Lordy lordy. In case you hadn’t heard, the 78th annual Academy Awards were last night, and boy were they a doozy. Where to begin. Crash, which pulled off a huge upset? Dolly Parton, who brought her two sisters along? Jon Stewart, who will likely never be invited back? Altogether, though the ceremony remained mind-numbing even at a relatively “pared-down” three and a half hours, there were enough memorable moments to make the self-torture worth it.
And so it begins. The red carpet coverage is dominated primarily by Dolly Parton‘s well-nigh-architectural bustline. Seriously, if America has one surefire defense against Al-Qaeda, it’s these puppies. Otherwise, the red carpet is, as always, an orgy of unconcealed ass-kissing. The surprising thing this year is that the stars no longer even try to mask their disdain for the red-carpet press. Also notable is the fact that the phrase “good night and good luck” has become, for reporters, the equivalent of one of those electric bug-zapping lights: you can tell they’re striving like mad to avoid it, but the allure of its sweet snappy rhythms COMPELS THEM TO USE IT EVERY TIME.Every conversation on the red carpet plays roughly as follows:
Reporter: “So what are you wearing, [glamorous female star]?
Female star: “It’s by [pretentious Italian/French/Iranian designer].”
Reporter: “Well you look maaarvelous, girlfriend! How long did it take [male date] to get ready? Three minutes? Ha, ha!”
Male date: [faux-embarrassed chuckle]
Female star: “Oh yes, ha, ha! He’s so grubby! But that’s why I [like him/love him/am screwing him to advance my career]!!”
Reporter: [sycophantic fawning/uncontrollable drooling]
Female star: “Well it’s been a delight, but sadly the five seconds my publicist mandated that I spend with you are up.”
Reporter: “Well good night… and good luck! Uh, I mean, good luck and good night… damn.”
Female star: “Ha, ha! Go to hell.”
The highlight of ABC’s coverage is Vanessa Minnillo’s brutal interrogation of Paul Giamatti, which drives poor Mr. Giamatti cross-eyed and seemingly brings him within a hair’s breadth of vomiting. A close second is the interview with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who tries to defend himself from Cynthia Garrett by breaking out the shit-eating grin and fake belly laugh from his role as Brandt the butler in The Big Lebowski. At the close of the interview, Ms. Garrett leans in for a real kiss instead of the widely accepted air kiss, nearly knocking Mr. Hoffman’s glasses off his face. He runs shrieking into the Kodak Theater.
“Wait, why are we here again love?” “Kidnapping infants maybe? I forget.”
A few minutes before the ceremony, we’re treated to an interview with self-appointed “artsy” couple Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter, who look to be fresh off the set of National Lampoon’s Undead Hillbilly Vacation. We also get a sneak peek behind the scenes at the post-ceremony Governors’ Ball, where we see that the sumptuous meal by Wolfgang Puck includes such delicacies as smoked salmon pieces carved in the shape of the Oscar statuette. Honestly, who carves cured fish into little men? AND WHO EATS IT?!?
Finally, Billy Bush invades the actual auditorium, pissing off everyone within a fifty-foot radius while saying that the ceremony might not start on time “because nobody can find their seats.” Well yeah, they might be able to if you and your camera crew weren’t blocking the aisle, dumbass. Mercifully, the ceremony does actually begin right on time.
The opening montage depicts a fictional cityscape populated by characters from the greatest movies of the classic and modern eras, such as B.A.P.S. and Cannonball Run II. Next we have the first of the evening’s 2,000 Brokeback Mountain jokes, showing former hosts Billy Crystal and Chris Rock in a tent, refusing to host the show because they have better things to do, such as felching. This skit actually gets pretty funny, showing other previous hosts from Steve Martin to Whoopi Goldberg refusing to do the show. After a vaguely pederastic joke involving David Letterman and Steve Martin’s kids, and then a brief cut to Mel Gibson speaking Mayan from the set of Apocalypto, we settle on Jon Stewart, who accepts the doomed role of host.
Mr. Stewart comes out to the tacky Lucite podium, looking more than a little nervous as he greets “Ladies, gentlemen, Felicity….” The stage set is pretty gaudy but has a neat digital marquee at the top that displays the names of the various nominees and winners. Mr. Stewart’s start is bumpy: he gets in a funny line about his role in Death to Smoochy but then crashes and burns with some lame jokes about Angelina Jolie, Hollywood liberalism, and this year’s bad box office.
Fortunately, Mr. Stewart realizes he’s going down in flames and switches to “nothing to lose” mode, getting weirder and funnier by the second. He jokes that BjÃ¶rk would be here if Dick Cheney hadn’t shot her while she was trying on her Oscar dress, then notes, correctly, that Walk the Line is just a remake of Ray with white people. Just when you think he can’t make the self-righteous Academy any more uncomfortable, he launches into a hilarious description of L.A. as an “atheistic pleasure dome … a modern-day beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah … a moral black hole … an endless orgy of sexual gratification and greed” and then says he really doesn’t have a punch line. Everywhere in the auditorium, pacemakers work furiously to keep 80-year-old Academy hearts beating steadily.
Ah, montage time. Fortunately, this first one is pretty funny—a response to the allegation that Brokeback Mountain tarnishes the noble tradition of Westerns. We have a long clip show of gay-innuendo scenes from old cowboy movies. Comedy gold!
At last, they actually start presenting awards—the first one coming from Nicole Kidman, for Best Supporting Actor. She looks nice but pale and washed out—someone tell me again why she started bleaching her hair? More important, where is Cate Blanchett? This one is supposed to be hers to present. Anyway, after Ms. Kidman’s long-winded introduction of all five nominees, we get… clips of all five nominees. Going for the “streamlined” broadcast I see. I have to say I like when they show the clips though—they should cut less important stuff, like the actual awards.
The first Oscar goes to George Clooney for Syriana—that is, for getting fat, growing a beard, and passing for Arab. Annoyingly, the Academy orchestra tries to hurry him along by playing background music from the start of his speech. Mr. Clooney displays his liberalism proudly, saying that Hollywood has indeed long been at the forefront of liberal social causes and that he’s proud to be part of that tradition. He then burns the American flag, drops acid, and wipes his ass with the Bible before handlers finally drag him offstage.
As a “timesaving measure,” they waste several minutes with a Tom Hanks skit showing what happens to winners who go over the time limit in their speeches. Only the Oscar producers could fail to see the irony here.
Ben Stiller comes out in a lime green bodysuit (used when shooting in front of a green screen) to present Best Visual Effects. Totally oblivious to the fact that he’s embarrassing himself thoroughly, he mugs for the camera and tries desperately to milk this nonjoke for all its nonworth. The Oscar goes to King Kong.
Reese Witherspoon, perky of demeanor and pointy of mandible, presents Best Animated Feature to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The winners are wearing gigantic bowties, miniature copies of which they put on the little Mr. Oscars. After the speech, the co-winners put their wallaces in each other’s gromits and perform an act so indecent that we’re forced to cut to commercial.
9″ Dolly Action Figure, $8.99 at Wal-Mart while supplies last
Naomi Watts, our official Nicole Kidman clone, introduces Dolly Parton to present the first of tonight’s three Best Original Song nominees. Ms. Parton is fantastic as always, but her surgery-assisted proportions have reached such an extreme that she now resembles a human Barbie, complete with those weird plastic leg joints. But her performance of the song from Transamerica is great, and she commands the stage entirely on her own. When she tries to get the crowd into the song, an awkward audience shot reveals that Amy Adams simply CANNOT FIGURE OUT how to clap in time with the music.
Reaching unbelievable heights of nasality, Luke and Owen Wilson present Best Live-Action Short Film. Next, we have the inevitable bit with animated characters “presenting” Best Animated Short Film. Never gets old!
This year’s sympathy queen, Jennifer Aniston, looks lovely as she presents Best Costume Design. It goes to Memoirs of a Geisha and is accepted by Colleen Atwood, a card-carrying member of Botoxaholics Anonymous who’s wearing a big obi tied around her waist. Memo to Colleen-san: just because you made a film about geisha doesn’t mean you’re a geisha yourself, ohaiyo gozaimasu.
Russell Crowe, knuckles still bloodied from a backstage brawl with Olivia de Havilland, comes out to present a neat montage of previous movie biopics. We’re treated to scenes from Selena, The Doors, Ray, Mommie Dearest, and the like, capped by the classic “Pierre, we’ve discovered a new element!” scene from RADIUM: Marie Curie Exposed.
In the funniest presentation of the evening by far, a hideously made up Will Ferrell and Steve Carell present Best Makeup in exquisite deadpan form. It goes to The Chronicles of Narnia for all that scary ice shit they put on Tilda Swinton‘s face. The male co-winner gives a rushed speech and then his female counterpart chimes in, only to get brutally cut off by the orchestra.
Mr. Stewart introduces our obligatory nod to the Scientific and Technical Oscars that were presented earlier, during a five-minute ceremony in a trailer parked in the alley behind the BevMo on Santa Monica and La Brea. The awards were hosted by Rachel McAdams, lying through her teeth about how “thrilled” she is to be there.
Her face hasn’t moved since Stepford Wives
Morgan Freeman trips through his lines while introducing Best Supporting Actress. We get a nice audience shot of scrappy soon-to-be-loser Frances McDormand, who has an entire oak tree pinned to her lapel. As widely expected, the award goes to The Constant Gardener‘s Rachel Weisz, who fortunately has de-Frankensteinized since her ill-advised Golden Globes look. With luck, Ms. Weisz will be able to parlay this Oscar into superstardom, just like Brenda Fricker did after My Left Foot.
Lauren Bacall comes out to introduce the most pointless montage of the evening—a collection of clips from film noir classics. Baffling, seeing as not one of the major nominees this year is a film noir. Ms. Bacall’s introduction is a little painful to watch, as she has major problems with the teleprompter, either because she’s drunk or simply because she’s 81. Anyway, the montage features all sorts of men wearing fedoras—Matt Drudge probably wet his diaper—and women wearing those pointy 1940s missile-silo bras.
Fortunately, Jon Stewart rescues this disaster by introducing some hilarious parody TV attack ads for the Best Actress race. The best one lambastes the nominees’ exotic first names while touting Reese Witherspoon‘s “simple, pleasing name.” In a nice nod to The Daily Show, the ads are narrated by Stephen Colbert.
Terrence Howard comes out to present Best Documentary Short Subject to A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin. Uh it’s supposed to be a short film, try PICKING A SHORT TITLE.
Distressingly, Charlize Theron has not learned her tantastic lesson from two years ago. Though she steps up to the podium gracefully, her delivery is hampered by the giant fabric tumor growing out of her left shoulder. Regardless, she presents Best Documentary Feature to March of the Penguins. The winners have smuggled in giant penguin stuffed animals and, when they get to the podium, start whistling in penguinese. Well at least it’s not French, I guess.
Jennifer Lopez contains the junk in her trunk in an olive-colored goddess dress that—I’m sorry to say, honey—went out of style like two years ago. STOP CLINGING TO MT. OLYMPUS, it’s OVER. Anyway, she introduces the song from Crash, which in great contrast to Dolly Parton is performed on an elaborate set with fake mist and a burning car, accompanied by an interpretive dance performed by what appear to be homeless mimes.
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves walk in to the much-missed theme music from Speed. Her dress is nice, but her hair looks like a bird’s nest. They present Best Art Direction to Memoirs of a Geisha; Gong Li burns down her house in celebration.
Commence the porn groove as badass Samuel L. Jackson comes out to present a masturbatory retrospective of movies with a “social conscience.” Oddly, the montage is accompanied by “Rodeo” from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, better known as The Theme Song to Beef. Just after the music reaches soaring, inspirational heights, Jon Stewart deflates the entire montage with his sarcastic proclamation “…And none of those issues were ever a problem again.” Haha, the Academy must HATE him.
The obligatory appearance by Academy president Sid Ganis bores even the ever-gracious Ang Lee and his faithful companion, Mrs. Lee. ADHD poster child Catherine Keener doesn’t even pretend to listen but instead just checks her BlackBerry and talks the whole time to someone sitting across the aisle.
Looking stunning in a dress that features dangerously unstable boob-containment technology, Salma Hayek purrs out her introduction to the “surprise musical performance” of the evening. It turns out to be violinist Itzhak Perlman, presenting a medley of the five nominees for Best Original Score. Yep, cause nothing says “surprise party” like polio-stricken Israelis. The medley is veritable cornucopia of fake world music, from the vaguely Eastern melodies of Memoirs of a Geisha to the rousing Putumayo themes of The Constant Gardener. Even those hoping for a plaintive, Talmudic motif from Munich are not disappointed. The medley ends with the Brokeback Mountain portion, which features some enthusiastic plucking from Mr. Perlman, if you know what I mean.
It takes a hell of a lot more than polio to impress THE LEES
Though Jake Gyllenhaal‘s eyebrows are exquisitely manicured into nice little symmetrical caterpillars, his bowtie is lopsided and he’s apparently never used a teleprompter. Rather, he opts for the deer-in-headlights look as he introduces yet another pointless montage—this one about how movies are best seen on the big screen. Ah, transparent anti-DVD propaganda. Why do they always end these damn montages with the flying bikes from E.T.? WHAT IS SO INSPIRATIONAL ABOUT BIKES FLYING IN THE AIR? Thankfully, Jon Stewart pulls the carpet out from under this montage as well, saying he can’t wait for the inevitable “salute to montages” to come later.
Jessica Alba and Eric Bana present Best Sound. Ms. Alba’s dress shows off her little booblets quite nicely, but she too struggles with the teleprompter. King Kong wins again, which promises an assload of Kiwi accents. Note to New Zealanders: the accent isn’t sexy or charming, it’s more like the KATHY GRIFFIN OF FOREIGN ACCENTS.
Finally, a much-needed touch of class—and subtle, unshowy lesbianism!—as Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin introduce this year’s honorary Oscar recipient, director Robert Altman. They banter with seemingly improvised, overlapping dialogue that is really funny. When Mr. Altman finally comes out, he mentions in his speech that he received a heart transplant from a thirty-year-old woman a while back. In addition, he’s carrying Drew Barrymore’s discarded liver, Debra Winger’s pancreas, and one of Dakota Fanning’s kidneys. Sadly, it’s all for naught, as the sight of Ms. Streep’s daringly low-cut bodice sends Mr. Altman into cardiac arrest.
Not long before the whitecoats escort the Altmans back to cell block B
Rapper-turned-actor Ludacris introduces the song from Hustle and Flow. In an amusing clash of cultures, the Academy marquee above the stage displays “IT’S HARD OUT HERE FOR A PIMP” in big, staid block letters. The performance is great: this time, rather than slow-motion mimes, we have rapid-fire hos. It’s a sanitized version of the song, however—notably, lacking any references to “bitches”—so it’s not quite the same.
Finally, Queen Latifah emerges as the next presenter—funny how this is ostensibly an awards ceremony but the last actual award was presented nearly a half hour ago. In a big upset, H.R.H. Latifah presents Best Original Song to the aforementioned “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” The moment is genuinely exciting and, in a huge relief for the Oscar producers, avoids the inevitable Parton-Latifah breast-off that would’ve occurred had these two mammary titans ended up onstage at the same time. Anyway, the award prompts all manner of roof-raising, as Three 6 Mafia collectively are giddy as shit about their win. As Jon Stewart notes, it’s cool to see somebody actually excited about winning and thanking “all y’all niggaz” rather than the usual laundry list of lawyers and agents.
It’s our favorite beady-eyed man-beast, Jennifer Garner! She nearly trips on her way out to the podium, which could’ve caused a severe wardrobe malfunction as her dress is barely containing her post-pregnancy funbags. Best Sound Editing goes to King Kong—great, more people from GODDAMN NEW ZEALAND.
The audience dusts off their applause hands as George Clooney introduces the ever-popular death/popularity montage. On your mark, get set… GO! First out of the blocks is Teresa Wright—ouch, no applause for an unknown—who’s quickly put to shame by the veritable TOKYO BULLET TRAIN Pat Morita who says WAX ON MOTHERFUCKERS as he elbows a couple no-name producers out of the way before Vincent Schiavelli comes out of nowhere with the “I’m so corpselike I didn’t look any different when I was alive” vote—but then OH SLAM GIDGET SHOWS NO MERCY as Sandra Dee steamrolls the field, knocking down two choreographers and a rerecording mixer and clearing the path for a brief surge by Shelley Winters before DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME and everyone’s favorite sexual predatrix ANNE BANCROFT CHEWS UP ALL COMERS from Ismail Merchant to Richard Pryor OH YOU GOT NO CHANCE BITCHES AND IT’S MRS. ROBINSON BY TWO LENGTHS!!! Seriously, it seems like they forgot a bunch of people. Don Knotts? Scotty from Star Trek? Darren McGavin? Bueller?
Will Smith presents Best Foreign Language Film, quite pleased with himself as he shows off his nonfluency in a number of languages. The award goes to South Africa’s Tsotsi, whose director apparently does speak eight languages and due to either adrenaline or crystal meth tries to use them ALL AT ONCE, spitting out sentences like Aloha and shalom mes frÃ¨res I say to you muchas gracias and VIVA AFRICA and jambo that we have finally banished apartheid from der Parkplatz of Johannesburg. Arrivederci and konbanwa! Actually he wastes about half his speech informing us how many seconds he has left in his speech.
The announcer butchers Ziyi Zhang‘s name—it comes out something like “Suey Chang”—as she emerges to present Best Editing. Ooh, let’s see how her English has improved since the ceremony in 2001, when they threw the poor girl onstage with about two hours of Berlitz tapes under her belt. This time we get Happy nice day to you and I present lady gentlemen many warm wish from China land of blossoming flower and 2008 Olympic Game! Actually, she acquits herself nicely. The award goes to Crash. Okay, if I have to listen to the choral theme from this movie one more time I’m gonna start doing shots of bleach.
Hilary Swank looks great, unburdened as she is from the responsibility of keeping Chad Lowe firmly under her thumb. She presents Capote‘s Philip Seymour Hoffman with the Oscar for Best Actor With Special Recognition for Fake Humility, Slouching, and Overall Dumpiness. Shielding his eyes from the glare—oh, the glare, the harsh glare of life in the spotlight—Mr. Hoffman thanks his mom for being a dedicated single parent, taking him to his first play, and introducing him to the Bob Evans all-you-can-eat buffet. Seriously, that slim build he sported in Capote? Blink and you missed it. Nonetheless, his speech ends on a nice sincere note.
“Hey dad don’t I look awesome in this pimp suit?” “Not now son, pops is busy”
Before the commercial, the announcer informs us that “John Travolta is standing by to present.” Thousands crap their pants in anticipation. As promised, Mr. Travolta emerges after the break, his hairpiece fortunately not as visible as it was during this unfortunate recent public appearance. He presents Best Cinematography to Memoirs of a Geisha.
In great news for humankind, Jamie Foxx has finally decided he is no longer Ray Charles. Instead, he takes a straightforward approach while presenting Best Actress to Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line. Once again Ms. Witherspoon pulls the “aww shucks y’all I’m just a down-home Tennessee bumpkin” bit, which is getting old and totally unconvincing besides, in light of the $25 million per movie she commands these days. Though her delivery comes across as rehearsed, her speech actually is quite nice, recognizing costar Joaquin Phoenix and thanking her mother and grandmother for giving her strong female role models, not to mention devastating bone structure.
Well it’s past eleven, which means it’s time to play everyone’s favorite parlor game, Guess Which Pill Bottle Dustin Hoffman Just Pounded Backstage? As he introduces Best Adapted Screenplay, he starts giggling uncontrollably. It goes to Brokeback Mountain, accepted by a dour Diana Ossana and a jeans-wearing Larry McMurtry, who also appears to have on a rented tux and clip-on bowtie. The absurdity makes Ang Lee weep.
“My next film will be about… LESBIANS”
Sashaying out to present Best Original Screenplay is Uma Thurman, who looks HORRIBLE. No really, like she just stepped out of the crackhouse—her skin is tight, her eyes sunken, and her head jerking all over the place. Wow, what happened to her? Whatever it is MY GOD MAKE IT STOP. The award goes to Crash.
Tom Hanks presents Best Director to Ang Lee, who, though adorable and gracious, makes an ill-advised attempt to replicate Barbra Streisand’s “Hello gorgeous” moment by telling the Oscar statue “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Oof. Mr. Lee thanks the characters Ennis and Jack for bringing life to all the “gay mens and women whose love is denied by society” before dispatching a grateful xiexie to all his peeps back in Taiwan.
Finally, Jack Nicholson comes out, caricaturing himself lustily. His eyebrows are all over the place as he announces the big shock of the evening: that Crash has come from behind—if you’ll pardon the pun—to usurp Best Picture from Brokeback Mountain. Producer Cathy Schulman launches into a breathless but nonetheless boring speech, which the orchestra ballsily cuts off. Inexplicably, Ms. Schulman concludes by saying, “Thank you to my husband, to my wife, and to all of our families.” And Crash is the CONSERVATIVE choice?
Jon Stewart runs for the door, pursued by an angry mob led by Jack Palance, Charlton Heston, and other stalwarts of the Hollywood establishment. It’s a wrap!