LOS ANGELES: Hollywood is in full-on Oscar mode.
The red carpet has been laid out in front of the Kodak Theatre, topped with a plastic sheet in case of rain. Traffic is snarled. Tourists are flocking to Hollywood & Highland to see a bit of the Academy Awards preparations and snap photos of themselves with giant Oscar statues.
The theater itself buzzes with activity, as rehearsals continue from morning until night, with the occasional celebrity quietly stepping in to practice presenting the coveted golden guy.
It's Oscar week, and Tinseltown is all aflutter.
Dana Delany, Kathy Najimy, Ty Burrell and Rachael Leigh Cook were among the celebrities who recorded public service announcements for the Creative Coalition Friday at Haven 360, an Oscar-week suite comprising gifting, parties and support for the arts.
Creative Coalition co-president Tim Daly is directing the public service announcements, which show stars singing the ABC's, as part of the organization's lobbying efforts to increase funding for arts education in public schools.
The videos will be presented at the Creative Coalition's Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. next month, along with a companion book, "Art & Soul," that features portraits of actors and their handwritten messages about what art means to them, Daly said.
"This is about keeping the arts in education," he said. "Kids learn their letters by singing. The arts make learning interesting and fun."
Haven 360 guests were also treated to hand massages from Olay, gifted with Elle jewelry and invited to peruse Backstage Creation's "celebrity retreat," where they could pick up a free $5,000 trip to Moorea, Botox and Juvederm treatments worth $900 from celebrity surgeon Dr. Frank Ryan, and luxury luggage from Dooney & Bourke.
Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin seemed relaxed as they stepped out together on the Kodak Theatre stage Thursday to run through their lines for the show.
The two looked out into a sea of placards showing where the stars will sit on Sunday. They laughed with each other and goofed around with show workers. At one point, Baldwin appeared to give a piggyback ride to Oscar producer Adam Shankman.
The two hosts chatted with the stand-ins and dancers and enthusiastically approached their rehearsal when suddenly Baldwin looked troubled after seeing himself on a big-screen monitor at the back of the room.
"We look so pale," he said to Martin.
"We're not in makeup," Martin said. "This is the way we actually look."
"Well who wants to see that?" Baldwin quipped.
From actresses and producers to sound engineers and film editors, female Oscar nominees celebrated their achievements Thursday at Women In Film's third annual pre-Oscar party.
Held at a home in tony Bel Air, the intimate cocktail party honored women's contribution to the film industry and urged women on both sides of the camera to inspire the next generation of female filmmakers.
Oscar-winning producer and host Cathy Schulman toasted the year's nominated women, but said "the fight remains a big fight for women in film." Only seven percent of the year's 250 top films were directed by women, she said.
Still, the mood Thursday was festive, as on-camera nominees mingled with their behind-the-camera counterparts.
Sound-editing nominee Gwendolyn Yates Whittle smiled as she talked about attending a flurry of Oscar events this weekend. Nominated "Precious" star Gabourey Sidibe chatted with Tracee Ellis Ross. Also celebrating were Nia Vardalos, nominated costume designer Monique Prudhomme, Angie Harmon, Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez.
The Academy Awards Governors Ball will be set in an art-deco nightclub drenched in bronze and purple, from the tablecloths and napkins to the custom-made outfits on the wait staff and orchestra.
"It will be a very, very grand, elegant evening," says Cheryl Cecchetto, producer of the official Oscars after-party, held at Hollywood & Highland's grand ballroom.
Chef Wolfgang Puck is preparing dinner for the ball's 4,600 guests, and he gave the press a preview Thursday of what's on the menu.
There are bite-size Kobe beef burgers, topped with tomatoes and pickles so tiny that a chef used tweezers to artfully assemble each appetizer. Guests can also nibble on ahi tuna cones and Oscar-shaped smoked salmon finished with caviar before the main course: "A twist on the old classic chicken pot pie," Puck says.
For dessert there will be chocolate Oscars of all sizes, along with various cakes and fancy pastries.
It will take more than 300 chefs and 600 waiters to serve the post-show meal.
"Preparations are going fantastic," Puck says. "We are ready."
The custom-made outfits for the Governors Ball wait staff and all-female orchestra are new this year, designed by Jeffrey Kurland, governor of the academy's art directors' branch and an Oscar-nominated costume designer.
Also new this year: A special engraving area where Oscar winners can have their names affixed to their just-won statuettes, which are marked only by a serial number when they're presented on stage.
Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan already knows what it's like to stand on the Kodak Theatre stage.
The 25-year-old star of "An Education" came to the theater Thursday to practice presenting on the big show. Wearing a blond pixie haircut, a black blazer and slacks, Mulligan was surrounded by stand-ins posing as presenters and winners. She ran through her lines, passed out prop Oscars, then disappeared through one of the theater's back doors.