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Oscar rallies H’wood

A quick peek at the social scene

Hollywood’s changing of the guard reverberated through Oscar week’s social scene.

Thursday night, the titan tribe convened at Brian Grazer‘s house to welcome incoming Paramount chair Brad Grey to the brotherhood ahead of the Oscar weekend frenzy. Some insiders dubbed the intimate celebration, co-hosted by Tom Freston and Grazer, Grey’s “coronation,” since it marked one of very few occasions when the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Howard Stringer, Michael Lynton, Michael Eisner, Ron Meyer, Sumner Redstone, Chris Albrecht and Harvey Weinstein gathered in one place. The heads of every talent agency were also in attendance to kiss the ring, along with a bevy of producers, filmmakers and stars.

A few nights later, uncertainty over Weinstein’s post-Disney future tempered the revelry at Miramax’s annual Oscar Eve soiree. Harvey and his brother Bob both reiterated their vow to continue filmmaking while acknowledging their very public divorce from the Mouse House.

“Reports of this being our swan song could not be further from the truth,” Bob told the aud at the Pacific Design Center. “No event or person will ever break up the brothers Weinstein.”

Nevertheless, words like “legacy” kept popping up in remarks by this year’s Max award winners. The chocolate Oscars could very easily have been labeled bittersweet.

After paying tribute to Weinstein and helmer Martin Scorsese, “Aviator” star Leonardo DiCaprio did his best to rev up the crowd, which included such Miramax stalwarts as Quentin Tarantino, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Smith, along with Clive Owen and Gael Garcia Bernal.

“Let’s go get ’em tomorrow, huh?” DiCaprio said.

The mood was more buoyant at Universal’s “Ray” bash, where Spago diners chowed down to the sound of Ray Charles tunes. Jamie Foxx led the crowd in a call and response ditty, “Thank you, Universal.”

Revelers segued from the Miramax and Universal soirees to the Night Before party, co-hosted by Variety, where merriment continued into the evening. (See separate story.)

Earlier Saturday, the indie crowd showed its Spirit at its annual kudofest in a tent by the sea. The indie world’s allegedly casual luncheon masks an underlying seriousness that would make the crew on a sinking submarine seem lighthearted. After all, this is their Oscars.

Lions Gate topper Tom Ortenberg called the Santa Monica event “Indie Appreciation Day: You don’t get the box office kick of the Oscars, but you get a certain validation.” Alan Blomquist said the Spirits “used to be the hippie Oscars; now it’s the trendy Oscars.”

“As a kid I thought this is what the Academy Awards would be like,” said Armyan Bernstein. “At the beach in a tent with people drunk and happy celebrating movies.”

The affair that nets the Independent Film Project/Los Angeles roughly $2 million began early, with many guests arriving before noon for the reception, followed by lunch, then the kudocast. It was an intensely social crowd.

“You can’t swing a dead cat without seeing someone you know,” said Par Classics co-topper Ruth Vitale. “It’s become a destination event,” said Miramax production co-prexy Meryl Poster. “People used to come for the Academy Awards. Now they come for this.”

Afterward, winners moved down the beach to IFC’s after-party at Shutters, where “Garden State” director Zach Braff seemed surprised that he was even there.

“When I made it, I never imagined that we would even get invited to this show let alone win the award,” Braff said.

“Sideways” star Thomas Hayden Church admitted he didn’t get to see much of the festivities since he “was in the media tent” for most of the afternoon.

Former host John Waters had his own theory why the kudocast is one of the hottest tickets in town. “Everybody is much cuter here than at the Oscars,” Waters joked.

“Motorcycle Diaries” star Garcia and helmer Walter Salles offered a different explanation.

“That we won,” Salles said. “That makes it different.”

Although the night’s big winner, “Sideways,” had Fox Searchlight funding, guests didn’t seem to mind seeing the film take home IFP kudos.

“I think the definition of independent and nonindependent is getting kind of blurred,” Kevin Bacon said. “I think the films that challenge what we think of as mainstream films are important, and that’s what ‘Sideways’ does.”

At the British embassy, 24 nominees — the most in a decade — were feted. It was the third Oscar go-round for “Vera Drake” helmer Mike Leigh, who said he no longer gets excited when people whisper in his ear, “You’ve won, you’ve won,” because “every other damn time I lost.”

Also drinking Champagne in the garden: British legends Ken Annakin and Ronald Neame.

A stellar array of Oscar-nominated talents for song and score turned out Saturday afternoon for the annual Society of Composers and Lyricists fete hosted by Bonnie and John Cacavas at their BevHills home (a house, it was pointed out, that was once lost in a card game by Zeppo Marx). Even the baronial Andrew Lloyd Webber managed to make an appearance. “It’s fantastic that movie musicals are once again being made,” said the knighted composer before apologizing for having to duck out to rehearse the “Phantom of the Opera” song “Learn to Be Lonely” with Beyonce for the Oscarcast — a prospect he said “terrified” him.

Later that evening, the nominated cinematographers were being toasted by their peers at Kodak’s annual pre-Oscar dinner at Bistro Garden in Studio City. Caleb Deschanel pilloried the press — this publication included — for suggesting that “The Passion of the Christ” was somehow snubbed by Academy voters, as if his own nomination amounted to chopped liver.

Robert Richardson suggested the Oscar be divided five ways by “a diamond cutter” and each nominee given a piece.

Meanwhile at the Century Plaza, Walter Murch presented George Lucas with the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ first Filmmakers Award at the org’s 52nd annual Golden Reel Awards.

The TV biz encroached on Oscar turf Friday at the Black and White party benefiting the Film Foundation, a preservation org, at the Mondrian.

Co-hosted by odd couple McG and Scorsese (“He liked my use of color in ‘Charlie’s Angels,'” marveled McG), the event lacked stars apart from the James Van Der Beek set. McG’s “OC” cred tilted the balance toward the tube.

Thursday, MGM celebrated its Oscar and Spirit Award nominations with a chic 250-guest party at Campanile. “Hotel Rwanda”‘s Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo and Terry George provided the axis of attention.

MGM’s Chris McGurk said this was one of a series of parties the studio would throw in its last days, including the premieres of “Be Cool,” “Beauty Shop” and “Amityville Horror.”

“At least we’re going out well-catered,” joked McGurk.

Earlier that evening in BevHills, Cheadle picked up a giant crystal bowl at Ebony magazine’s bash, which toasted the record five Academy-nominated performances by black actors this year.

“Whatever happens on Sunday, we really kicked them in the mouth this year,” he said to raucous applause.

Wyclef Jean performed for the crowd at Crustacean that included Natalie Cole, Macy Gray, James Avery and Roger Ebert, who took to the dance floor with his wife, Chaz.

At Spago, the Italian Film Commission and Cinecitta feted countrymen up for awards, who included Dante Ferretti, up for his eighth Oscar, Francesca LoSchiavo and Luigi Farloni.

At Hollywood’s new Day After club the environmental group Global Green had its “Rock the Earth” event.

The event didn’t seem to attract many industryites — the 800-strong crowd seemed more political/environmental — but it did have celebs including Orlando Bloom, Kate Bosworth, Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz and Tim Robbins, who performed with his band.

That evening, the Italian film commission toasted its honorees at Spago while Vanity Fair’s Amped event also vied for revelers on a fete-filled night.

(Addie Morfoot, Elizabeth Guider, Steve Chagollan, Dade Hayes and Justin Chang contributed to this report.)

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