(Mar. 27, 2000) Well, it's about 1:30 in the morning, and I just got home from my head nurse Martha Nell's annual Oscar party. I had my fill of Martha Nell's enchilada casserole, cole slaw, and other potluck items from the buffet table, and now, winding down with an ice-cold Coors and a savory Dominican cigar, I figure I'd better discuss the night's events with you.
Breakin' it downFirst things first, I guess. That whole 30-minute "pre-show" thing? Shoot it like a lame horse, man. Last year was borderline, if only because we got to look at the stunning Geena Davis, but this year's attempt, hosted by Meredith Vieira from "The View", was a complete stinkfest. That thing was so self-serving, I kept looking for a sneeze-guard.
In a similar vein, if whoever's in charge doesn't work a deal to get Billy Crystal as permanent host, the show will continue to drift from mediocre to tedious. Whoopi and Dave have proved that Billy is the best, funniest, and most creative host available. With Disney/ABC's relentless penchant for cross-promotion, I fear for the day they trot out some ESPN anchor or some goofball from "Boy Meets World" to run the show. (On a side note: Was it just me, or did the promos for "Gepetto" look really frightening?)
Other than that, I was honestly impressed by the show. I thought the Zanucks, this year's rookie producers, created a classy, balanced show, that kept things moving, despite its four-hour running time. With the exception of Air-Traffic Controller Peter Coyote, there wasn't much to mock, and the set design, lighting, and graphics were unique and stellar.
Goodness GraciousI threw a Riverdance fit for Chuck Workman's montage (why is this guy not making "That's Entertainment"-type films for general release?) The lack of interpretive dance numbers was a joy. I loved the Bachrach musical montage, with the all-star chorus. Garth did a great job with "Everybody's Talkin'," and Queen Latifah surprised with her impressive voice. But, Ray Charles kickin' the tar out of "I've Got You Under My Skin," and the master, Isaac Hayes, hitting a homerun out of the fog with "Shaft" were two high points of the evening.
I was also impressed by the way the Best Original Song nominees were presented. Instead of scattering them throughout the night, with all banners and skyrockets, the minimalist approch to four of them actually let the songs themselves take priority over the presentation. And, yes, I loved Robin doing "Blame Canada." How great was it that they reserved the big production number for a nose-thumbing song from South Park? (Now, if only it had won a statuette for Best Song...!)
A word or two on the honorary awards: first, if your winner is Polish, and speaks only Polish, how about getting a translator? Subtitles don't cut it on the small screen. Wadja is a remarkable filmmaker, and the audience at the Shrine, as well as the TV audience, deserved to hear his words, not struggle to read them before they could blink away.
Secondly, I don't know if Warren Beatty was nervous about his impending newborn or just wired in general, but am I the only one who noticed how much he was shaking and stammering? Warren, dude, relax. Let them honor you! (Another side note: Warren's attitude wasn't the only thing that was drawn a bit too tight. Heir Bulworth should demand a refund from the hack that did that scary facelift.)
For what was thought to be a very competitive race this year, the front-runners seemed to collect all their deserved trophies. Angelina Jolie -- a lock from Day One -- and Sam Mendes' American Beauty, almost every critic's '99 Best Director/Picture, took what was decidedly theirs, and, despite the presence of Denzel and Annette in the competition, I don't think anyone was shocked to see Kevin Spacey and Hilary Swank up there thanking their mommas.
Were there any surprises? A few. Michael Caine winning Best Supporting Actor for Cider House was a minor shock, but I thought his very gracious speech was one of the classiest ever. I'd hoped that Austin Powers 2 could grab some gold for the Fat Bastard makeup, but wasn't surprised that Topsy-Turvy took home so many honors, given its abundance of intellectual and historical appeal (always-popular qualities for snobby Academy voters.) I guess the biggest surprise of the night for me was that Between the Ropes did not win Best Documentary Feature. With all the press on Ropes and its subject, I thought sure that it'd be the politically correct choice for the year, the one Hollywood could make its "statement" with.
I was also a bit surprised that the Academy got hip this year and threw three solid honors toward The Matrix. I figured Lucas and Company had all the technical awards locked up. Maybe Academy voters hated Jar-Jar as much as I did.
Finally, when Alan Ball won for his American Beauty screenplay, I knew that Beauty was going to score the other biggies. I had some notion that the Academy would use the screenplay awards to acknowledge the films that didn't win elsewhere. Typically, the Academy uses the screenplay categories like a consolation prize for the Best Pic also-rans, so I was expecting The Sixth Sense to win in the original script category, like Cider House did in adapted. When American Beauty took that medal, I felt the tide swelling for lots of Beauty runs in the 9th inning.
Best Moments Of The Night-- Michael Caine's speech. The graciousness, the humility, it was refreshing and I know it had to be gratifying for Osment and Duncan, two newcomers, to get high praise from a veteran like Caine, especially in a high-profile showcase like Oscar night.
-- Kevin Spacey acknowledging Jack Lemmon as both a mentor and guide, and Sam Mendes thanking Billy Wilder for the influence on his filmmaking. New Hollywood bowing to Old Hollywood instead of "trailblazing" without nodding to the past. Class acts.
-- Ray Charles and Isaac Hayes on the same stage with Garth Brooks and Burt Bachrach. Never would've imagined it, but danged if it didn't work perfectly!
-- Chuck Workman, Chuck Workman, Chuck Workman!
-- Pedro Almovodor finally winning recognition for a film people have seen beforehand! And graciously accepting the mantle from Roberto Begnini as Foreign Ambassador of Language Mangling.
Seventh SenseMost years, the Oscar cermony leaves me with something to stew about. Maybe I'm getting older, but I left this year's broadcast with more a sense of satisfaction than sarcasm. Most of the Academy's acts of blasphemy occurred back in February when the nominations were announced, and once I'd grown to accept the nominees, the final decisions were pretty easy to swallow. (By the way, I wonder if Jim Carrey even watched the show. I'm imagining a ripped-drunk Carrey and Andy Kaufmann kicked back on a beach in Barbados throwing darts at a picture of Sean Penn.)
Well, friends and neighbors, sleep beckons, and Orson needs a walk. I'm leaving it with you. Signing off from the Academy Award District Office in Carver Point, Georgia. And Meredith Vieira? Shut up!
See the REAL movie awards: It's the 4th Annual LOSCARS!