I showed up at the Oscar party at six o'clock, thinking we'd be just in time for the beginning of the show. Of course, the show began at 5, so I missed crucial awards for costumes, makeup, special effects, animated feature, and live-action short, as well as Fat Clooney's Best Supporting Actor award. I'll tell you what I didn't miss out on: the baked potato bar. In fact, the sundae bar was out as well. This was very promising.
"Did they change the starting time when they moved the show to Sunday night?" I asked someone. I'm not sure if they did or not, but I was informed that the telecast moved to Sunday in 1998. I am not exactly an Oscars regular.
Lauren Bacall presented a tribute to film noir, which does not slow the Oscars down for no reason, at all. Bacall may have been unable to read the teleprompter, or she could have been pausing at irregular intervals for noir-related reasons. She's a true femme mortelle, after all.
Dead People Ceremony
It was kind of a weak year for dead people in Hollywood. I thought Richard Pryor was the clear favorite to get the most applause, with Chris Penn a distant second. However, dark horse candidate Anne Bancroft had much more memorial support than Penn, though she couldn't match Pryor. The academy knew it. Pryor was slotted into the "anchor leg" of the dead people list, so that the applause for dead people would finish strong leading into the commercial break. Pryor got a brief shot of his Sunset strip concert, and then, confusingly, a lingering shot of Brewster's Millions.
Honestly, the crowd seemed disappointed in the dead of 2005. I'd like to see them occasionally stick a living actor in there to throw people off - "Wait, Abe Vigoda?" - or finish really weak, putting the biggest dead star second-to-last, and ending on a random Eastern European cinematographer. The best suggestion I heard was to shift the focus away from honoring the people who died the previous year, and toward predicting which attendees were not going to live until next year's ceremony. Then they could actually enjoy the applause.
"Celebrating their final Academy Awards this year are: Lauren Bacall. Choreographer Jesper Callahan. Key grip Sonny Vallibona III. And Lindsay Lohan."
Eric Bana and Jessica Alba came out together to present some award I've already forgotten. They engaged in some banter about being in a room with four beautiful women, and then she was like, what about four beautiful men, and it was like, oh snap, Jessica Alba, and Emalie declared that the Oscars are hetero-sexist. How about "four beautiful potential partners", Oscars? "Four POWs of either gender, or both". Let's go.
Is Robert Altman Fucking with Us?
So, Altman had a heart transplant eleven years ago. It really seemed like it might be a weird joke. His lifetime achievement award was introduced by a rambling, overlapping speech by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. Because that's a Robert Altman trademark! And it's annoying in his films, too! After that, Altman gave a meandering speech of his own, punctuated by shots of his wife and some guy who looked like Weird Al's cousin. "Strange Al" looked like he might be rubbing up on Altman's wife, as well. Then, when everyone at our party had turned him out, Altman dropped that bombshell about getting a heart transplant in the mid-90s. Some people didn't hear it, and others felt like they must have misheard it.
Of course, he's got a movie coming out, so the whole heart business is probably a big fat publicity stunt.
Socially Conscious Films
I was in the kitchen with Garrick during one of the many tribute montages. From where we were, it was tough to tell what was being tributed. One person said they were honoring Spencer Tracy. Another person said he thought it was all about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Finally, we learned it was about socially-conscious films.
Garrick was very proud of Hollywood on that front. "Of course. Because of all the social issues Hollywood addresses. Like..."
I began chanting "USA!" after an American broke the string of French or Kiwi winners. Emalie endorsed my nationalist preferences, but wondered why it was surfacing right now.
"It's how I was raised," I told her.
"You were raised in a xenophobic home," she said.
I agreed. "A xenophobic, heterosexist home."
Then we booed the South African winner of Best Foreign Film.
There was a song from undeserving Oscar winner "Crash" that bribed its way into a Best Original Song nomination. When an unknown woman came out to perform it, there was a mad rush to the potato/sundae line in the kitchen. Those people missed one of the more fascinating moments in Oscar history. The singer performed in front of a flaming car, surrounded by a multiracial assortment of interpretive dancers, all slowly fleeing the fire, and racism, evfentually overcoming their racial prejudices through very slow interpretive dance and hugs. Two dancers appeared to be re-enacting a sexual assault on one side of the stage. I didn't see "crash", but I can say with confidence that this musical performance was better than "Crash".
Three 6 Mafia also had interpretive dancers for its Best Original Song nominee, "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp". Do dancers normally dress as characters from the film and re-enact crucial scenes, via interpretive dance, or is that new for this year? They didn't have little people dressed as hobbits behind Annie Lennox two years ago. I think I would have remembered that. Anyway, I thought the dancers did a good job of conveying the difficulty of pimping when bitches are talking shit.
I'm a fuckin' idiot
Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not look comfortable at all in delivering his acceptance speech for Best Actor. In fact, he looked like a Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie character, cringing and shrugging, and shielding his eyes with the award envelope. He was about fifteen pounds and a pair of short shorts away from being Scotty from Boogie Nights. "Dirk, do you like this Oscar? I just wanted to make sure you thought the Oscar was cool - I'm really drunk right now. If you didn't think it was cool, Dirk, I was gonna take the Oscar back."
Before the Best Actress award was announced, another guest assured me that Felicity Huffman will win. I told him I thought Reese Witherspoon had it in the bag. She sang, she played a famous person, and unlike Joaquin Phonix and Jamie Foxx, there's little chance she'll spend the next year going around still pretending to be that famous musician. Plus, a Huffman-Hoffman winning combo would mean they'd have to let Letterman come back and host.
He offered to bet five dollars on it, giving me the field versus Felicity. I laid down a five, but told him I only want Reese. If that bitch Judi Dench won, we'd both keep our money. When Jamie Foxx opened the envelope, I found myself five dollars richer. Up yours, Holohan!
Gil Cates Hates "Crash"
The music and lights cut off the acceptance speeches for Paul Haggis & Co. after the Original Screenplay award, and also after the Best Picture nod. I've never seen people played off the stage by the orchestra after Best Picture, because, you know, the show's over after that. ABC takes a strange commercial break afterward, and returns to the telecast only for Jon Stewart's awkward goodbye. My theory is they had to clean up the flaming trash angry attendees threw at the stage to protest the "Crash" victory.