Oscar '98 Post-Show
Opening Commentary: While I've been writing reviews, picking the winners at the Oscars, and writing film opinion essays for years now, this is merely my second time to take the helm of an Oscar Post Show write-up. In fact the last time was the 1996 ceremony which was never published. I've been toying with ideas on how to enter this piece and I finally came to a decision. I shall start off by running through the entire night's events and then cap it off with my personal awards in the Blatant Opinion area. Don't worry, I'll keep this shorter than the ceremony was, a staggering four hours and three minute breaking the previous record of three hours and forty-five minutes tied last year (the time clock I shall use in writing this is without commercials so it will be considerably shorter). I shall try my absolute best not to get too political when I get to the Kazan award and I promise I will not crack a single joke about Monica Lewinski getting an invitation to the ceremony. Before starting up into the longest rant over the Oscars you will find, I'd like to once again state my disgust over the Academy overlooking the merits of Dylan Baker for Happiness, Bill Murray for Rushmore, and Joan Allen for Pleasantville. While many of my favorites were nominated and lost, it was these three that made me the maddest because they didn't even get a nomination.
The first order of business is the pre-show that the
Academy did this year for the first time. Hosted by Geena Davis, it proved why half of
America complains about the Joan Rivers pre-show every year. Davis seemed lost at times
and a little too bewildered to understand why she was the choice to host it (in fact, I
wondered that myself). It ran the gamut of boring to idiotic. Davis' meager attempts at
being funny showed why she has yet to be nominated again since 1992 for Thelma &
Louise. The only good thing was veteran film journalist Jim Morret on the red carpet
interviewing the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Roberto Benigni, and Lynn Redgrave. Meanwhile
we had to trek through Davis interviewing James Coburn, Helen Hunt, and Geoffrey Rush. If
Davis' inability to interview well was not enough, the producer of the pre-show thought it
would be interesting to show us a few behind the scenes shorts, he was wrong. These shorts
included the making of the statuette, the set design, the governor's ball menu, the
journalists covering the event, and the people that have made the dresses and tuxedos for
the past years. The most refreshing part of this thirty minutes was when they finally shut
Davis up to start the show.
Start the fanfare, it's now time for the 71st Annual Academy Awards. The show starts off with the normal look at some of the stars that have entered earlier which is usually quite enjoyable, but this year we had already had enough pre-show and were quite ready for the show to actually kick off. The beginning actually arrives as host Whoopi Goldberg enters the stage hilariously dressed as Queen Elizabeth I, an apparent mainstay of this year's nominations. She walked out and in a great Whoopi-ish British accent said, "I am the African Queen." I also enjoyed her badgering of journalists that complain every year about the length of the show by saying, "We know it's long, tough." Unfortunately this opening was short as she introduces "the man who put Ned Devine to sleep" Academy president Robert Rehme. As usual he staggers around for a few minutes to introduce the point of the year's ceremony, then he introduces a nice little short on the greatest moments in film history chosen by Academy members. The enjoyable compilation included everything from The Crowd and The Birth of a Nation to Gilda and The Maltese Falcon to Cabaret and The Sound of Music to Fargo and There's Something About Mary. After this finishes up, a regularly dressed Whoopi comes on the stage for the main monologue. This one was filled with quite a few flops mainly involving politics. In fact the only jokes that really work are her references that she is "the last 20th Century Fox" and that she and Hattie MacDaniel made up the black list. Kim Basinger then comes out and awards Best Supporting Actor to James Coburn who seemed just as suprised to win as everybody else. He was my choice for who deserved it and I think he proved why when he yelled at the orchestra for trying to play him off the stage. Commercial break
Nominee Gwyneth Paltrow in ever-last hair comes out and awards Best Art Direction to her own film, Shakespeare in Love. Brit Patrick Stewart follows up to introduce the two British Best Picture nominees, Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love. The Academy's adoration for Shakespeare is quite apparent in that its clip is three times longer than Elizabeth's. Mike Meyers has the gall to come out again to present despite his awful bear-included presentation last year. He awards Best Makeup to Elizabeth which caught me off guard. One can note that this may be my worst category since in the last five years I've only gotten it right once. Christina Ricci then came out to introduce Mariah Carrey and Whitney Huston singing Best Song nominee "When You Believe" from The Prince of Egypt. Commercial break.
Goldberg begins the running gag of wearing clothes from each of the nominees in costume design by wearing a happy 1950s apparel from Pleasantville. She then cracks some unfunny joke to which she said, and I thought, "I may not be doing this show again." Neo-respected actor Brenden Fraser comes out to give the Best Live Action Short to The Election Night, another miss for me despite just guessing in this category. The animated cast of A Bug's Life then appear to give out the Best Animated Short to Bunny. Their hijinx were just as unfunny as two years ago when Beavis and Butthead gave out Best Sound Effects Editing. Robin Williams then comes out to give Best Supporting Actress to Judi Dench who seemed suprised even though just about everyone was sure she was going to win. As the show goes into the final commercial break of the first hour, my tally is three for six.
As we enter into the second hour, Whoopi takes the time to make fun of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell who are late to get into their seats (quite reminiscent of what Billy Crystal did last year to Charlton Heston) and then has fun with Roberto Benigni who admits he barely understands anything she is saying. Chris Rock enters to give the award for Best Sound Effects Editing to Saving Private Ryan. Before doing so he offends the nominees by down-playing the importance of their roles in the film industry and then calls Elia Kazan "a rat" which gets quite a few boos from the audience. Liv Tyler then introduces Aerosmith to perform "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" or "The Most Annoying Song ever Nominated for an Academy Award" from Armageddon. Then Tom Hanks introduces astronaut/senator John Glenn to introduce a short piece on history in the movies including, surprise, himself in The Right Stuff. Commercial break.
Whoopi enters in the outfit worn by Oprah Winfrey in Beloved, another nominee for Best Costume Design. Italian Sophia Loren takes the stage to show Italian Best Picture nominee Life is Beautiful. After that she gives Best Foreign Language Film to Life is Beautiful. Roberto Benigni goes crazy accidentally kicking the cameraman as gets up to stand on the back of Billy Bob Thornton's seat to get to Steven Speilberg, his arch nemesis. After running around for a little while he takes the stage and in scattered English says little gems like, "He who kisses the joy as it flies and lives in eternity so rise...I feel like I could dive in this ocean of generosity, this is too much...it's a hail storm of kindness and gratitude...I would like to thank my parents who gave me the biggest gift of all: poverty" After finally getting him off the stage, Andi MacDowell and Andy Garcia give the award of Best Musical/Comedy Score to Shakespeare in Love as the cartoon nominees canceled each other out as predicted. Interestingly, the only thing worse than Geena Davis' pre-show was the dance number for the Best Dramatic Score nominees, introduced by Geena Davis. Five dancers pranced uncontrollably to the undancable themes to The Thin Red Line, Elizabeth, and Life is Beautiful. The award is then given to Life is Beautiful. John Travolta then hits the stage to introduce a salute to the late Frank Sinatra, edited by Martin Scorsese. Commercial break.
Whoopi now comes out in the clothing worn by Geoffrey Rush in Elizabeth including a beard. Anne Heche then does a quick overview of the Scientific and Technical Awards held last month despite having technical difficulty in her microphone. Oscar snub Jim Carrey then comes out to give Best Editing to Saving Private Ryan. Before he does that, though, he takes the time to have a little fun over his lack of a nomination including a hilarious impression of nominee Roberto Benigni. Renee Zellwegger then introduces Alison Morrer to sing "A Soft Place to Fall" from The Horse Whisperer. Whoopi hits the stage doing a hilarious The Birds impression before introducing Nicholas Cage to give the Irving Thalberg Award to Norman Jewison, whose honorary award had been overshadowed by the Elia Kazan controversy. As the second hour rounds out, my tally is nine out of twelve.
Whoopi comes out in the Birds outfit again to do the same joke and has some more fun with Roberto Benigni and wife Nicoletta Brachi. Liam Neeson then awards Best Visual Effects to my lucky guess of What Dreams May Come. Idiot of the century Val Kilmer comes out with an unencouragable horse, that wanted as far away from him as I did, to introduce a montage honoring the late Hollywood cowboys including Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Helen Hunt then gave Best Actor to Roberto Benigni who goes crazy again saying things like "this is a terrible mistake because I already used all of my English...my body is in tumult because it's a colossal moment of joy...I would like to be Jupiter and kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament and make love to everybody...I hope to win some other Soscars (not a typo, that is what he said)." Commercial break.
Whoopi comes out in the gaudy Velvet Goldmine clothing and then introduces Lisa Kudrow to introduce Peter Gabriel and Randy Newman to perform "That'll Do" from Babe: Pig in the City. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon pretty much use the exact same comedic material as they did last year with the same categories when giving out the two Best Documentary awards. The Best Documentary Short Subject went to Keiko Ibi for The Personals: Improvisations of Romance in the Golden Years who gave the most heart felt speech of the night by asking the Academy to continue this category which is to be canceled next year. Best Documentary Feature went to Steven Speilberg's The Last Days, suprise suprise. The moment most looked forward to came when Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro gave Elia Kazan the Honorary Oscar. About half of the audience stood and applauded the Streetcar Named Desire director with the notable exceptions of Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, and Steven Spielberg. Kazan did not apologize for what he did as many had hoped, instead he feebly thanked everyone and said he could just slip away now. Commercial break.
Whoopi came out in the final costume of the night from Shakespeare in Love and then gave the Best Costume Design award to Shakespeare. Catherine Zeta-Jones then introduced the final song nominee, "The Prayer" from Quest for Camelot as performed by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocceli. Jennifer Lopez then gave the Best Original Song award to "When You Believe" from Prince of Egypt. Annette Benning then started the In Memoriam that, as always, was beautifully done as it took the show into a commercial break.
President of the MPAA jack Vilenti introduced General Colin Powell to introduce the two World War II nominees for Best Picture, The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan. Whoopi then gave a quick reference to late film critic Gene Siskel that seemed just as from the heart as the Sinatra tribute from Scorsese. Uma Thurman then gave Best Cinematography to Janusz Kaminski for his work on Saving Private Ryan. Jack Nicholson followed them by awarding Best Actress to Gwyneth Paltrow, who broke into those unendearing tears as usual. The only good thing about her acceptance speech was that she admitted that Cate Blanchett really deserved it. As the third hour ends, I'm fifteen for twenty with four more awards left.
Steven Spielberg comes onto the stage to present a terrific tribute to Stanley Kubrick that showed ten of his thirteen masterpieces. Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn then came on to present the two screenplay awards. Best Adapted Screenplay went to Bill Condon for Gods and Monsters suprisingly. The Best Original Screenplay went to Shakespeare in Love's Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard who were clearly the shoo-ins. Kevin Costner was then brought out to present Best Director to the squirmy Steven Spielberg. The showmen that the awards are, they go into a commercial break before the announcement of the Best Picture of the year.
Finally Harrison Ford takes the stage to give the Best Picture award. With millions of dollars on the line for Saving Private Ryan to win, Shakespeare makes an upset and takes the award. My ending tally was seventeen out of twenty-four, tying my amount last year. So ends the 71st Annual Academy Awards, not with a bang, but with a whimper (that whimper would be Speilberg, Katzenberg, and Geffen crying over losing Best Picture).
Blatant Opinion: Well it was kind of a red letter year. The show was too long and Whoopi was not near as good as Billy Crystal was last year, but the winners this year were of better stature. Shakespeare ran off with the most at seven, Saving Private Ryan took five, and Life is Beautiful had three. That's a whole lot more appealing to watch then Titanic taking eleven while L.A. Confidential and As Good As It Gets took two each. I think the deciding factor was in Billy Crystal. The past two ceremonies have been nice and smooth in running, but his year's seemed like it took forever. Onto the awards themselves. I was ecstatic about the Shakespeare win for Best Picture even though I think Saving Private Ryan is better, and would have been much happier if any of the other three nominees had won. I just think that it is funny that DreamWorks was unable to buy the Oscar which is exactly what they were trying to do, reportedly spending more than twice the amount Miramax paid for Shakespeare in trade papers. The triple win for Life is Beautiful was great simply to see Benigni run around. Here are my personal awards for the night:
Best acceptance speech: Both Benigni speeches
Best non-Benigni speech: Keiko Ibi for Short Documentary
Best joke by host: "I thought me and Hattie MacDaniel were the black list"
Best joke by presenter: "Guns and Moses with Charleton Heston"--Robin Williams
Best joke by winner: anything Benigni said
Sorest loser: Nick Nolte, who seemed depressed for the rest of the show
Happiest loser: Benigni losing to Speilberg (that man is always happy)
Sorest winner: Judi Dench (we know you didn't deserve it too)
Happiest winner: Benigni, of course
Person most out of touch with the show that has good excuse: Nicoletta Braschi
Person most out of touch because of stupidity: Val Kilmer
Dumbest person in the audience: Val Kilmer
Dumbest person on the stage: Val Kilmer
Person whose face I could live without seeing again: Frank Langella
Most noticeable missing person: Terrence Malick
Most unnoticeable present person: Monica Lewinski (no joke, she was there)
Most pleasant suprise: Elizabeth winning Best Makeup
Most unpleasant suprise: Shakespeare winning Best Picture
Should win but didn't: The Thin Red Line
Shouldn't win but did: Shakespeare in Love
Best presenter: Sophia Loren (sure she was a little bias)
Best winner: Roberto Benigni
Best Picture next year: Eyes Wide Shut (okay, I'm a little bias)
One last note, Billy better be back next year.