The giant (million-dollar?) new set for the 80th Academy Awards will take its place at the Kodak Theater tonight. The place sitters for the nominess start arriving Wednesday. The first production meeting with producer Gil Cates and director Louis J. Horvitz will be held next Monday. Of course, Cates has already been in his Oscar offices for the past three weeks, though he’s not admitting he’s planning for two possible presentations. However, the feeling at the Oscar Nominees lunch today at the BevHilton was that the show will go on as always — in its usual glamor. Academy President Sid Ganis wanted it plainly known that the purpose of the Oscars is to recognize the achievements of the night’s winners, and not for the ever-accompanying hoopla. "It’s not about the Oscar show. The Oscars exist to tell people that movies are an art."

The opening number of the 80th Oscar show will ilustrate that art in  a segment produced by Mike Shapiro, a veteran of 14 Oscar telecasts who has created a three-and-a-half-minute clip show of the 80 "Best Picture" winners. Oscar’s looking good.

While the air was filled with hopeful anticipation, Bruce Davis, the Academy’s Executive Director, allowed to me that they’re confident they could find writers —  "who could write fast" — as soon as the strike is settled. And he was also confident that Jon Stewart has a squad of writers ready for the event. There were a few Oscar-nominated writers on hand at the luncheon to pick up their certificates. Ronald Harwood, a Best Adapted Screenplay nominee for "The Diving Bell and yhe Butterfly," had flown in from London where he’ll return on Tuesday to prepare for the opening of two of his plays. He reminded the crowd that he’s not involved with screenplays as long as the strike continues. Best Original Screenplay nominee Jan Pinkava ("Ratatouille") sat at our table alongside striking scribe Kathy Greenberg who had also worked three years on "Ratatouille."

"The only way nominees previously received any recognition for their achievement was from the government. They got a letter in the mail," said former Academy President Richard Kahn (’88-’89), who inaugurated the Nominees’ luncheon 27 years ago. He said it was originally MGM’s Louis B. Mayer who noted there should be a conclave of the nominees before the ceremony. On another uplifting note for the Academy, Davis said they were "this close" to acquiring the final piece of real estate to complete the super site for the Academy’s planned museum, whose blueprint is now in motion.

The upbeat feeling of a strike settlement was also obvious earlier at the two Super Bowl bashes we attended Sunday, which were sparkled by members of the showbiz and civic communities representing the many entities affected by the strike. Cherna and Dr. Gary Gitnick hosted over 300 guests at their Encino estate with Chasen’s alumnus Arli performing chef duties. Michael Viner, Dwight Opperman and fiancee Julie Chrysyn hosted their help-yourself-dinner at Spago for over 200 guests. The tradition was started by Pierre Cossette when guests paraded through Chasen’s serving themselves in the glamorous, halcyon days of Hollywood.

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