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Gifts, parties and celebrities: Events and famous faces fill Los Angeles with Oscar excitement

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood is in full-on Oscar mode.

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 theatre 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. Here's the latest:

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FANCY FOODS: 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.

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AN OSCAR EDUCATION: 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 theatre 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 theatre's back doors.

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RED CARPET, GREEN DRESS: Most women attending the Academy Awards choose their dress weeks in advance and keep it a secret until the big day.

James Cameron's wife, Suzy Amis Cameron, started looking for her dress more than a year ago and she showed it off on a mannequin at a party Wednesday night.

Suzy Cameron held an eco-dress design contest to raise funds for Muse Elementary, the eco-friendly school she founded in Los Angeles. She unveiled the winning dress and its designer, 21-year-old Michigan State senior Jillian Granz, at environmental organization Global Green USA's seventh annual pre-Oscar party.

The long, flowing gown is made almost entirely from sustainable materials. It's one shouldered, with a big slit up the side, and it's "Avatar" blue.

"Suzy likes blue," said James Cameron, an Oscar nominee for best director and best picture for "Avatar," which features a blue humanoid species living on a faraway moon called Pandora.

Cameron said it was just a coincidence that the eco-friendly message of his film echoes the message of his wife's gown and the eco-friendly school it's supporting.

"We have the same value system," he said. "We believe that it's absolutely critical for us to live sustainably."

Other celebrities attending Global Green's annual pre-Oscar call for increased environmental awareness included David Duchovny and Jessica Alba.

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MIRRORS EVERYWHERE: Instead of returning to their seats after presenting or accepting an Academy Award, Oscar's stars might opt to relax in the Architectural Digest green room backstage at the Kodak Theatre, where they can have a drink, watch the show on a flat-screen TV and check their reflection in multiple mirrors.

Interior designer Roger Thomas, who is responsible for the look of the Wynn hotels, says Oscar's green room was inspired by Hollywood's golden age. Black lacquer furniture is trimmed in shades of cream and white, flanked by end tables topped with orchid plants and oversized crystals. An outdoor garden space connected to the green room provides celebrity smokers with a private, covered place to light up. The floor inside is splattered with paint, like one might find in the art department on a studio lot. And there are mirrors everywhere.

Besides creating light and reflection inside the room, ample mirrors allow stars stepping onto Oscar's worldwide stage to see themselves from every angle.

"You feel your best when you look your best," Thomas says.

Maybe that's why there's also a makeup chair right outside the green room.

 
 
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