Parties, Gowns, Campaign, Repeat: A Portfolio of the Long, Star-Studded, Red-Carpeted Path to the Oscars

When you attend over a dozen movie awards shows, parties, lunches, brunches, teas, and Q&As over two weeks on both coasts — as Mark Harris did for this week's New York Magazine cover story on the glamorously grueling Oscar-nomination campaign trail — you learn a few things. First: The biggest beneficiaries of all the hype and hoopla are … TV stars. Why? Because, in the long stretch of nonstop Los Angeles–based mandatory merriment that stretches from the American Film Institute lunch through the Golden Globes through the Screen Actors Guild Awards, they're invited to all the Oscar parties as insurance in case the celebrity tank starts to run low. And we think they improve those events considerably, because it means we got to see Stanley, Meredith, and Creed from The Office rocking it at, of all places, the BAFTA tea.

Other lessons: Avatar is now so influential that even in real life, celebrities now seem like 3-D versions of their fictional selves. While the Office folk headed straight for the food (we were disappointed to see that Meredith is well-behaved and in real life does not stuff her bag with hors d'oeuvres), a large chunk of the Mad Men supporting cast huddled together in an intense conversation, possibly about which of them would still have jobs this spring. How is that different from the show? It isn’t. And when an elegant looking Julianne Moore walked by clinging to the arm of a dapper man who will never, ever have sex with her, it was like A Single Man: The Home Game! (The gentleman in question was Tom Ford, making the two of them officially the hottest hag/walker combination in history.)

Along the way, Harris also ran into Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz, Kathryn Bigelow, Jeremy Renner, and Mo’Nique, who, thankfully, did not throw a TV set at us or in any other way remind us of her Precious character. They all played nice and left all the dirty work, which is truly exhausting, to the people in charge of making Oscar voters believe that they decided who to nominate all by themselves. Read Harris's tale of all the smiles, machinations, and high-profile feats of endurance now necessary to securing an Oscar nomination, and click below to see Brigitte Lacombe's intimate photo portfolio of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Gabourey Sidibe, Bigelow, and more, on the red carpet, in private, partying, and slipping into exhaustion, knowing that these events were just the run-up to the main one.

The Red Carpet Campaign: Inside the Singular Hysteria of the Academy Awards Race [NYM]