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Even with the end of the writers’ strike, this Oscar season has seen fewer parties, fewer celebrities, and a general feeling that perhaps none of this actually matters. It’s too bad, because the “work” — as they call it in Tinseltown — was great this year.

This story first appeared in the February 25, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The main thing keeping the party circuit going has been corporate sponsorship. And all the product placement has become exhausting. At the umpteenth party for Patrick McMullan’s book “Glamour Girls” on Tuesday night at the Sunset Tower hotel, a p.r. person for the sponsor, diamond company Leviev, actually went into the hotel’s restaurant after the photographers had left and began collecting loaner jewelry from guests who were still having dinner. “It was beyond tacky,” said an onlooker.

On Thursday, Oliver Peoples threw a luncheon with the film producer Bob Evans and Perrier Jouët sponsored Friday night’s Women in Film party at studio honcho Peter Guber’s house, but fatigue was setting in. As one fashion editor summed it up: “I said to someone last night, ‘I want to crawl under a rock.’ And he said, ‘Watch out. That rock is probably sponsored by Miss Sixty jeans.'”

The hottest ticket of the week was Bryan Lourd’s party Friday night and, of course, that might have had something to do with the fact that the press wasn’t allowed inside, though it certainly didn’t stop them from showing up.

There were at least 80 photographers crowded outside to snap Madonna, Sir Ben Kingsley, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Casey Affleck as they jumped out of their Bentleys and Priuses — falling into two clear camps in the global warming debate — and headed inside the CAA agent’s home.

Among the events the press was invited to, the most exclusive that night was a dinner at the Chateau Marmont hosted by the Diamond Information Center. Sharon Stone, who showed up in Dior, with whom she has a beauty contract, said there was nothing wrong with a little product placement, particularly given the current alternatives in the celebrity universe. “It’s my job, not some eccentric hobby. I don’t think vomiting in a parking lot is my job,” she said in apparent reference to wild starlets like Britney Spears (who Stone actually ran into at the grocery store last week). “I think bathing is my job. I’m a grown-up putting kids through school. I have a family that loves me and doesn’t treat me like I am their job.”

The night before, Larry Gagosian hosted an opening for Julian Schnabel’s show attended by Diane Keaton, Tilda Swinton, John Waters, Lisa Eisner and Anjelica Huston. And Dior held its annual Dior Beauty dinner beneath the colonnade at Chateau Marmont. The clear tent erected over the terrace for the week (turning the garden into a living room with sofas and chandeliers) provided ample space for guests including Jacinda Barrett and Michelle Monaghan to sip Champagne, much needed by Georgina Chapman, who had just flown in from New York. “The three-hour time difference is killing me. I want to go put on my pajamas,” she said. As some guests complained about the unseasonably cool temperatures, Angie Harmon, in a flowing vintage number, was more concerned about what to do with the evening’s party favor: the 11-pound Dior coffee table book. “I actually already have one, but I can take this home so my husband can throw it in front of the car when the brakes go out.”

Meanwhile, de Grisogono sponsored a Forties-themed dominos night at the Beverly Hills Hotel benefiting The Art of Elysium. Befitting the Havana theme (pre-Fidel), cigars were rolled — Roberto Cavalli got his hands on at least one — and mambo beats filled the ballroom. And here, celebrities were enticed by the promise of a little gaming: Charlize Theron, Kate Hudson, Ashton Kutcher, Salma Hayek and Donna Karan all threw down tiles. “Salma’s really competitive,” Mia Maestro warned.

She wasn’t the only one. “Now that you know the game, pick it up,” Demi Moore ordered her competitors after the first several rounds as the likes of Penélope Cruz watched the action.

But Theron eventually took home the prize — a $25,000 donation for the charity of her choice.

Fortunately by Saturday, there were actual awards — not sponsors — to celebrate. “I’m actually nominated,” said Sienna Miller at Film Independent’s Spirit Awards in Santa Monica. “I’m not just here for the free booze.” Cate Blanchett showed off her burgeoning belly, gasping, “It’s cruel to make a pregnant lady waddle all the way up here,” as she climbed the stage to pick up the Best Supporting Female award. Of course, the crowd was also agog at the other pregnant lady in the room — Angelina Jolie, who revealed the news via a form-fitting dress from Western Costume.

Ellen Page, who merely played pregnant in “Juno,” ended up taking home the Best Female Lead statuette, as did the flick for Best Feature. “Juno” director Jason Reitman basked in the glory, but his mind was already on the Academy Awards. “Sunday, no sneakers,” he said, adding he made a “major” fashion faux pas by suggesting he wear another designer’s shirt with his Armani tux. “I was trying to save them some money,” he said. “They were not into that.”

Gagosian, Oliver Peoples photos by Tyler Boye; ISA, Domino by Amy Graves; Dior beauty by Donato Sardella; Burch, Huston, Hutton by Alex Berliner/BEImages; Beckinsale by Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Mendes by Todd Williamson/WireImage

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