||The Drum Roll Please!
Yawn. Another night at the Oscars and what a time it was. Listening to winners thank everyone but their pool boy was a harbinger of things to come. A telecast that started earlier than normal and wound up going on and on and on, like the Energizer Bunny. It was a day that did not go gently into that good night. Not that it was all that exciting, mind you, but rather a no brainer wrapped up neat and nice in a bow called, The Lord of The Rings: The Return of The King.
The thing that was so surprising about this telecast of the 76th Academy Awards is that there were no real surprises to be had. In a word, it was rather trite and pale by comparison to past years. Let's face it, with the steam roller called The Lord of The Rings, did any of us *really* think that any other film stood a rat's chance of winning? The hype, the hoopla, the charismatic enveloping of the movie going public, was brought to fruition tonight at the Oscars, and oh, how it paid off in handsome dividends! The film managed to score 11 wins, tying with Ben Hur and Titanic for most wins ever.
Oh, by the way, in case anyone just came back from a trek in the Himalayas and hasn't bothered to find out what films had been nominated, they are as follows:
Lord of The Rings: Return of The King
Lost in Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of The World
Personally, I feel that TLOTR was given more than ample compensation for having been stiffed for the previous two installments of its trilogy, and it was now payback time. The other contenders were all worthy entries, but got lost in the goliath of a fantasy world that managed to capture the minds of the Academy, which is no mean feat in and of itself. Any day that doesn't include stessing over just what nail polish to wear or what trendy, new shop to grace with one's presence to spend money on things they really don't need, is a red letter day in and of itself. Poor Seabiscuit, though. . .left at the starting gate and as stale as yesterday's bread.
In the directing category, well, just check the above mix of words and tell me what film won. Peter Jackson, looking slightly like an overstuffed Hobbit himself, was awarded the ever slim Oscar and took centre stage to thank anyone ever associated with him and then some. Was his win warranted? Perhaps. Maybe it was luck that thrust him into the limelight for the sheer endurance that was made necessary by the back to back staging of his three films and the gamble that the studio took in seeing something that the rest of us never thought would be pulled off in a calculated fashion. When he came onstage to collect his award, everyone, and I DO mean everyone associated with the film, came up there with him. I was half expecting another battle scene to break out from the film.
His fellow nominees were no rank amateurs. Although I wanted Sofia Coppola to win, if for no other reason than to provide for a glorious upset, she was in the rarefied company of Clint Eastwood for Mystic River, the ever glorious Peter Weir for Masters and Commanders, and Fernado Meirelles for City of God. Some had to lose and one had to win and Lady Luck shined down upon the Man from Down Under.
Best Actor. . . Hmmm. . . I have to admit that this was the one category that provided for some real tension. Would Bill Murray, the timeless comic who ad libbed most of his performance in Lost In Translation, win, or, would Sean Penn pull out all the stops and let drama once again rule as King of The Hill with Academy voters? Penn managed to tweak past Murray, and leave the rest of the field, Jude Law in Cold Mountain, Johnny Depp in Pirates of The Caribbean, and Ben Kingsley for The House of Sand and Fog, all in the fog and still feeling their way to the finish line.
Let's face it, did the voting members think that Depp, as a kohl eyeliner enhanced, slightly effiminate pirate; a character based on an amusement park ride, was truly Oscar material? Or, that Jude Law had yet paid his dues to movie making per se? Kingsley was thrown into the mix for credibility and to round out the field and lend an air of prestige to the event. It never hurts to let the rest of the world think that you have taste.
Best Actress. Another run for the roses here. Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give and Charlize Theron in Monster provided the race with pizzaz. Of course, it was repeat case of comedy versus drama and the latter will usually always win out. Oh, for the days of Lee Marvin and Cat Ballou!
It had been touted for the past month that Oscar loves it when an actor or actress goes from handsome/beautiful to down and dirty in their performance. Gain that weight a la Raging Bull or Monster, or transform your face or body, courtesy of yet again, Monster or The Hours and My Left Foot, and you are virtually guaranteed to be making room for the Little Man on your mantle. Of course, if this is entirely true, then why oh why wasn't Ralph Fiennes the winner for his performance as Amon Goeth in Schindler's List? The man put on 30 pounds, researched his role from this time yesterday to infinity (not the usual 'oh, I spent a day or two talking to hookers to get into character for my role' research), had survivors of the Holocaust on the set thinking he WAS Goeth, won virtually every award there was to be had before the Oscars and then had to face the gargantuan letdown come Oscar time when the name of Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive was read. Where was the justice in this awarding? Mention the role of 'the commandant in Schinder's List and everyone knows it. Can the same be said of Jones's performance in The Fugitive? 'Tommy Lee Jones. Yes, he won for. . .let me think'. Oscar is supposed to gift the 'best'. This was one time Oscar fell flat on his collective face.
Best Supporting Actor. The pre-Oscar shows zeroed in on Alec Baldwin for The Cooler, ad nauseum. He was so confident and salivating that he would be holding Oscar in his hot little hand before the end of the night, that you, the viewer, actually believed it as well. Imagine the letdown, the sheer audacity of Oscar to NOT award him. It was written all over his face after the annoucement that Tim Robbins walked to the stage for Mystic River. It was so brittle that if you had touched it, it would have shattered as all colour had been drained from it. Benecio del Toro in 21 Grams, Djimon Hounsou for In America, and Ken Wantanabe for The Last Samuri, wore their defeat well.
Best Supporting Actress was simply a collective sigh of relief that Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain, could FINALLY take centre court after having been rejected by the groom the past two years (Bridget Jones and Chicago). They have always said that the third time's the charm. While the other nominees weren't chopped liver in their films, there was no stopping the Zellwegger faction once it gained momentum. The drum roll, please: Shohreh Aghdashloo for The House of Sand and Fog, Patricia Clarkson for Pieces of April, Marcia Gay Harden for Mystic River and Holly Hunter for Thirteen.
According to this morning's Washington Post, Zellwegger was 'allegedly' stunned at her win. She agreed mightily that she had had to 'dress down' for her role as Ruby in Cold Mountain (duh! I hardly think that the vintage Cartier diamond necklace and whatever designer gown she sported would have lent an air of 'authenticity' to the war ravaged South of the Civil War.) What really yanked the chain though, was her voicing that she hoped there would be 'more multi-facted roles for women actresses--even beautiful ones' like herself. Excuse me? Aren't we a little self serving and on an ego trip here? Rather like 'don't hate me because I'm beautiful' syndrome.
All in all, the program was funny in spots and Billy Crystal's opening montage of injecting himself into the various films nominated, was a definite plus to the evening's proceedings. They get better and better each year, although I DO hold the year he did the montage that included The English Patient, deep in my heart! Just seeing Michael Moore, the documentary film maker get flattened like a pancake by the huge elephantine monstrosity from The Lord of The Rings after he blabbed about the Hobbits and their starting a war that wasn't justified, was worth the price of all the tea in China! And to capture Jack Nicholson for a role in this opening sequence was Divine Intervention itself!
It was a year that saw all of the major nominees in their seats and not on a set or out protesting something or other, looking glamourous, tanned, bedecked, bejeweled and as Fernando Lamas used to say, 'm-a-a-r-r-v-e-l-o-u-s!'. No protest speeches, no politics, although Sean Penn can be forgiven for a slight hedged reference about missing WMD ('if there is one things actors know, besides that there were no WMDs, there is no such thing as best in acting'.).
It was a night for Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. See you next year; same time, same place, same nerve wracking experience. Now, back to bed and some much deserved shuteye. . . Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z. . .