters, he said, and the telecast will open with a 90-second film "that is arguably the most exciting piece of film that has ever opened an Oscar show."
Even though the year's nominated films haven't generated big business at the box office, the three Oscar honchos said they expect fans around the world will tune in to the program _ especially since the Writers Guild of America strike caused the cancellation or retooling of other Hollywood kudo-fests.
"Not only have there not been any awards shows," said Ganis, "but I think there's a good solid buzz about the strike being over (and) everybody back to work."
IRISH ALLIANCE: After running through his lines on the Kodak Theatre stage Friday morning, Colin Farrell joined a handful of stand-ins and other Oscar workers to watch a rehearsal of "Falling Slowly," the nominated song from the Irish indie film "Once."
Wearing a torn T-shirt topped with a vest and blazer, his shaggy hair tucked under a gray fedora, the Irish actor tapped his toes as the film's stars, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, played their original ballad.
Hansard, cradling the same beat-up acoustic guitar featured in the film, sat on a stool in front of Irglova's grand piano. The two shared a smile as the full sound of the Oscar orchestra rose up behind them.
When the song ended, Farrell bounded onto the stage to greet Hansard with a hug. Academy Awards producer Gil Cates chatted with the two Dubliners, and Farrell joked that he would "do some accent work tonight" so his Irish lilt would be show-ready.
"By Sunday I'll have the accent down," he said.
STARS IN SNEAKERS: They'll don designer tuxedoes and gowns on Sunday, but stars dressed down for weekday rehearsals at the Kodak Theatre.
Denzel Washington wore sneakers, track pants and a backward ballcap as he ran through his lines Thursday afternoon. Veteran stage manager Dency Nelson guided him through the two-minute rehearsal before sending him on his way with a friendly "See you Sunday."
A ponytailed, makeup-free Hilary Swank embodied superstar casual chic in a silky white blouse, skinny black pants and towering high heels. She stepped on stage, read through her lines and quickly disappeared into the Kodak commotion.
OSCAR NOMINATIONS EQUALS PARTY TIME: Everyone loves recognition from their peers, and actors, directors and film execs are no exception. That's why for many in Hollywood, Oscar week is party week.
Paramount Vantage toasted its nominees _ best-actor favorite Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood" writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson and "Into the Wild" supporting actor Hal Holbrook, among others _ with a private dinner-and-drinks soiree Thursday night at the week-old STK restaurant in West Hollywood.
John C. Reilly, Sissy Spacek, Maya Rudolph and celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins joined the nominated guests, nibbling on tuna tartare, mini steak sandwiches and oversized french fries. Day-Lewis, wearing a tan leather jacket and a woven fedora, was all smiles as he shook hands with fans.
Fox Searchlight was set to fete its nominees _ including "Juno" director Jason Reitman, screenwriter Diablo Cody and star Ellen Page _ with a dinner Friday at the same new hotspot. The festivities continue Saturday with Jeffrey Katzenberg's annual "Night Before" party, which benefits the Motion Picture & Television Fund and typically draws an A-list crowd.
BRING ON THE BLING: The red carpet wouldn't be complete without oodles of jewels, and stars and stylists have their pick of the bling during Oscar time.
Costume designer and sometime stylist Sophie de Rakoff stopped by Neil Lane's jewelry showroom in Beverly Hills on Thursday afternoon to select diamonds for Maya Rudolph, who was set to accompany her longtime partner, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson, to Sunday's ceremony.
"The jewelry is as important as the dress," said de Rakoff, who picked out three possible pairs of earrings and a set of stackable diamond bangles.
Rudolph will choose from 20-karat leaf-shaped dangles, 20-karat chandeliers and 15-karat teardrop-shaped earrings. Average price: $45,000 a pair.
In Hollywood's golden age, actresses wore their own jewelry to events, Lane said. But Rudolph, like most red-carpet beauties, is borrowing the pricey gems.
"A star could not buy enough jewelry to accessorize every red carpet she does," Lane said. "Now because everything is a fashion statement, everything is an accessory to be looked at. Every detail is looked at. If she wore that (piece) last time, she'd get ridiculed."
De Rakoff, whose costume-design credits include "Legally Blonde," "Sweet Home Alabama" and "All About the Benjamins," considers Lane her go-to diamond guy.
"In Hollywood," the jeweler said, "it's all about relationships."
Associated Press writer Derrik Lang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.