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The endless round of pre-Oscar parties kicked off Thursday with a dose of high art at a lunch thrown by Oliver Peoples at the former Buster Keaton estate in Beverly Hills. Now owned by cosmetics maven Victoria Jackson and her husband, the rambling manse is home to their massive collection of paintings — from Picasso, Warhol and Picabia to Magritte, Dali and Kahlo — and that’s just the first floor. Co-hosts Milla Jovovich, Carmen Hawk, Tracey Ross and Pilar Boxford of Richemont culled a crowd that included Reese Witherspoon, Vincent Gallo and James Caan. “Sometimes as I’m walking by these paintings in my nightgown, I think, ‘I’m not doing too bad,'” said Jackson.

The art focus continued at the opening of “Damien Hirst: Superstition” at Gagosian Gallery Beverly Hills. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, David Hockney, Courtney Love, Peter Morton and Linda Evangelista, Hedi Slimane, Tim Jefferies, Steve Martin, Ed Ruscha, Lauren Hutton and Eli Broad were a few of the faces in the crowd. Flashbulbs inevitably popped when Tory Burch strolled in on Lance Armstrong‘s arm, but for most guests, it was about the art. Love lamented that some pieces were “a little rich for my blood” before finally settling on a print. Several others were content just to browse, including Kirsten Dunst, Gina Gershon and Jeanne Tripplehorn.

Over at the Sunset Tower Hotel, the Brits held court during a Miramax Films and Jo Malone London fete for Oscar-nominated imports “The Queen” and “Venus.” Peter O’Toole whispered into Ben Affleck‘s ear, while wife Jennifer Garner raved to Helen Mirren, who cast aside dowdy royal fashions for the event. Rather, she said she picked up her sky-high, plastic-soled heels in an L.A. neighborhood “where strippers would get their shoes.”

The makeup, not the fashion, was the focal point at Dior Beauty’s annual dinner at Chateau Marmont. Charlize Theron popped by to get her nose powdered before heading out to present an award elsewhere, while Sheryl Crow paused to chat before heading to dinner at Meg Ryan‘s house with Gwyneth Paltrow. Designer Gilles Mendel was on a high after meeting Catherine Deneuve at his own cocktail party a few hours before. “I was surprised she knew me,” he said. “But she’s a fan of furs.” Those who stayed for the late supper included Shiva Rose McDermott, Helena Christensen and Diane Kruger.

The following day, Tamara Mellon and about 40 of her Jimmy Choo-coveting friends, including Cheryl Hines, Irena Medavoy and Gelila Assefa, took a break from Oscar-week madness with a mellow luncheon at Shelli Azoff‘s Beverly Hills home. That night, Stuart and Jane Weitzman threw a dinner for Jennifer Hudson in the Gable and Lombard Penthouse at the Roosevelt Hotel, which drew “Dreamgirls” co-stars Lela Rochon and Anika Noni Rose, Rebecca Gayheart, Eric Dane and Karolina Kurkova. Although rehearsals kept Hudson from showing up until 10:30 p.m., when she did, she mused on the new role fashion has in her life. “Just show me a great dress and I’m there. I’m so excited to put it on that I have to walk the red carpet twice.”

On Saturday at Film Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, co-sponsored by Elle, the crowd included Sean Penn, Michelle Williams, Christina Ricci, Channing Tatum, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson and Kerry Washington. Daniel Craig showed up looking every bit James Bond, with dark sunglasses, a rogueish tan and unbuttoned shirt. “I was trying not to,” he insisted. Sharon Stone arrived 25 minutes into the show but was around to witness Ryan Gosling take Best Lead Actor. “Forest [Whitaker] asked me to win for him tonight. He said he’s exhausted,” joked Gosling, who won for his work in “Half Nelson.”

But leave it to Giorgio Armani to collect a crowd rivaling the Oscars, which he did at his Armani Privé show that night at Ron Burkle‘s Green Acres estate. Sandwiched front and center were Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, George Clooney, Penélope Cruz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyoncé and Martin Scorsese. Across the way were Katie Holmes, Josh Hartnett, Natalie Portman, Adrien Brody and Mark Wahlberg. “I’m presenting to people who are not there to be critics,” said Armani. “It’s more a spectacle and one of emotion as well.” And while DiCaprio and Cruz stifled a few giggles and Clooney poked fun at the bursts of applause by randomly clapping loudly, no one could deny it was a power moment. Clint Eastwood caught up with Sidney Poitier, while Mirren and Blanchett made chitchat. Once the show was over, the designer said he was most excited “to go out to dinner,” but not before final hugs from Cruz and Faye Dunaway.

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