HOLLYWOOD’S DENIZENS ARE SUBJECT to intense mood swings, and the present mood borders on the ebullient. After an ominous lull, movies have started shooting, TV pilots are being cast, restaurants are packed, limousines are rolling and most talent agents have found that their expense accounts have been restored.As an emblem of “normalcy,” stories dealing with 9/11 are being actively shopped at studios and networks, defying earlier demands for “comfort food.” Mind you, this euphoria hasn’t permeated the executive suites as yet. Some corporate hierarchs still look like emigres from Enron as they fret about deflated stock options. The “suits” at Bertelsmann continue to chop bodies and hunker down for a “protracted” recession — a forecast that contradicts Alan Greenspan’s guarded optimism. Those gurus who predicted that vertical integration would insulate the multinational media companies from business cycles are still in shock, from the discovery that these massive entities are more volatile than the networks and studios they absorbed. If the “suits” were worrying about stock prices, however, the people responsible for the product were ready to party, as was vividly in evidence during the frenzy of Golden Globes week. What was once a boozy banquet, a sort of award-laden free-for-all, has now evolved into an orgy of pre-Globe parties and pre-pre-Globe parties, not to mention post-Globe parties. Indeed, the proliferation of events now threatens to surpass those of Oscar week. To be sure, some participants express regret that the Globes dinner itself has evolved into a meticulously rehearsed made-for-TV event. An evening once valued for its faux pas now seems choreographed to eliminate displays of spontaneity. The lively bar scene at the back of the room has been banished. Dinner guests warily sip their table wine, mindful that free-roaming TV cameras may instantly intrude. “The whole occasion seems stilted,” says one nominee. “I mean, this isn’t the Oscars. There are maybe 80 part-time foreign reporters voting and the winners give these teary speeches. The whole thing is maudlin.” But if the ceremony has become stiff, the party scene has become downright exhausting. One of the town’s most garrulous talent agents admits he found the whole exercise confounding. “By the time you see some nominee at the after-party, you’ve already encountered him several times before at the pre- and pre-pre-parties,” he says. “How many different ways can you say, ‘You were great in that movie?’ ” Inevitably, a certain psychic exhaustion was visible on the faces of participants. Every time I saw Ron Howard I wondered how he could do yet one more interview about schizophrenia. Or whether curmudgeonly Robert Altman could dream up one more aphorism in praise of British actors. Today’s stars tend to be very disciplined in the public eye, but I kept wondering when their composure would crack as they were paraded from one event to the next. Would Sissy Spacek finally concede that she was bored having nervous breakdowns in movie after movie? Would David Lynch confess that he had no idea what “Mulholland Drive” was all about? Would Tom Cruise explain what really happened during the last half-hour of “Vanilla Sky”? Would Ryan Phillippe acknowledge that even the actors in “Gosford Park” had trouble understanding their dialogue? None of this actually came about during Golden Globes week, of course. At least not in my sight line. Everyone was unnervingly gracious as things marched along on schedule. And a key reason, perhaps, was simple euphoria. The aura of doom-and-gloom has lifted. Better times lie ahead. In a town of mood swings, this is clearly a time to party.
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