Nancy Miller and Nicholas Fonseca
February 27, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Maybe Lexi Featherston did have the last word. On the Feb. 8 episode of Sex and the City, the coke-addled ex-party girl (played with over-the-top outrage by 3rd Rock From the Sun’s Kristen Johnston) wailed, ”Whatever happened to fun?! I’m so bored I could die!”

That refrain — uttered before Featherston plunged out a window to her death — has become increasingly common this awards season as the litany of bacchanals that once defined midwinter Hollywood seems to be petering out. As one studio publicist recently fessed, the scene is ”on the thin side.” And with Harvey Weinstein canceling Miramax’s annual can’t-miss Oscar bash (thanks to a dearth of major-category Miramax noms), this year’s Oscar parties loom lamely.

Maybe everybody’s too damned pooped to party. This year’s shortened season (the Oscars take place a month earlier) means the biggest names must wade through an alphabet soup of accolades like the SAGs, DGAs, and BAFTAs in the span of a month — not to mention the People’s Choice, Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars. It doesn’t help that Oscar’s class of 2003 is less well known than years’ past — we’re sure Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo are lovely gals, but it’s doubtful they’ll be dancing on tables at the Governors Ball. The absence of Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman from the list of nominees also doesn’t bode wellthey’re magnets for a first-rate party crowd. As for the night’s likely golden child, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson…sorry, but what designer is clamoring to outfit this bulbous, hirsute New Zealander? And who’s excited to see his signature calloused bare feet? Anyway, he’ll probably only be around long enough to grab his gift bag and scram. As one party planner says, ”Jackson is a brilliant filmmaker, but he’s a totally different vibe than Matt and Ben.”

So are Tara Reid and Nicole Richie, but that doesn’t stop them from invading any party within reach. And the increasingly deep well of publicity-hungry reality TV stars — Trista and Ryan, when will you go away? — decrease a shindig’s cachet. ”I have had parties where we’ve had a no-reality[-show]-people rule,” sighs party wrangler Lori Levine. ”They devalue an event.” It happened this year at Sundance, where publicists spent more time shoving the likes of Lance Bass, Paris Hilton, and Nick Carter in front of cameras than they did promoting indie films. (”Real” stars like Demi and Ashton safely fondled their free loot in heavily guarded VIP rooms.) Says one flack, ”Sundance used to be for people involved in films. Now there are so many hangers-on and so much [product] marketing.”

A studio exec concurs. ”Parties have gotten so diluted. Everybody and their assistant is on the list. And it’s the poseur crowd. Celebrities don’t want to rub elbows with them.” Thus, they escape to highly exclusive clubs like New York’s Soho House (also seen on Sex and the City) or low-profile, no-press events like CAA’s post-Globes bash, which kept such stars as Jude Law and Uma Thurman partying after the less exclusive bashes had closed down.

At least there’s one upshot to this year’s celeb-light party season: It’ll be over quickly. ”It’s better,” says Jackson. ”It gets them all out of the way and then I can go back home!” Lexi Featherston couldn’t have said it better.

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