Before the Oscars, the Parties Are Everything
LOS ANGELES — Late Saturday afternoon, the best actress nominee Michelle Yeoh — decked out in a shimmering pink Armani top, a chunky diamond-encrusted, oval-shaped bracelet on one wrist and a six-figure, skeleton-dial Richard Mille timepiece on the other — stood by a glass staircase in front of Giorgio Armani’s mammoth Beverly Hills boutique.
In “Everything Everywhere All at Once”— a sci-fi comedy that plays like “Being John Malkovich” meets “The Matrix”— Ms. Yeoh’s character is a Chinese immigrant who runs a laundromat, but also a kung fu master and a glamorous movie actress in other parallel universes.
Now, she was living in one of those realities as the guest of honor being feted by Armani.
Her co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan, the film producer Lawrence Bender and the actor Samuel L. Jackson hovered nearby as Ms. Yeoh exchanged hugs with the actress Tessa Thompson. Then she posed for a selfie with Dr. Thor Thorsson, a pediatric cardiologist at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Michigan, who was visiting the town for the weekend and staying with a friend who works in the movie business. “I just think she’s awesome,” Dr. Thorsson said.
Ms. Yeoh and her partner Jean Todt, a motor racing executive, headed to the back of the store, where she tried on nearly a half-dozen of Armani’s new sunglasses.
A reporter asked Mr. Todt which ones were her favorites.
“All of them,” he said.
But Ms. Yeoh wasn’t doing interviews with reporters.
Not here at Armani and not during the previous evening at the nearby Mandarin Oriental Residences, where Vanity Fair and Richard Mille honored her with a party of their own. The attendees included Mr. Quan and the musician David Byrne.
It turned out Ms. Yeoh, 60, was on an interview blackout after earlier in the week igniting a small firestorm. She had posted on Instagram screenshots of an article from Vogue that pointed out that a victory over her closest competitors, Cate Blanchett and Andrea Riseborough, would be the first time a woman of color won the best-actress Oscar since Halle Berry, 21 years ago. (Actresses of color such as Viola Davis, Ariana DeBose and Octavia Spencer have all won Oscars since 2002 but in the supporting-actress category.)
The concern is Ms. Yeoh, by including a passage that named Ms. Blanchett, may have broken a rule outlined in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ regulations that prohibits nominees from singling out a competitor by name in public communications.
The Run-Up to the 2023 Oscars
The 95th Academy Awards will be presented on March 12 in Los Angeles.
(Although since Will Smith, who won best actor last year, managed to slap Chris Rock without having his award taken away, some thought the potential violation was less about what appears in the rule book and more about the optics of a woman being unapologetic about her own ambitions.)
But Mr. Bender, who met Ms. Yeoh more than two decades ago with the director Quentin Tarantino for a film role she didn’t get, found it impossible to hold Ms. Yeoh’s chutzpah against her.
“I’m just glad she’s getting to have this moment,” Mr. Bender said, shortly before Ms. Yeoh popped out a side door. Mr. Bender then headed out the front, bound for the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Chanel was hosting their annual pre-awards dinner with Charles Finch.
Guests like Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon were among the first to strike a pose for the tireless photographers, after heading up a winding path surrounded by tropical plants.
Ms. Sedgwick was decked out in a fitted black Chanel suit and a bustier. Mr. Bacon had on a gray suit and narrow, rectangular glasses, the kind actors usually wear when they are giving speeches on behalf of important world causes and need to look smart.
After them came Michael B. Jordan, who wore an olive Chanel sweater and a bedazzled C-shaped Chanel brooch. A handler felt it was askew and moved in to adjust it. “Perfect,” he said, before photographers snapped away.
In a nearby garden that served as the cocktail area, Lauren Sánchez and Jeff Bezos were on one side talking to the filmmaker Darren Aronofsky. (“Are you going to Vanity Fair?” Ms. Sánchez asked Mr. Aronofsky.)
On the other side, Oliver Stone was congratulating Judd Apatow on a film Mr. Apatow recently completed.
Bells chimed, letting guests know that it was time to go inside the lounge and take their seats for dinner. Few took the cue, so men in black went around and made it explicit.
But how bossy could any of them be? The guests included Idris Elba, who was standing by a giant tree with his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, and Nicole Kidman, who was a few feet away, decked out in pearls and giving a hug to Ms. DeBose, who last year won best supporting actress for her role in “West Side Story.”
And so, it wasn’t until well past 9 p.m. that waiters brought out the first course, a Caesar salad, which was followed by a choice of chicken Parmesan and spaghetti, steak au poivre, or roasted cauliflower steak.
Mr. Stone was seated in one room with a small group that included Colleen Camp, a character actress and film producer who also is one of the Oscar season’s biggest hostesses. Mr. Finch was at a larger table the next room over, beside Sigourney Weaver.
A little after 10 p.m., Beatrice Grannò, the Italian actress who won a Screen Actors Guild award for “The White Lotus,” in which she plays an aspiring piano player, gave a surprise performance.
Much like Ms. Yeoh, Ms. Grannò was also having a parallel universe moment, hers in front of the piano of the Polo Lounge, where she was dressed in black Chanel, doing a rendition of
“The Look of Love,” in honor of Burt Bacharach, who wrote the song made famous by Dusty Springfield in 1967 and died last month at the age of 94.
Tobey Maguire was a few feet away from Ms. Grannò, capturing the moment on video. Waiters emerged with dessert, a mint ice cream sundae with cotton candy on top.
Stars continued to materialize: Marion Cotillard in the center of the dining room. Andrew Garfield and Kristen Stewart, both in the garden. Hugh Grant in the main lobby, holding a pair of Chanel gift bags, as the actor Daniel Kaluuya approached to introduce himself.
“You’re a legend,” Mr. Kaluuya said. “I just love the way you’ve pivoted in your roles.”
“Thank you, thank you,” said Mr. Grant, who couldn’t seem to figure out how to get out of the hotel.
“Is this the exit?” he asked a member of the support staff, pointing straight to the front door.
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