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Oscar’s wild nightcap

Glitterati celebrate the evening

Paul Giamatti might have had the best description of the Oscar nominee experience.

Toward the end of the Governors Ball, thesp said: “There’s this enormous tidal wave of buildup and then, uh, well, let’s go home.”

And home the glitterati went, but not before spending a couple of hours in the Kodak’s ballroom, which Sequoia Prods. had transformed into what Ball chair Cheryl Boone Isaacs called a “sleek club” in white tones with a 27-piece band.

Among those in the night’s plus column were Lionsgate prexy Tom Ortenberg, who said, “The best thing about movies like ‘Crash’ is they pay the bills and, frankly, help the world be a better place.”

Ortenberg paused and said: “But now we have the problem of too many people coming to our after-party.”

Sony topper Howard Stringer said he thought the show itself was “as gallivanting stylistically as it was in its choices.” AMPAS exec director Bruce Davis said, “We needed a smart sophisticated evening, and Jon Stewart gave us that.”

Although he didn’t take home the hardware, Terence Howard said being nominated “transported me from obscurity to the center of the world.”

Robert Altman, who collected an honorary Oscar, said next year “I plan to sweep” with “A Prairie Home Companion.” As for the film business itself, Altman said: “It’s the only game in town.”

At Morton’s, Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter was hosting his mag’s annual bash.

John Waters said the heavy-hitter guest list was what drew him to the VF party. “All the people are here who can say yes or no to my movie,” said the helmer. “I ask — and then I go back to Baltimore.”

On hand was Harvey Weinstein, who said, “Give me a few months” and he’d be ready for Oscar contention next year.

And as for expressing the upside of the Oscar experience, “Pride & Prejudice” helmer Joe Wright said: “I never left an award show after being shut out and felt less like a loser.”

Elton John‘s post-Oscar bash at Pacific Design Center may be the night’s perennial third stop, but it has one gem the other two can’t offer: a perf by its host and Grammy-winner John Legend that brought down the crowded-to-the-rafters tented party.

Event raised nearly $3 million for his AIDS Foundation, triple the tally of past years.

Paul Haggis, his family and his two Oscars were the centerpiece of Lionsgate’s soiree at the Chateau Marmont, where the party spilled out on to the hotel’s courtyard lawn and into hallways. Co-victors Cathy Schulman, Bobby Moresco and Hughes Winborne also flaunted the hardware and hoisted glasses with Lionsgate brass, including Jon Feltheimer, Michael Burns, Tom Ortenberg, Nick Meyer, Tim Palen and Sarah Greenberg. Among the other “Crash” crew at the fete were thesps Matt Dillon and Bahar Soomekh, and producer Bob Yari — standing well clear of Schulman, his current lawsuit nemesis.

Lionsgate made a bold move to go against the grain in staging a post-Oscar soiree before anyone knew what the envelopes might hold, though one staffer admitted there were some naysayers. In the end, Lionsgate was celebrating two victories: the Oscars for “Crash” and a second week in a row of being No. 1 at the box office with “Madea’s Family Reunion.”

(Shalini Dore and Sharon Swart contributed to this report.)