Thursday, March 04, 2004

OSCAR 2004

A bit belated, possible because I found it hard to care.

My notes: I felt bad for Keisha Castle-Hughes, who made an unfortunate choice to be accompanied by an unrecognizeable entertainment television journalist in her limo to the awards, cheapening what will probably be the only big night of her acting career. At least she had a worse experience than losing. On the red carpet, it was funny how Sofia Coppola downplayed her father when asked about him, changing the subject to her massive family. Who all seemed to be there. I know they are Hollywood royalty and all, but does any clan deserve 45 seats at any awards show? I have to say, I'm getting tired of hearing about how if Sofia Chenstein made Lost In Translation, she wouldn't have been nominated. That might be true, but it's a decent enough movie, so pople should leave her alone. At least she's not her smug, retarded brother. Total contrast from last year. I was on the edge of my seat -- when I was awake and upright, that is, waiting for a single moment as beutiful and self-important as when the writer of Chicago thanked director Rob Marshall for his vision, and Marshall responded by mouthing, "you're welcome." Everyone thanked Peter Jackson, and he would just smile and wave. Maybe it's because I'm more sympathetic to the director of Meet the Feebles than I am some hack apparently chosen by Miramax for his ability to follow orders an unimaginitively as possible, but I prefer Jackson's approach. Even at the end, when the entire cast, crew and everyone who had seen Lord of the Rings took the stage, it was less offensive than Harvey Weinstein waving Marshall to join him last year, perhaps because it seemed self-effacing and generous, rather than the sullen entitlement that seemed to fuel the Chicago producers' gesture. I was happy when Renee Zellweger won. I wrote "Yay!" She's just so darn cute. It was weird how old men kept rubbing their chests while they talked. Billy Crystal is witless. How did Scarlett Johansson score a seat next to Sean Connery? I don't know whether to be jealous or afraid for her. Seeing Heath Ledger next to Naomi Watts also sparked jealousy, but also made me wonder if his hairline is receding out of some evolutionary predisposition to make him look age-appropriate to date the older woman? And needless to say: Death to Heath Ledger! Bill Murray is awsome: "we were politely refused." It was strange that the Best Picture nominees were introduced by actors from the films. Seemed awkward. But Murray's testimonial to Sofia Coppola was fantastic, and should convert the skeptical, if they have any sense. It'd be nice if it was online somewhere. Even though it's annoying that one not-so-great movie won everything it was expected to, it's pretty cool that a decade ago, Peter Jackson was making zombie movies; in 2004 he owned the Academy awards. That's pretty cool.

My understanding is there were a number of amusing moments during the ceremony. I missed them all, from sleep or indifference. I missed Blake Edwards reportedly amusing entrance in a speeding wheelchair because when Jim Carrey took the stage to introduce him, I muted the television and retired to another room to read for fifteen mintues. Other stuff just didn't register.

My final thought, which I realized tonight: I didn't know Paul Giamatti was there until I read it this morning.

The Onion has a much funnier recap than I am capable of, although I'm a little ashamed to get that joke about Charlize Theron:

Pre-show: The day begins at 9 a.m. PST on E!, which sponsors seven hours of eerily vacant red-carpet coverage, like C-SPAN After Dark... On the Barbara Walters special, Matt LeBlanc shills for his surefire Friends spin-off Joey, Diane Keaton ponders which of her former movie-star lovers was the hottest, Walters extracts man-tears from Billy Crystal like a grifter with an easy mark, and Shrek 2 opens May 21st at theaters everywhere... On the official ABC pre-show, Will Smith refers to this as "a non-nomination year" for him and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, who share one nomination between them. In a great piece of shtick, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson argue over which one felt Whale Rider forced him to examine his heart. Wilson then flusters a spokesmodel by asking if her breasts are real.

:01 Returning for an eighth appearance as host, Billy Crystal kicks off an ass-busting ceremony by appearing semi-nude and/or bearded in a montage of movie moments. A night where most everybody will wear muzzles after last year's politically-charged event begins with Michael Moore symbolically crushed under a stampeding oliphant from The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

:07 A stale year for Crystal's trademark song parodies, save for one couplet aimed at Clint Eastwood: "You make hits, you don't make schlock / You've performed with monkeys and Sondra Locke."

:21 Tim Robbins wins Best Supporting Actor, the first non-surprise in an evening of non-surprises. A nation sighs "Oh, here we go..." when Robbins says he has one more thing to add to his speech, then breathes easy as he takes a bold stance on behalf of abuse victims, who needn't be ashamed to seek counseling.

:34 The man of a thousand voices, from Frenchman to gay Frenchman, Robin Williams speed-riffs on Janet Jackson, gay marriage, and freedom fries, like a coked-out Jay Leno.

:47 When Renée Zellweger mentions Tom Cruise after winning for Cold Mountain, the camera cuts to Nicole Kidman, on the off chance that she'll scowl or burst into tears. No dice.

1:08 Time actually stops during a grueling marathon of Best Song nominees; the three slow-tempo numbers conclude with "Into The West," Annie Lennox's seat-clearing closing-credits ballad from The Return Of The King. To paraphrase Krusty The Clown, the Oscars remain the tightest three hours and 15 minutes in show business.

1:30 Alias femme Jennifer Garner wistfully recalls an unforgettable Valentine's Day spent with the winners of the Scientific And Technical Achievement awards, including that guy who created motion-control software and that dude who won the vaunted Gordon E. Sawyer Award.

1:32 Lifetime Achievement winner Blake Edwards makes a great entrance on a runaway wheelchair and at least attempts a colorful speech, with mixed results. The Oscar-montage people pretty much stop at 1982's Victor/Victoria, ignoring such undisputed late-period Edwards classics as A Fine Mess, That's Life!, Blind Date, Sunset, and Switch.

1:47 Scarlett Johansson drops the evening's strangest non-joke ("Believe it or not, I've been wearing makeup for 35 years"), only to be later topped by Lord Of The Rings producer Barrie M. Osborne, who delivers the immortal, "I dated Billy Crystal's cousin."

2:06 Oprah Winfrey introduces Mystic River by noting, "I love a great movie." Amen to that.

2:12 Errol Morris wins a richly deserved Oscar for The Fog Of War, then finds a way to tick off everybody: Leftists by thanking Robert McNamara, rightists by his oblique comparisons of Iraq to Vietnam, and everyone else by ungraciously, emphatically praising the Academy for "finally" recognizing his work.

2:19 Among the memorialized dead, HUAC stoolie Elia Kazan and Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl are listed back-to-back. Coincidence?

2:45 Jack Black and Will Ferrell preface the Best Song announcement by singing a hilarious (and apropos) ode to boring speeches, namechecking Del Taco to boot. Ferrell deadpans another line-of-the-night contender: "There's no greater weapon in the director's arsenal than a strategically placed song."

3:15 Adrien Brody introduces Best Actress with a dash of breath spray. The new low-angle stage camera makes amazonian beauty Charlize Theron—winner for Most Acting in Monster—look like a sexy Yao Ming. She'll take on Mothra in her next movie.

3:27 Comedy bows to drama yet again as Bill Murray and Johnny Depp yield the Best Actor award to the Method anguish of Sean Penn, who gets a standing ovation. Penn keeps it real by slipping a WMD reference into his speech, but he falls into line quickly, graciously acknowledging his fellow actors.

3:34 The Return Of The King wins Best Picture, capping an improbable 11-for-11 sweep. And it wouldn't have happened if director Peter Jackson hadn't "pushed for 110 percent" from his collaborators.

3:40 In a nice theatrical touch, the winners all appear on stage together. Not since the Rosie O'Donnell-produced Boy George Broadway musical Taboo bombed in previews have entertainers had less cause to take a bow.

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