In the Spirit of Fun

Indie awards gets respeci

While most of Saturday’s crowd at the Spirit Awards was part of the indie world, Armyan Bernstein, a self-confessed “big studio guy,” said he was at the Spirits out of respect. “Every movie is hard to make,” he said. “But these people are more clever because they had to do much more with less.”

Arriving early was John Waters who said, “Every person in this room could greenlight my next movie.”

The Oscar celebrations began mid-week, including a parade of parties Thursday. At the U.S.-Ireland Alliance Oscar Wilde party, HBO’s Colin Callender joined 400 others at the Wilshire Ebell Theater where Terry George, William Monahan and Van Morrison were honored. The honoring was mercifully short, with Monahan saying he preferred brief speeches.

“I think I gave the shortest acceptance speech in the history of the WGA,” said “The Departed” scribe, “except in cases where the award was given posthumously.”

However, no one wanted the evening’s centerpiece perf to be shortened: an hour-long set by Morrison.

As Morrison sang, the indie film world gathered at the Chateau Marmont for a latenight shindig thrown by producers Jamie Patricof (“Half Nelson”) and Gary Gilbert (“Garden State”).

Any indie party worth its salt seems to require plenty of beer, an abundance of scruffy haircuts and an appearance by Zach Braff, who showed up just before midnight.

Leonardo DiCaprio showed class by not stealing the limelight from Macy Gray at Vanity Fair’s Amped soiree at Boulevard3: he arrived after her perf.

Despite being a pre-Oscar event, Amped had all the earmarks of a pre-Grammy party, including a benefit performance by Gray for her NoHo music school and a hefty crooner guest list with and Bobby Brown.

It was a British bash at the Sunset Tower Hotel, where Miramax’s “The Queen” and “Venus” were celebrated.

“I am hoping to enjoy the Oscars like a tourist,” said “The Queen” scribe Peter Morgan. “I was just at the Golden Globes and at tables next to me were Will Smith and Steven Spielberg and Rupert Murdoch.”

At Friday night’s Italian Institute of Culture (where the men could give the women a run for their money in the hair and accessories department) honorary Oscar designee Ennio Morricone held sway as the guest of honor.

The 78-year-old maestro, with a mind-numbing 400-plus composing credits, said he was “a little bit embarrassed” by all the attention, and proceeded to give a preview of his Oscar speech when he told the crowd that “to believe in one’s work and the possibility of the self is very important.”

As if on cue, Clint Eastwood waltzed into the room to the collective flash of the paparazzi. Eastwood, of course, was the Man With No Name in the Sergio Leone Westerns to which Morricone provided the signature music.

Morricone and other composers got together again on Saturday at the annual reception for Oscar-nominated composers and lyricists at the Beverly Hills home of Bonnie and John Cacavas. Save for Melissa Etheridge, all the nominees were present, including Spain’s Javier Navarette, who scored the music for “Pan’s Labyrinth,” the second collaboration with Mexican director Guillermo del Toro in a planned trilogy. Citing the historic relationship between Spain and Mexico that dates back to the Spanish Civil War, Navarette said, “Lots of Spaniards who fought for the left, when they lost the war, they traveled to Mexico, and Mexico warmly received them — so it’s an important cultural and intellectual history.”

Another Mexican was the center of attention that night at UTA agent Keya Khayatian‘s West Hollywood home: “Babel” screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

Arriaga, newly arrived in L.A. with his family in tow, was looking forward to bringing his teenaged children to the Kodak, but his parents, alas, would have to watch from their hotel.

(Steve Chagollan, David Cohen, Anthony D’Alessandro, Mia Sulpor and Steven Zeitchik contributed to this report.)

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