Right off the bat, I want to comment on Roman Polanski winning the Best Director Oscar. Long before it led up to this, I scoured my way through many film message boards and some chat rooms here and there and some thoughts by many leaned toward the idea that the only reason Polanski was nominated was to lure him into the U.S. of A so that L.A. prosecutors could finally get their hands on him for the statutory rape charge he racked up in the ‘70s. Keep hugging those “X-Files” tapes and tap-tapping at the keyboard night after night, conspiracy theorists. You think L.A. prosecutors actually have time, let alone care as to whether Polanski will ever come back to this country? It’s L.A. for chrissakes. They’ve got enough to worry about there and an appearance by Polanski would be your basic triple jackpot: A couple hundred coins in a few cups and you move on to the next slot machine.
The one antidote that the Oscars needed so desperately after the record breaking 4 and ½ hour show that occurred during the 2002 ceremony was a shorter running time and it got it courtesy of Gil Cates, who should continue doing this. Being the good couch Samaritan that I am, however, I opted to bypass the 30-minute pre-show due to the fact that I was watching the “Inside Dr. No” documentary on my “Dr. No” DVD, a move that seemed smarter considering that when finally turning on ABC, they were announcing the best Oscar gowns of the past 75 years. The big regret here was missing Joan and Melissa’s show on E!. The big treat would have been to see Joan bitching about how her workload has been cut back and how teary-eyed she probably would have been over the fact that she couldn’t shove her microphone into a celebrity’s face and ask, “Who are you wearing? Where did you find that jewelry? Am I kissing your a*s enough?”
Steve Martin should be the new Billy Crystal of the Oscars. He knows exactly how to bat it out of the park and many of his jokes, no doubt courtesy of Bruce Vilanch and other partners in crime, worked perfectly. For example, after Michael Moore walked off stage, Martin came back on a bit later and said, “Backstage, it’s so sweet. The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.” Only one joke of Martin’s failed. The joke (“I was backstage trying to convince Jennifer Lopez that the best way to remove double- faced tape is with saliva”) failed on two counts: First, it was obviously written on the fly and then sent quickly on the air. That method tends to work out fine as there are sparks of inspiration during commercials that the joke writers can instantly tap into, but this time, it flopped because associating saliva with the Oscars (that’s the pre-show and the “drool buckets” that they probably lay out for fans, but it didn’t happen this year) just doesn’t work. Second, when Martin made that joke, director Louis J. Horvitz made the mistake of having one of the camera operators cut to Lopez, who was back in her spot already and we were treated to a shocked J-Lo and an eye-rolling reaction from Affleck. The only way the joke could have worked is if the camera had not cut to J-Lo and bitch…I mean Affleck, and the joke was re-written to include the backstage part but, aw hell. I’m starting to sound like Tom Bergeron on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” when he analyzes the humor of one of those home videos. Ok, moving on….
Highlights of the evening, besides Martin leading the show successfully, was Meryl Streep’s tasteful tribute to Peter O’Toole. In my opinion, Streep should keep on doing these tributes, no matter who the actor is. She has the right amount of grace and charm that works. Surprisingly enough, Susan Sarandon kept quiet and limited herself to flashing the “peace sign” as she walked on stage. It worked out well considering that she was to present the clip package that was “In Memoriam”. One of the funnier things about the Oscars is that Gil Cates wasn’t kidding when it came to short speeches. The “LOTR” guys, who won for best visual effects, did their speech and tried to get more in above the 45-second limit, but the music started playing and the microphone sunk to the floor faster than Margaret Hamilton in “The Wizard of Oz”.
Award results?? There were many surprises that evening. First off, Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax marketing machine malfunctioned badly and shut down, as Chicago did not get as many awards as expected and Martin Scorsese did not get the Best Director Oscar, which must have surprised Weinstein considering how hard he worked to try to make it happen. One of the most refreshing surprises was Eminem’s Oscar win. Try it out: Oscar winner Eminem. At first, it sounds a bit unsettling, but considering who he was up against (I Move On from Chicago, Paul Simon, and U2) it was an amazing feat and the song had quite a bit of power in it. The Best Actor award earned by Adrien Brody was so well deserved and it’s damned lucky that Frida won for Best Makeup. The Time Machine didn’t even deserve to get nominated, but it’s great that it’ll only have that nomination and nothing else.
Probably the wisest thing that Gil Cates did was to split up some of the important awards. Awards like Best Actor and Actress weren’t relegated toward the a*s of the ceremony and it worked out better for those bleary-eyed citizens on the East Coast who were looking to see those awards and then hit the sack. They were spaced out nicely, with only the Best Director and Picture awards staying where they were. And how about that Oscar yearbook?? It’s been done before at the 70th Annual Academy Awards, but it is still a pleasure to see it. Red Buttons, Ernest Borgnine, Luise Rainer, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Mickey Rooney, Louise Fletcher…. and the list goes on and on.
All in all, it was a respectable ceremony. Next year: Bring back Gil Cates and Louis J. Horvitz for another go-around. If Billy Crystal refuses for a THIRD TIME, bring Steve Martin back. And as always, Bruce Vilanch shall stay where he is and write as he does. The humor is one of the many elements that make the running time bearable.
So goes it for the 75th Annual Academy Awards. We now return you to your regularly scheduled movie-watching habits.