My general feelings toward the pampered poodles of Hollywood have changed dramatically for the better after a decorous Academy Awards presentation last night. Whatever their personal feelings about war and politics, all but Michael Moore put tradition and reverence for their art – obviously genuinely felt – above self-indulgence in a surprisingly moving ceremony.
The 75th Diamond Jubilee Oscars couldn’t have come at a more difficult time, with the invasion of Iraq begun and on a day of grotesquery and the weight of mounting casualties hanging about the room.
Steve Martin proved a brave, engagingly flippant host who didn’t shy away from taunting individuals or the pressing issues of the industry:
He called Queen Latifah “sequel money” referring to their joint hit Bringing Down the House.
“Did you hear what Miramax did to promote Chicago? They made a really good movie that everybody liked.”
“I said something about the ‘Hollywood Gay Mafia’ last week and woke up with a poodle head in my bed.”
“What is a movie star? Tall, short, thin … or skinny. They can be Democrat … or skinny. Any sex, race or religion … sometimes in a single weekend. They can be straight [camera shows Harrison Ford] or gay [camera shows Jack Nicholson [to waves of laughter and applause].”
As the awards procession began, Chris Cooper, who won Best Supporting Actor for Adaptation, was clearly moved, hugged his rather unglamorous wife tearfully, and concluded his speech with “and with a ll the troubles of this world – I wish us all peace.”
There was a sweet exchange between blindingly pulchritudinous Jennifer Garner – who was on the verge of looking TOO buff in a powder blue dress – and Mickey Mouse as they presented the Best Animated Short award to The Chubbchubbs and Live Action Short to This Charming Man.
Paul Simon, who keeps showing up at awards shows, looked old and bleary, but sang clear and true his nominated song from The Wild Thornberrys movie in front of the most multi-culti band you’d ever want to see: a black guitarist in a dashiki, another longhaired guitarist who looked like he fell out of a time warp from 1973, a “blind” drummer (I don’t know if he is really blind, but he was wearing sunglasses indoors, at night). This was a UN moment.
There was an interesting moment as Sean Connery, dressed Scots Highlander formal (no kilt, thank God), presented Best Supporting Actress to the very pregnant Welsh woman Catherine Zeta Jones, who slipped into her native accent – the first I’ve heard it. Jones also performed a very game number from Chicago with Queen Latifah and a phalanx of dancers, proving herself no fragile flower and not overly concerned with her svelte image – she rules.
Julie Andrews was received with great warmth, 38 years after Mary Poppins, as she introduced a musical medley. She looks great – also aging very well are the twin towers of Hollywood liberalism Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandon, who were restrained and nonpolitical in their presentations.
One of the most serendipitous byproducts of the aging of the Baby Boomers is that women can now be sexy and glamorous at least into their 50s. This is liberating for us all on the one hand, but also a challenge: there is no age now beyond which it is generally accepted you can “let yourself go.” A nation is grateful but nervous.
Salma Hayek and Halle Berry are shockingly beautiful, have outrageous bodies, are strong and independent, and put the lie to the blonde myth.
I enjoyed watching Richard Gere, who was seated in the front row and about the only person associated with Chicago other than the caterer who wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, beaming and glad-handing the Chicago winners (they picked up six including Best Film) as they went by. He looked like the usher at a wedding, very expressive, not a hint of resentment, very much enjoying the success of his compatriots. I’m not sure where Gere’s image of being cold, dispassionate and selfish came from, but he was none of the above last night.
Moore, discussed elsewhere (the audio evidence is here), regardless of your political views committed the crime of violating the tone of the evening: he turned it into a circus, shouting and braying his condemnation of Bush, the war, etc., like a fishmonger.
Moore, with the audience probably 80% sympathetic to his views, managed against all odds to turn them against him with his ideological rant, spewing bile and self-righteousness and cheapening every moment of real emotion and genuine humanity in the entire program. My mother-in-law, a pacifist Buddhist dead set against the war, said this: “What an asshole.” Amen.
And while some have questioned my use ofthe words “fat” and “greasy” to describe Moore, his oozing self-indulgence is a remarkably apposite physical manifestation of his personality. He is both despicable and disgusting.
The audience erupted in cheers and laughter when Steve Martin said: “That was so sweet backstage … the Teamsters were helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo.”
Adrien Brody, who shocked most by winning Best Actor for The Pianist (I had never heard of the guy), proved that an inclusive plea for peace rather than devisive political hectoring was the spirit of the evening. After sucking face with Halle Berry and a round of tearful thank you’s – that boy loves his mother – he refused to allow the orchestra to drown his message:
“Quit it, I’ve only got one shot at this … After making this film, I am aware of the sadness and dehumanization of people at times of war and the repercussions of war. Whatever you believe in, whether it be God or Allah, may he watch over you and pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”
Brody also made the general very specific, extending his thoughts to a pal from Queens, who is stationed in Kuwait.
Barbra Streisand stated she was proud to live in a country that guarantees everyone – including artists – the right to express themselves.
Peter O’Toole, againg but still commanding and suave, was very moving thanking the Academy for his Lifetime Achievement award, adding that he was no longer a bridesmaid, without a trace of irony or bitterness. He was staggeringly gracious and thanked the United States for everything, saying “you are very good,” powerful psychic medicine from an aristocratic Irishman.
Nicole Kidman, accepting her Best Actress Oscar, said she was there to uphold the tradition and because art is important. Last night it really was – Hollywood did itself and the nation proud.
Here are the winners:
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
John Myhre (Art Direction); Gordon Sim (Set Decoration)
ROAD TO PERDITION
Conrad L. Hall
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE
Michael Moore and Michael Donovan
DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Bill Guttentag and Robert David Port
FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
NOWHERE IN AFRICA
Directed by Caroline Link
John Jackson and Beatrice De Alba
Music by Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto; Lyric by Eminem
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
THIS CHARMING MAN (DER ER EN YNDIG MAND)
Martin Strange-Hansen and Mie Andreasen
Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS
Ethan Van der Ryn and Michael Hopkins
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS
Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke
WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)
Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)
TALK TO HER
Written by Pedro Almodóvar