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Posted at 1:37 PM ET, 02/28/2011

The Academy Awards red carpet: Seeking equilibrium in the midst of glamour-madness

By Jen Chaney
Oscar host Anne Hathaway, handling the red carpet with a smile. (AP) More photos

On television, the red carpet at the Academy Awards comes across as many of the things it actually is: glamorous, crowded, intense and filled with some of the most beautiful, talented people working in Hollywood.

But TV also fails to capture other red carpet realities. It's frenetic. It's loud. And for the reporters, it's incredibly cramped, so cramped that at one point on Sunday afternoon, it honestly seemed like a brawl might break out between a print reporter and a member of Mario Lopez's camera crew. Call it "The Fighter: Red Carpet Media Edition."

Thankfully, there are people such as Pixar wizard John Lasseter, who stops by early on to chat about how much he loves coming to the Oscars. His gentle voice and friendly arm pats are so soothing, they provide just the dose of serenity and joy needed in our contentious little corner of the carpet.

"Right now it's like the calm before the storm," he says, just as the bleacher crowd starts to shriek, almost as if on cue. "And it gets so exciting. I actually never want to leave the red carpet. It is so, so much fun." (Well, it is on your side, Buzz Lightyear.)

Then along comes Jennifer Lawrence, so statuesque, so boldly red in that gown and such the gal pal that she kindly tells this reporter that she has lipstick on her teeth.

"It's all gone now," she helpfully advises once said reporter's index finger wipes it away.

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So has Lawrence, a newcomer to movies and all this awards-ceremony hoopla in general, ever gotten overwhelmed by all the flashbulb-and-faux-friendly madness?

"Yeah, at a lot of points," she admits. "But then you look back and you think, 'Well, I'm overwhelmed because I was nominated for an Academy Award. There are worse things. Suck it up and go.' "

A girl with a good head on her shoulders, an Oscar nomination to her credit and the good manners to tell a fellow female when she's pulled a Peggy from "Mad Men." We like this one. We wish she could stay.

But the celebrity conveyor belt must keep moving, which means some people just fly by -- Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Hugh Jackman, wait, come back! -- while others only seem to have the time for broadcast folks with bedazzled microphones, like your Billy Bushes and Mario Lopezes. That's right, this is what the journalism world has come to; USA Today and The Washington Post are getting trumped by A.C. Slater from "Saved by the Bell."

Armie Hammer of "The Social Network" stops by, looking dapper in his tuxedo and sporting a teensy bit of foundation on his otherwise stark white collar.

Is the Man We Call Winklevy on Facebook? No, he says. "I have enough real-life friends. I don't need digital ones."

Fair enough.

Hey, here comes Mila Kunis. Surely she'll have something fun to say to keep the spirits up. Did she share any conversations with her friend and "Black Swan" co-star Natalie Portman today, we ask?

"If I did, do you think I would talk about them?" she asks right back.

Um, no. But you could just say you talked to her today and aren't going to say anything further, we offer.

"I'm just not going to comment on that," she says curtly.

Surely there must be another nice, totally laid-back person to talk to on this red carpet ...

Ah, Ruffalo. Sweet Ruffalo. Here comes the Oscar nominee with his wife, Sunrise Coigney, sporting that sprightly blunt bob of hers. One reporter asks him what he did this morning to get ready for the event. And we learn that part of those preparations involved making out with Sunrise "whenever I can." All righty.

Hey, Mark Ruffalo, noticed at the Spirit Awards that your wife was working the red carpet harder than you were. What was that about?

"They all want singles of her, you know?" he says of the photographers. "I gladly walk away when they want singles. I'm sick of being in front of a camera."

Then Helena Bonham Carter pauses to chat and, queen's honor, she looks pretty great in a black dress designed by Colleen Atwood with a bit of foof in the back. It's goth enough to be a signature Carter look but nowhere near a train wreck.

"Im sure some people will find it disastrous," she notes, just before Harvey Weinstein zips by, tells her she looks gorgeous and gives her a kiss on the cheek.

Gwyneth Paltrow is near enough to touch, but only talking to broadcast reporters. (Damn you, Billy Bush!) Mark Wahlberg says something to E!'s Marc Malkin, but he's a little too far away to be heard. Things are starting to become a blur of Bullocks and Bardems.

Natalie Portman arrives at the 11th hour, in gorgeous purple and high heels that would be daunting even for a non-pregnant woman.

And then it's over. The reporters disperse, arriving at a detente by default. And thinking back on the rapid-fire interviews we just did -- too many to even record here -- it becomes clear that the person who offered the most down-to-Earth wisdom about how to manage Oscar stress may have been Jennifer Hudson.

"I tell myself, it's just a dress," she says. (And her dress, by the way, looks hot, albeit snug enough in the chest that it's pinching her skin a little.) "It's just hair and make-up. People go crazy over this. And I just think of the reality of things. You know, it's just people. And that's just my way to calm myself."

It is just people. It's just the red carpet. It's just one more Academy Awards. And like all things, it too has passed.

By Jen Chaney  | February 28, 2011; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Movies, Oscars  
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