Oscar '99 Post-Show
Opening Commentary: The Oscars have come to an end with some rather astonishing revelations: pregnant ladies attract the camera like a magnet; a smart witty docudrama about the corruption of tobacco firms and news television can successfully be shut-out of a ceremony; female newcomers and male safeties are all the rage; and the Academy hated Jaws 4, they really hated it. I was glad to throw my second annual Oscar party, despite forgetting to spread word until early, early, early Sunday morning. Plus, there was nothing like welcoming Monday with a reviewing of Billy Crystal's always enjoyable Best Picture songs. So here it is, in all its Technicolor glory, a recap of the Hollywood pedigree parade we call Oscar.
Last year, I was one of the biggest denouncers of the Oscar produced pre-show, but this year I found it to be ages better. Not only did it run well, it also refrained from trying to teach the viewers more than they ever cared to know. Plus the replacing of Geena Davis with former Premier magazine editor Chris Connelly was a big perk (plus co-host Meredith Vieira of television's The View actually called the nominees in the lesser categories "muckedy mucks"). Too bad they failed to show Trey Parker and Matt Stone's incredible outfits, that would have been highly enjoyable.
A little corny, but the opening with Tyra Banks walking the camera up to Peter Coyote announcing "This is the 72nd Annual Academy Awards" worked. Maybe it is because it was one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes walk-throughs in the history of the ceremony. Or maybe it is just that Coyote is such a neat fellow. That normal recap of the red carpet followed, as well as the exasperatingly boring Robert Rehme speech (though, he is still better than Arther Hiller's speeches from way back). Then came the big stuff, the Billy Crystal entrance and monologue.
It was 1996, the year I began reporting on the Oscars, that he started placing himself in films via Forrest Gump visual effects, but this year went far beyond the jobs done in 1996 and 1997. After a nice 2001: A Space Odyssey sent bone to the head, Crystal goes through time, or at least the portal that made Contact, and film history. Not only does he "see dead people" like Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, he "talks" to DeNiro in Taxi Driver, seduce Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and squeal like a pig in Deliverance, Billy gets to throw out the funniest thing I have seen in the history of the Academy Awards. Having Stephen King as the lady with the stroller in the famous car chase from The French Connection was pure genius. That along with Lester Burnham's yearning for a shower and an incredible West Side Story song and dance number about the lack of dance numbers made this Billy compilation the best ever.
The monologue was quick and to the point, bringing out the problems that have faced the Academy Awards this year (lost ballots, stolen statues), bringing him right into those patented Best Picture nominee songs. Admittedly this year's pack could not hold a candle to those of 1996, but, of course, the films nominated this year cannot compare to those of 1996. They were funny, but doing the songs on particular actors are not near as funny as when the songs are about the films themselves. I would have been a little interested to see what he would have done with a song on The Sixth Sense and The Cider House Rules instead of Haley Joel Osment and Michael Caine, respectively (though the mentioning of Jaws 4 in the Caine retrospective was classic). But the American Beauty and The Insider tunes were at least up to par.
From there, the show commenced. There is nothing more astonishing in this year's list of presenters as Lucy Lui from television's Ally McBeal, but I finally found out the reason as she entered with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz, her co-stars in the new film update of Charlie's Angels. Anyway, these three gave the Best Costume Design award to Topsy-Turvy, a grand choice. This little win got my hopes up; this category was one that I was not too sure of and made me think that I might just fare really well this year after last year's fiasco. A Ripley win would have been preferable, but Topsy-Turvy would be my close second choice And that rounds us into the first commercial break.
Cute-kid nominee Haley Joel Osment comes in to introduce a film montage of child actors over the years. Please, someone relieve Chuck Workman of these tedious montages, he does way too many. It was supposed to remind viewers of great child actors, it only brought to me that The Exorcist and The Omen are some pretty messed-up films.
On tap presenter Mike Myers joined Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me co-star Heather Graham to give The Matrix its first win for the evening in the category of Best Sound. Once this category came through, I felt really good about the rest of my Matrix predictions. The Cider House Rules co-stars Tobey Maguire, Erykah Badu, and her hat gave Best Makeup to Topsy-Turvy. I was a little surprised here, usually they give it to the lowest-key fare of the year, hence the reason I've missed this category three years in a row. At least I got to hear the Topsy-Turvy music again. Why Winona Ryder to present The Cider House Rules as a Best Picture nominee? Who knows!
I would like to nominate James Coburn as the smoothest operator in Hollywood. No one had me as excited as a presenter this year as the caffeine riddled Roberto Benigni. Of course, he gave the Best Supporting Actress to the predictable Angelina Jolie, looking like Elvira. Nothing like awarding the least deserving nominee. (By the way, the Samantha Morton clip reminded me of just how incredible she was in Sweet in Lowdown; I'd say that she'd be my second place hopeful behind Chloe Sevigny.) Onto another break.
The great Morgan Freeman came in following the hilarious Crystal joke pitting Halle Berry in a Driving Miss Daisy action sequel. Freeman introduces Workman's second montage within an hour, this one about the use of history in film. The only perk of this really long montage was that it showed some films that few would consider classics like films of Mel Brooks and the Monty Python troupe. This year's ceremony was the longest in the history of the awards, which is understandable considering the liberal work for Chuck Workman this year (to his credit, Workman actually had to work this year, neither of the aforementioned montages called for that Singin' in the Rain clip).
Then came Cate Blanchett and Jude Law representing The Talented Mr. Ripley, this year's should have been Best Picture nominee, to give Best Live-Action Short to My Mother Dreams Satan's Disciples in New York, a less than deserving film when compared to the incredible Kleingold. Michael Caine and Billy Crystal than proceeded to set-up the stage for Best Animated Short with toys of Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story 2. I must admit that I never considered Duncan a worthy nominee, but he is a really likable guy as shown in this year's ceremony. As for the category, they gave it to The Old Man and the Sea, the only nominee that I failed to see, which blinded me from steering away from the entrancing When the Day Breaks.
Angelica Huston presents Best Picture nominee The Insider as the show finishes up its first hour, with my count 3 for 6.
Vanessa Williams and LL Cool J introduce the new format for Best Original Song nominees as all five are performed on this single break. Randy Newman and Sarah McLachlan do an incredible job with the song from Toy Story 2, the year's should-of-won, and Aimee Mann did a fine job performing this year's best song from Magnolia. Of course, after each of these great songs were "Music of My Heart" performed by Gloria Estefan and boy band N'Sync, who will undoubtedly never be performing at another Academy Awards ceremony, and "You'll Be in My Heart" performed by Phil Collins. The final song was a grand production of "Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut by Oscar winner Robin Williams, excising that naughty word that had ABC sweating so much. Cher then came out to give the award to the treacle from Phil Collins in the most astonishingly normal dress I've ever seen on Cher at the Oscars.
The youths of American Beauty Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, and Wes Bentley presented Best Documentary Short-Subject to King Gimp, which brought such exasperating happiness to Dan Kepplinger, the film's subject, that he shook himself out of his wheelchair. The film's producers were seated so far back in the auditorium that it took an full minute for them to make it to the stage. Hollywood couple Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke followed presenting Best Documentary Feature to One Day in September (for the record, I actually came near changing my prediction over to September instead of Buena Vista Social Club, but chose not to; oh, well) who made it from their seats to the stage surprisingly quickly. I thoroughly adored the One Day in September producer's statement that the Academy is more interested in art than box office; if only that was always true.
Dame Judi Dench then gave Best Supporting Actor to Michael Caine in one the most hotly contested races of the evening. Kudos to the Academy for finding a Cruise scene in Magnolia that did not contain expletives. Caine's speech was heartfelt; hey, I've forgiven him for Jaws 4. I like to think that Jude Law might come off of this nomination in the same way Caine came off of his Alfie nomination. Caine's speech actually brought to me just how great this year's nominees were. The only sour grape was Duncan, but man is that guy lovable.
Jane Fonda came in to present the Honorary Academy Award to A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds director Andrzej Wajda, who spoke his speech in Polish. I feel the need now to catch up on some Wajda films after his amazing film montage. Chow Yun-Fat followed, giving the Best Sound Effects Editing award to none other than The Matrix (I really liked how the producers and director chose to show simply the title card with the sounds in the background for the nominees). No film was as aurally impressive this year as The Matrix and it's nice to see that the Academy agreed. Selma Heyek then went through the normal recap of the Academy's Scientific and Technical Achievement awards a week earlier. The Matrix then took yet another win for Best Visual Effects from presenter Arnold Schwartzeneggar.
Diane Keaton then presents Best Picture nominee American Beauty. The year's second best comedy piece this year (behind the opening scenes) was Crystal's showing of his "sixth sense" as he told what people like Roberto Benigni, Annette Bening, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Judi Dench were thinking.
The next piece of business was a musical montage from Burt Bacharach joined by Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Ray Charles, Queen Latifah, and Isaac Hayes perform various Oscar nominated songs from Oscar past, with Hayes sufficiently disappearing in smoke as he performed the theme to Shaft. As the second hour ends, I'm 6 for 12.
After Angela Basset presented The Sixth Sense as a Best Picture nominee and Billy Crystal made jokes on the loss of Isaac Hayes, Penélope Cruz and Antonio Bandaras took the stage to give Pedro Almodóvar his well deserved Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for All About My Mother. I think that it was pretty easy to see Almodóvar had won when Cruz went into conniptions after reading the envelope; she, of course, is one of Almodóvar's stock actors, even appearing in All About My Mother.
Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves were then brought to the stage to present Best Original Score. In the biggest surprise of the year, John Corigliano's The Red Violin score defeated the Thomas Newman score for American Beauty. Too bad it was not an upset from The Talented Mr. Ripley's Gabriel Yared instead. Edward Norton then came out to move into the heartbreaking In Memoriam. Pause into commercial.
Samuel L. Jackson then takes up Best Picture nominee The Green Mile. Julianne Moore and Russell Crowe take the stage for Best Art Direction, awarding the unbelievable work on Sleepy Hollow. After Topsy-Turvy double wins earlier, I had a weird feeling that it might pick this one up too. Afterwards is the award for Best Film Editing as presented by Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones to The Matrix. Kudos to the producers and director for their compilation viewing in showing the nominees in this category, they really knew how to use the digital projection screens to their best. Jack Nicholson finally took off the sunglasses to give the Irving Thalberg Award to good friend Warren Beatty, who proved in his acceptance speech that those Bulworth rants were not that hard to write for Beatty.
Brad Pitt made a return to the Academy Award ceremonies to award cinematography to American Beauty's Conrad L. Hall. I found it interesting that he was chosen to give the award, two of Pitt's early starring roles won in this category. I had never actually seen Conrad L. Hall before and must say that he is a really funny guy. Who would have guessed?
Best Adapted Screenplay was then given to John Irving for The Cider House Rules by Kevin Spacey. This, of course, was no surprise at all, though Ripley really did deserve to win. Then there was Original Screenplay from Mel Gibson given to Alan Ball for American Beauty. My third hour closing is 12 for 19.
With a net at hand, Billy Crystal reluctantly introduces Roberto Benigni to give Best Actress, who then proceeds to go crazy as usual. The award goes to the highly deserving Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry. Swank gave a good speech, though I will say that her speech for the Golden Globes was much better. Abnormally quick commercial break.
Gwyneth Paltrow takes the stage to present Best Actor to the Kevin Spacey. I was really afraid that the greatest working character actor was going to lose to Denzel Washington, this was highly refreshing. Though, I'm sure that Alan Ball is the best of friends with Spacey for now on. Steven Spielberg then came on to award Best Director to Sam Mendes for American Beauty, a film made under Spielberg's DreamWorks studio. As a side note, think of what it would have been like if Spike Jonze had won for Being John Malkovich. With that and the mere two for Cider House so far, I think it's easy to guess who'll win for Best Picture. Clint Eastwood took the stage and gave Best Picture to American Beauty. After the show passed the combined length of The Sixth Sense and American Beauty, it was about time (by the way, this year's ceremony lasted longer than any ceremony before; but, as Billy Crystal said, it was the shortest of this century).
Blatant Opinion: This year, the Academy honored four films with multiple Oscars, the 5 for 8 American Beauty, the 4 for 4 The Matrix, the 2 for 7 The Cider House Rules, and the 2 for 3 Topsy-Turvy. Other winners in the feature categories were All About My Mother, Boys Don't Cry, Girl, Interrupted, One Day in September, The Red Violin, Sleepy Hollow, and Tarzan. Yes, the Wall Street Journal was correct in every category, thank heaven's I chose not to read the article until after the awards, then I might have changed Best Actress on principal (I came very close to changing over to Bening as my prediction the day before the poll's results were announced; though my Friday change over to Michael Caine does make me look rather suspicious of reading the article, it was just that I finally came to terms that Cruise was going to lose while filling out my reel.com Oscar ballot.
Anyway, onto my annual awards. This year was not as engaging in terms of honoring and dishonoring the honorees; hell, I was not near as sick of seeing Annette Bening as I was of Frank Langella last year. All the same, here are my choices in my categories:
Best acceptance speech: Michael Caine
Best joke in the History of the Academy Awards: Stephen King's appearance in The French Connection in the opening montage
Best joke by host: "Shirley Macleane was going to be here to give the Thalberg Award to her brother Warren, but she's still not done with the Streisand tribute at the Golden Globes"
Best joke by presenter: "They asked me to stay the Hell off the furniture" -- Roberto Benigni
Best joke by winner: "This is the high point of my day, I hope it's not all downhill from here" -- Kevin Spacey
Sorest loser: Russell Crowe; even before he lost, I never saw him crack a hint of a smile
Happiest loser: Michael Clarke Duncan
Happiest winner: Michael Caine
Person most out of touch with the show that has good excuse: Fiona Apple
Person most out of touch because of stupidity: Val Kilmer (this guy has a monopoly on this award)
Dumbest person in the audience: Val Kilmer
Dumbest person on the stage: Keanu Reeves
Person whose face I could live without seeing again: Annette Bening
Most noticeable missing person: Sean Penn
Most unnoticeable present person: Samantha Morton; when they did show her, I thought it was Kirsten Dunst
Most pleasant surprise: Topsy-Turvy for Best Makeup
Most unpleasant surprise: "You'll Be in My Heart"
Should win but didn't: Jude Law
Shouldn't win but did: "You'll Be in My Heart"
Best presenter: Roberto Benigni
Best winner: Michael Caine
Best Picture next year: Rules of Engagement, All the Pretty Horses, Gladiator, anyone?