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Oscar '00 Post-Show

Opening Commentary: In the year's most unpredictable Academy Awards ceremony ever (or at least in the 11 years I have been predicting -- the closest to this was 1995, when favorite Apollo 13 fell to Braveheart), I can only say "boo."  Ok, so I do not really have much to hold against the Academy, some of the categories that I missed were instead given to my personal preferences, but I can only throw my hands in the air for that unfortunate event when they actually gave Best Actress to Julia Roberts over Ellen Burstyn.  Boo.  At least the show was short and the new host was worthy of his predecessor.

The pre-show was far superior to the dreck from two years ago, but the work this time was a subordinate to last year's.  Chris Connelly (former Premiere magazine editor) and Jim Moret (former co-anchor of CNN's Showbiz Today) gave a nice, sharp work for the pre-show (Moret's interview with a noticeably uninterested Björk was hilarious).  The real problem, though, was Julie Moran, whose claim to fame is that fine piece of television called Entertainment Tonight.  They might as well have hired Mary Hart.  Last year was a great prelude to the event, this year seemed more like a prolonged wait.

With it being 2001, producer Gil Cates could not keep from making references to the forever beloved Stanley Kubrick film set in this year.  They began in space, played "Also Sprach Zarathustra," and took a few words from astronauts in space (by the way, this is not the first time -- I believe they did this to introduce Apollo 13's nomination in 1995).  Admittedly, this heavy-handed 2001 referential opening irked me a bit -- after spending 30 minutes waiting through the pre-show, the last think I needed was to see Barbra Streisand's 1968 "Hello beautiful" speech during a hackneyed Contact rip-off.

After mulling through this, Steve Martin finally came on -- giving an opening monologue that would make Billy Crystal happy.  Admittedly, Martin seemed more like a by-stander announcing the presenters as the night progressed (Crystal, the king of writing jokes between segments, would always make sure that you would not forget his presence as the host).  I liked Steve Martin, though, doing his normal schtick, Martin was amusing with jokes that made every person he mentioned giggle in fear over what he would say about them.

Catherine Zeta-Jones then took stage and awarded Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for Best Art Direction.  Sure, I was already 0 for 1, but at least the film that they awarded was my personal choice.  I'm still a little surprised, though, that the Academy did not give this to Gladiator in retrospect.   The band (under the always able [and ancy] direction of Bill Conti) ushers him off so that Nicholas Cage can give Best Supporting Actress to upset Marcia Gay Harden.   Most people (myself included) felt that ingénue Kate Hudson was en route to a win -- Marcia Gay Harden replacement for a far superior performance was one of the high points of the evening.  Harden's win certainly makes Ed Harris' Best Actor chances seem much better.

After a commercial break with Pepsi/Britney Spears that doubled both teenage wet dreams and adult suicide rates, America's favorite sour-puss Russell Crowe gives Best Film Editing to surprise winner Stephen Morrione for Traffic.  I mean, I love Morrione's work in the Steven Soderbergh film, but it pales in comparison to the seamless Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon work by Tim Squyres.  In the second showdown between Tiger and Gladiator, a third film wins -- things are starting to look fishy in my predictions.

Ben Stiller is then chosen to be this year's "lesser nominee" announcer (how is it that barely respected comedic actors always turn out giving the short categories and the documentary categories).  The two films that won the short categories, Quiero Ser (Live-Action Short) and Father and Daughter (Animated Short), both seem like nice films -- I really cannot say, though, since I only saw one of the eight films in those categories.  I steamed over this in my pre-show essay, so I'll refrain from stating this misstep again.

Halle Berry, who probably would not have come out for a Billy Crystal hosted show after his joke about her last year, introduces Sting to perform his less-than-stellar song from The Emperor's New Groove, "My Funny Friend and Me."  Always the great, though seemingly sedated in these later years, performer Sting does a nice job on the bad song he's singing.

Last year's omnipresent nominee Annette Bening introduces a clip of Best Picture nominee Erin Brockovich before Penelope Cruz comes out to give out Best Costume Design.  Now, in 1981, both Chariots of Fire producer David Puttnam and Reds director/star Warren Beatty said that whatever film won Best Costume Design would win Best Picture; Chariots did so.   For that reason, I thought I'd keep an eye on this category as a type of precursor to who would probably win Best Picture in this closely competitive year.  Cruz gave the award to Janty Yates for Gladiator.

One side note, though I did not mention this before, I do support that nomination for the other wise regrettable 102 Dalmatians -- some of the threads on Glenn Close far surpass the work that was done on the previous Dalmatians film.   Hey, it was nothing compared to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Gladiator, but I thought this deserved to be mentioned as a couple people have complained about that nomination.

Robert Rehme, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, comes out to give the normal presidential speech.  Originally the opening of the show, the speech has been reorganized to its new position because most everyone feels that getting to the monologue is more important.  Kind of like saying, hit the audience with the "crodgety" speech while they are already in the show.   The only real important part here was Rehme stating that this was his final year, raising my interest in who would take his place.  All I ask is that it not be SAG president William Daniels.  My two-cents calls for Charlton Heston.

Angelina Jolie awards Best Supporting Actor to Benicio Del Toro for Traffic.  Yawn, I thought it would be a long while before an easy winner would appear (though, if Albert Finney were not so antisocial, I bet he could have given Del Toro a nice competition).  I guess the SAG Best Actor streak continues, though not restricted to the lead categories: whomever wins the Best Actor SAG award is a safe bet to win his corresponding AMPAS award.

Mike Meyers opens the second hour to become the worst presenter of the evening.  His jeering of the sound category was a spit-in-the-face of the men and women that put a great deal of work into their art.  Though they may not be as big as the actors and directors, they still work just as hard to make sure that their part of the production is its best.  Shame, Mike.  The winners were Gladiator for Best Sound and U-571 for Best Sound Editing (formerly Best Sound Effects Editing), neither really huge surprises.  I had The Perfect Storm down for Best Sound, but Gladiator was my second choice.  As for Best Sound Editing, I was just happy that the Academy did not award the completely undeserving sound editing for Space Cowboys.  For heaven's sake, how did that film oust fellow semifinalists Cast Away, Gladiator, Mission: Impossible II, The Perfect Storm, and Unbreakable?

Julia Stiles introduces Coco Lee to perform the song "A Love Before Time" from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  I have little doubt that this mediocre ballad (the lyrics are poor, though the background music from Tan Dun is beautiful) was merely the outspurt of a Crouching Tiger mini-sweep in the nominations.  Coco Lee admittedly did a great job in her performance -- like Sting, she did much better than the actual song deserved.   However, this performance had one of the worst things of the entire ceremony: the (un)creative work of dance choreographer Debbie Allen.  And people call Ridley Scott a hack!  Having Lo portrayed by a midget in a 1970's Diana Ross wig was a frightening idea -- thankfully this was the only part of the show that Allen had her hand in.

Best Cinematography is then presented by Julia Roberts to Peter Pau for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Looking at the works in contention this year, it is incredible some of the works that came to nominations.  I personally would have supporting nominations for Matthew Libatique (Requiem for a Dream), "Peter Andrews" (Traffic), Dante Spinotti (Wonder Boys), and Edward Lachman (Erin Brockovich and/or The Virgin Suicides), but I was rather impressed with the five that the Academy did mention, including elder statesman Caleb Deschanel and always incredible Roger Deakins.  Peter Pau gave an absolutely terrific speech, railing off a huge collection of Asian names that had the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon team laughing in the aisles.  Is it just me, or does Zhang Ziyi have one of best names when spoken in Chinese?  As the first hour closes, I'm a dismal 4 for 8.

It is Morgan Freeman's pleasure to introduce Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for its Best Picture nomination -- he is also pleased to wear a spider lapel pin in association with his upcoming film Along Came a Spider.  The applause at the end of the montage seemed rather subdued for a film that I predicted to win Best Picture.   Hmm...

Kate Hudson is ushered out to give Best Makeup to Rick Baker (his sixth win) and Gail Ryan for Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas.   I personally thought that The Cell deserved it by far, but at least the Grinch work is a nice alternative.  The best thing about this win is that it ends my three year streak of missing this category.

One time Oscar denouncer, two-time Oscar winner Dustin Hoffman presents Jack Cardiff with his Honorary Oscar.  I'm one person that will complain about the overbearing Chuck Workman montages over the years, but he really did a great job with the Cardiff retrospective, though, it should be pointed out that most of the interviews came straight from Painting with Light a documentary on Cardiff that came out a couple years ago.  The multitude of shots from his remarkable work on Black Narcissus (one of the ten greatest works of cinematography ever) was a treat to see -- only a reminder that the Academy had failed to nominate a few of this year's finest cinematographers, who have learned from the art of Jack Cardiff.  By the way, this is the first time a cinematographer has been given an Honorary Oscar.

Samuel L. Jackson struts on stage to give the documentary awards.  Best Documentary Short Subject goes to Big Mama and predictably Best Documentary Feature goes to Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.  Having only seen two of the nominees in the latter category, I cannot really remark on the complete competition, but Into the Arms of Strangers certainly did not deserve the award beside the more socially important than historically Sound and Fury about the war over cochlear implants brining sound to the deaf children and, perhaps, ending the realization of a deaf culture.

Sarah Jessica Parker introduces Randy Newman to perform his nominated song "A Fool in Love" from Meet the Parents with former Bangles frontwoman Susanna Hoffs.  I personally think that Newman is one of the all-time greats of movie music.  His little ditties for films are always a treat, whether it be something like "You Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story or the forgotten "Political Science" from Blast from the Past.   Newman has been nominated 14 times in the last 20 years without a single win.

Crouching Tiger duo Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh then give Best Visual Effects to entirely deserving Gladiator.  I was actually looking forward to this category a great deal because, well, I could not fathom the idea that Hollow Man might come off with an Academy Award for its cartoonish CGI work though many were predicting it to win.  This is not merely my disrespect for the film (I spent last weekend making jest at just how bad the dialogue in that film is), I will be quick to note the nice special effects in Starship Troopers (also a creation of Hollow Man director Paul Verhoevan) and The Relic.

The great actress Renée Zellweger shows some clips from Sci-Tech awards earlier in the month that she hosted.  There never really is much to say for this presentation each year, though I still laugh at the guy that took a napkin from his table to wipe off then-host Helen Hunt's fingerprints on his Oscar.  Sigourney Weaver follows to introduce Gladiator as a Best Picture nominee.

Goldie Hawn is brought out (am I the only that thought it was hilarious that the best music they could find to play for her was the theme to Death Becomes Her) and mumbles through her speech, blurts out 'damn' (the only expletive of the night -- Whoopi Goldberg would be ashamed), and introduces an absolutely incredible performance of the Best Original Score nominees.  Gil Cates went out of his way and pushed Debbie Allen's interpretive dance out for a duet of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman performing with the occasional additions from Bill Conti and his orchestra.  I was literally wowed with the music they performed; I already liked the Crouching Tiger, Gladiator, Malèna, and Chocolat scores, but they sounded better in this performance than ever before (especially Perlman's work with Ennio Morricone's Malèna score and the pair working with Rachel Portman's Chocolat score).  After watching these two, I hereby retract my statement of Gladiator as my personal choice of the nominees and replace it with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon -- it's win moments later was extremely deserved.

Second kudos to Gil Cates: the show is going by fast.   Over the last three years, the show has become increasingly longer, but they are done with more than half of the awards at the two hour mark.  This is a miracle I tell you.  At the close of the hour, I'm 7 for 12.

They play the Pepsi/Britney Spears commercial again -- I never thought I'd plead for a commercial with that annoying Pepsi talking girl (anyone that has visited a Regal Theatre in the last year knows exactly who I'm talking about).  Anthony Hopkins opens the third hour with a Irving G. Thalberg award for Dino Di Laurentiis.  Now, I'm not a huge Di Laurentiis fan during his years after leaving Italy (though, his work with Fellini and De Sica are nothing to frown upon).  His bad and mediocre films like War and Peace, The Bible, Barbarella, King Kong, Conan the Barbarian, Dune, and Hannibal far outnumber his notables like Ragtime, Blue Velvet, Manhunter, and Serpico.  Nevertheless, I'll live with his receiving the award -- it is far better than the way the Academy used to issue the Thalberg to people that rarely even produced films, let alone good ones (I still have not completely gotten over the honoring of Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg as producers).

Everyone's favorite 35 year-old cherub Björk is introduced by Winona Ryder.  The Icelandic pop-singer does a terrific job singing.   Based upon the applause that follow her performance of "I've Seen It All," I would not be surprised to learn that many of those who voted against her did not even listen to her work in Dancer in the Dark -- admittedly, it was a smaller film, with one nomination in a lesser category, I can see a few thinking 'oh, surely no one did a better song than Bob Dylan.  Of course, they may have been applauding that weird swan dress she had on -- Steve Martin admitted that it caught his attention ("I was going to wear my swan, but to me they're so last year").

John Travolta is then brought out to introduce this year's In Memorium montage.  This is always a painful part of the show -- the fact that we have lost Walter Matthau, Ring Lardner, Jr., Dale Evans, Stanley Kramer, Howard Koch, Loretta Young, Richard Farnsworth, Jason Robards, John Gielgud, and Sir Alec Guinness this past year was a sad testament to 2000.

Juliette Binoche and Jack Valenti take the stage to give Best Foreign Language Film to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the night only sure bet.  Director Ang Lee is always a treat to see on stage.  His previous speeches at the Independent Spirit Awards and Golden Globes have all been terrific to watch -- it's a shame that this man has never really won anything besides Foreign Film citations before this year.

Somebody woke Ben Affleck from a deep sleep to show Traffic as a Best Picture nominee.  The previous Academy Award winner (for co-writing Good Will Hunting, not acting) came out with his hair in a mess, unshaven, and his suit jacket barely buttoned (I'd dare say that the single button in a hole was in the wrong hole).  The film Traffic deserved a better person to introduce it.

Jennifer Lopez then introduces Bob Dylan to sing his song "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys via satellite.  Whomever directed stayed way too close on Dylan's face, not to mention the fact that Dylan looked like a scraggly Vincent Price.  I love the guy's music and all, but this was far from his best performance -- I would not be surprised if some voters wanted to move their Best Song vote over to Björk after seeing the two live performances.  The only great thing that came out this moment in the ceremony was the camera catching a bored Danny DeVito eating  some contraband carrots (Steve Martin then hands him some dip moments later).  Of course, the award is then given to Bob Dylan.

Last year's Best Actress Hilary Swank then comes out to present Best Actor after giving some year-late additions to her speech from last March.   This is one category that went down to the wire without a clear winner.  The consensus was still with Russell Crowe, but I, always trying to recreate my Juliette Binoche upset, went with a surprise win for Ed Harris.  No dice, Crowe took the award, though seemed believably surprised to at the announcement of his name.  Too bad that he was the least of the five nominees (perhaps one day Javier Bardem will receive his long deserved award).  Oh, and I have now learned my lesson: never predict Ed Harris to win.  I've done it three times now (for Best Supporting Actor in Apollo 13 and The Truman Show) and he has lost me a prediction each time.  I really think that he'll get this one day -- but I won't predict it unless it's a sure thing.

Ashley Judd comes on for her third time as a presenter (I think that it's to coincide with the release of her third year of bad films, beginning with Somebody Like You, in theatres next week).  She presents Chocolat as a Best Picture nominee -- nothing special.

Perennial honorary Oscar presenter Julie Andrews introduces a montage for Ernest Lehman's career.  His screenplays, which range from North by Northwest and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to The Sound of Music and West Side Story.  Lehman seemed quite starstruck on the stage, 85 years old and always a bridesmaid (he has been nominated for 4 of his screenplays and 2 of his productions without a single win), Lehman seemed to have taken everyone's attention when he added the long dictum that every film begins with the screenplay.

Then comes the big category: Best Actress.  Last year's Best Actor Kevin Spacey comes out to give out the category.  Now, this is interesting because Spacey last gave out an Academy Award in the acting categories in 1996, when there was a huge front-runner and competition from Juliette Binoche and Joan Allen -- then opening the envelope to find an upset of that front-runner (Lauren Bacall).   This year, everything aligned that way again with the Best Actress category and Julia Roberts as the front-runner.  Nevertheless, I stuck it out and predicted Roberts even though I dearly hoped that there would be an upset and Ellen Burstyn would win.  Burstyn gave the best performance of the year by far and should have won.   Her speech the previous night at the Independent Spirit Awards was one of the greatest award moments of my recollection.  I can only hope that the Academy will fix this with an Honorary Oscar ASAP.

Julia Roberts seemed quite giddy about her win.  It was nice to have someone this enthralled with the moment, though I was a little irked that she called the great Bill Conti the 'stick man' (though Conti may not be the finest at film scores beyond Rocky, he does have a knack for orchastrating the Oscar ceremonies).  When she referred to thanking "everyone I've met in my life," I can only wish that Jack Nicholson had been there to boo her like he did to Kim Basinger in 1997 -- that was the big line from his Terms of Endearment costar Shirley Maclaine's speech in 1983.  Oh, and might I add that Laura Linney looked absolutely ravishing -- talk about the lady in red.  With that award, I'm 11 for 16 at the end of the hour.

Tom Hanks comes out to introduce another special engagement via satellite.  This time, it's Sir Arthur C. Clarke from his home in Sri Lanka.  Clarke sat in front of moonscape mural and gave the award to Stephen Gaghan for Traffic.   Admittedly, I have become a little sick of the media buzz that has surrounded this screenwriter, but at least they awarded him over three of the other four (though, I think that Steve Kloves deserves the award for his Wonder Boys script).  Gaghan kept his speech short -- he may take home a TV to sit his Oscar on top of.

Despite the late in the hour resurgence of support for Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count on Me screenplay, Tom Hanks then gives the Best Original Screenplay award to Cameron Crowe for Almost Famous.  I seriously think that this was a rather easy choice -- it's one of the finest screenplays this year (though nothing compared to the unnominated Adapted Screenplay for Requiem for a Dream by Herbert Selby, Jr., and Darren Aronofsky) and it was one of the few places that Almost Famous supporters could give it a vote.

Britney Spears again -- and now she's joined by Bob Dole and a dog.  Where's the world coming to?

And now we're at the big moment, the final two awards and the end decision of the battle between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Gladiator.   By now, both have 4 awards each, though in the five showdown categories so far, Crouching has won 3, Gladiator 1, and Traffic 1.  Things are looking good for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon going into the final heat.  The only idea that the Ang Lee film might not win is the fact that voters may have looked more to sharing the wealth than in voting in a bloc for any particular film.

Tom Cruise then takes the stage and throws everything into a limbo when he gives Best Director to Steven Soderbergh for his work on Traffic.   Now, there have long been statements that his Erin Brockovich nomination in this category would take away from his support -- evidently not, Julia Roberts was probably the only person that did not vote for his work on Traffic over Erin.   I'm quite happy with this decision -- he is certainly my choice of the five, though you can sense that this gives some turmoil to the long belief in precursors, all of which -- including the Directors Guild Awards, the Golden Globes, the Independent Spirit Awards, and nearly every critics association -- had Ang Lee down to win.  He looked pretty good to take this.

With that change of pace, an idea arises, could Traffic take Best Picture?  It has been 49 years since a film took Best Director and Screenplay without winning the Best Picture prize (A Place in the Sun fell to An American in Paris in 1951) -- and 52 years since an award for writing, direction, and an acting prize did not lead to Best Picture (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre fell to Hamlet).  In that latter scenario, only one other time has this happened, with 1935's Mutiny on the Bounty defeating The Informer.   So things are, believe it or not, looking really good for old Traffic going into the finale.

But it just was not in the cards, however.  Despite having Traffic's Michael Douglas presenting the Best Picture category, the award still went to the big one Gladiator.  Fanfare for the mighty giant -- some have already called it the worst film to win Best Picture in a long time.  Ok, so I actually like the film, though it is nothing beside Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Traffic, both of whom could have possibly won had the other not been around.   While people are appalled at this win, I'm just a little disappointed (by the way, my opinion of the worst Best Picture winner is 1931's Cimarron).

As the dust clears, I have the worst predictions rate in my 11 year history.  12 for 20, 60% is a sickening shame.  I received a great deal of kudos for my predictions in last year's open race, but I did not fare near as well this year.  In the Big 8 categories, I only got half right -- mainly based on my predictions of a Gladiator shut-out in those categories (I had Crouching for Best Picture and Director, Almost Famous for Supporting Actress, and Pollock for Actor).  Hopefully I'll make up for this misstep next year.

Blatant Opinion:
This year, the Academy honored three films with multiple Oscars, the 5 for 12 Gladiator, the 4 for 10 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (tied with Fanny & Alexander for the most wins for a foreign film), and the 4 for 5 Traffic.  Other winners in the feature categories were Almost Famous, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Erin Brockovich, Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, Pollock, U-571, and Wonder Boys.

Anyway, onto my annual awards.  Like last year, there were not as many extremes as in year's before.  Looking at Julia Roberts was not near as sickening as the incessant glances at Frank Langella two years ago; also, no one that graced the stage could ever hold a candle to multiple "Dumbest person..." notice winner Val Kilmer:

•Best acceptance speech: Peter Pau for Best Cinematography
•Best joke by host: "The FBI has just announced the suspect in the plot to kidnap Russell Crowe and all I can say is 'Tom Hanks, you should be ashamed of yourself.'"
•Best joke by winner:  "I have a television, so I'm going to spend some time her to tell you some things." -- Julia Roberts, referring to Gil Cates award of a TV for the shortest speech
•Sorest loser: Joel Coen; when his wife Frances McDormand glowed over Cameron Crowe's Best Original Screenplay win, he seemed steamed having just lost Best Adapted Screenplay
•Happiest loser: Joaquin Phoenix; he may be a member of "Crowe's cocky club," but he seemed believably happy for Del Toro defeating him for Best Supporting Actor
•Happiest winner: Julia Roberts; but, please, who thought you'd lose?
•Dumbest person in the audience: Hmm, Goldie Hawn
•Dumbest person on the stage: Easy, Goldie Hawn
•Person whose face I could live without seeing again: Julia Roberts
•Most noticeable missing person: Roberto Benigni
•Most unnoticeable present person: Julie Walters; once they showed her for the Best Supporting Actress nominees, she disappeared even though she sat beside the Gladiator machine
•Most pleasant surprise(s): Marcia Gay Harden for Best Supporting Actress & Steven Soderbergh for Best Director
•Most unpleasant surprise: Russell Crowe for Best Actor; though I was in the minority that thought he'd lose, I was still quite dismayed when he won in a competition of four other superior performers
•Should win but didn't: Ellen Burstyn; by far
•Shouldn't win but did: Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport
•Best presenter:  Arthur C. Clarke
•Best winner: Steven Soderbergh for Best Director
•Best Picture next year: Hmm, I actually called Gladiator last year; let's try Gangs of New York, The Road to Perdition, or A.I.

Analysis by:
David Perry