At the urging of those many fans who enjoyed my Golden Globes running diary – well, okay, it was just one person, and it was via an email to my wife – I’ve returned with a similar by-the-minute log for the 78th Annual Academy Awards. The glitz! The glamour! The vapidity! And annoying red carpet reporter Billy Budd to boot! Yes, it was a truly nauseating event – and not just because I spent the three-and-a-half hour ceremony gobbling Peanut Butter Crème Double Stuf Oreos and drinking Vanilla Black Cherry Diet Coke. But why tease you about all of the evening’s excitement – and all of my sarcastic indifference – when you can read the first-hand details below? Thus, without further ado…
7:58 The pre-show madness concludes just as I sit down in front of the TV. My wife informs me that, at one point, one of ABC’s “reporters” told Terrence Howard, “You made us fall in love with a pimp.” Yup, I’m officially happy to have missed the red carpet coverage.
Still, moments before the show actually begins, I manage to catch Access Hollywood gnome Billy Budd ask Eric Bana what he’s hoping for tonight. “I hope to see a lot of blood spilled,” is his reponse. Too my chagrin, he doesn’t fulfill this dream by snapping Budd’s neck.
8:04 A video skit featuring former hosts is more amusing than it should be, especially when Steve Martin admits that he’s bypassing the festivities in order to make sure his gray wig-wearing kids don’t “grow up weird.” Letterman’s similar desire to watch out for Martin’s kids is even funnier.
Then a bearded Mel Gibson appears from the set of his forthcoming Apocalypto, speaking in an obscure Mayan dialect while pacing in front of a cast of white powder-covered natives. After The Passion of the Christ, such behavior seems par for the course.
8:08 After a bumpy start, Stewart finds his groove, mocking this year’s Oscar theme “Return to Glamour” by referring to the less successful “Night of 1,000 Sweatpants.” Shortly thereafter, he derisively makes fun of the notion that piracy hurts movie stars’ earnings. This is good. I can only hope he’ll continue skewering the show’s (and participants’) pomposity.
Uh-oh, angry actor alert! Following a quick shot of Matt Dillon, the camera cuts to a mean-looking Joaquin Phoenix clapping a tad too aggressively. Then, after Stewart makes a crack about Walk the Line being Ray with white people – a first-degree groaner – Phoenix is shown with a stern “I am not amused” scowl on his face. Seems the guy is wound pretty tight. We may be only one more joke away from a Level 3 meltdown in which the actor snaps and kills a member of the Crash posse. Something to keep an eye on.
As for the movie montage about the “gayness” of classic Westerns (featuring clips from some movies without homoerotic elements) – well, let’s just say it felt similar to when a grandparent attempts to prove their hipness by repeating something they heard on MTV that they don’t really understand. Just awkward and embarrassing.
8:18 Wife: “Can we eat cookies yet?” Me: “Um, yes.”
8:19 What’s happened to Nicole Kidman? Giving out the Best Supporting Actor award, she doesn’t just look blond and gaunt; she looks like she spent the past year undergoing a Michael Jackson cosmetic makeover. My guess is that she’s trying to become pale to the point of translucence as a means of avoiding the insufferable behemoth that is TomKat.
But I digress. Clooney wins, thereby denying us the opportunity to hear William Hurt give a speech in his bizarro A History of Violence Italian accent. But a strange thing occurs during Clooney’s speech (and no, I don’t mean his blather about Hollywood’s history of championing noble causes) – music quietly but continuously plays throughout his speech. Could this be a subtle, preemptive attempt to rush winners through their tedious thank-yous? My fingers are crossed.
8:27 Cue coincidence – not five minutes after I write the above comment, Tom Hanks appears in a pre-recorded clip about rushing winners through their speeches. Unsurprisingly, the funniest thing about the sketch is Hanks’ ludicrously long hair.
8:28 Ben Stiller does a strained bit in a green bodysuit while giving King Kong the Best Visual Effects Oscar. The recipient thanks Andy “Gollum” Serkis for “really giving us the heart of Kong.” Yeah, the heart that only a few die-hard Peter Jackson fanatics loved.
8:36 An old-looking, makeup-slathered Dolly Parton performs “Travelin’ Through” from Transamerica. Her voice sounds so-so, though such vocal problems could be attributable to her artificially engorged boobs, which seem to be creeping up her chest and straight to her throat.
8:50 Non-movie star Jennifer Anniston announces Memoirs of a Geisha is the winner of the Best Costume Oscar. The woman on stage proceeds to thank “the people of Japan.” I can only assume she’s thanking them for not totally freaking out over the fact that Rob Marshall’s film featured a bunch of non-Japanese actresses.
8:54 A montage juxtaposes based-on-real-life performances with photos of the actual people. If this isn’t an obvious way of foreshadowing Hoffman and Witherspoon’s Best Actor/Actress wins, I don’t know what it is. Oh, wait, you say it’s simply an excuse to show Gary Cooper embarrassingly mimic Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man in the World” speech in The Pride of the Yankees? Well, I'm willing to buy that.
9:05 Morgan Freeman appears onstage wearing a black jacket, a white shirt and no tie. Why no tie? Because he’s Morgan F--king Freeman. And he does what he likes.
ANYWAY, in lieu of Maria Bello being robbed of a nomination – despite giving one of the year’s best performances – Michelle Williams should win Best Supporting Actress. Nonetheless, Rachel Weisz nabs the trophy for her turn in the wretched Constant Gardener, and proceeds to repeat the same stuff she said at the Golden Globes, praising director Fernando Meirelles’ “humanity” and novelist John Le Carré’s “unflinching, angry story” that “paid tribute to those who risk their own lives to fight injustice.” In keeping with the film’s condescending indifference toward Africa, Weisz’s speech contains no mention of the continent or its inhabitants.
9:14 Lauren Bacall can barely read the teleprompter and keeps stumbling over her lines (which is brutally discomfiting) while introducing a montage of film noir clips (which is totally out of place). I’m all for keeping the noir flame alive, but I don’t get the point of this segment. Unless, of course, the purpose was to remind everyone that today’s American stars and films don’t hold a candle to those of the ‘40s and ‘50s, in which case: Mission accomplished!
9:24 March of the Penguins wins Best Documentary, making me wish that the criminally un-nominated Werner Herzog would – in an echo of the abuse he suffered a few weeks ago – shoot one of the victorious French directors with a BB gun. This desire amplifies once the filmmakers, who are clutching huge penguin dolls, make weird noises into the microphone that they claim “mean ‘Thank You’ in penguin.”
Nicely summing up the scene, my wife blurts out, “Look at these idiots.”
9:33 My wife informs me that many polled Americans believe that their first amendment rights include the right to own a pet. These must be the same idiots who choreographed the just-completed, interpretive dance-and-burning-car-laden performance of “In the Deep" from Crash.
9:39 “Hollywood has never been afraid to challenge our beliefs,” says Sam Jackson. He forgot to mention that Hollywood has also never been afraid to use an awards show to pat itself on the back. Confirming the general idiocy of the proceedings, Jackson’s self-congratulatory statement is then followed by a montage of well-known “hot topic” movies that includes a clip from the paranoid global warming thriller The Day After Tomorrow.
“And none of those issues were ever a problem again” says Stewart. Nice. At least he’s committed to making fun of the event’s ridiculousness.
9:45 The Academy’s president says that films are better seen in theaters than on DVD. He’s right. But his attempt – in the wake of last year’s box-office slump – to motivate moviegoers to shell out $10 for crap like Big Mamma’s House 2 is so shameless and pathetic that I immediately begin thinking about getting on Kazaa and downloading another copy of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D.
(Note to the law: The above comment was a JOKE. I would never download something as mind-bogglingly inane as Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D)
9:47 A smoking-hot Salma Hayek introduces Itzhak Perlman, who plays selections from the five Best Original Score nominees. Snooze. I think that if I had to sit in the audience during this stuff, I’d be compelled to use Gun Kata on the person sitting next to me.
What’s “Gun Kata,” you ask? Well, it’s a particular style of fighting that involves using martial arts while wielding firearms. Who came up with such a brilliant technique? Why, that’d be Kurt Wimmer, director of 2002’s Equilibrium and this past weekend’s Ultraviolet. And why would one want to use Gun Kata rather than karate or ninja throwing stars? As one excellent fansite explains:
It is of course impossible to see an oncoming bullet and dodge it, but an advanced Gunkata practitioner, known as a Tetragrammaton Cleric or Grammaton Cleric, can put himself in the least statistically possible place to be hit at each moment of a gun fight. Gunkata is based on a scientific analysis of bullet trajectory and range based on the mathematical possible outcomes of a gunfight.
What more can I say? This is obviously the 21st century’s first, great hand-to-hand combat innovation. And after watching Ultraviolet on Friday – which apparently features a more “realistic” brand of Gun Kata than Equilibrium – I think I’m going to dedicate my life to mastering the form.
And in a related note, I’m also training in another new fighting style as I watch the Academy Awards. It’s called Christmastree Kata, and I think you know who the creator is.
9:58 I’m pretty sure Brokeback just won Best Original Score while I penned the above explanation of Gun Kata. Its win, I fear, will only further encourage sensitive guitar players to seek fame and fortune by playing sad, soggy five-note songs on their acoustic axes.
9:59 Jake Gyllenhaal introduces yet another Chuck Workman montage, and this one, like the Academy president’s speech, is all about how movies should be watched on the big screen. Somehow, they seem incapable of grasping the fact that almost everyone watching this show is doing so on a relatively small television. But hey, why worry about such pesky issues when the real goal is just to run some more clips from the lame-o King Kong remake?
“Holy crap, we are out of clips. We are literally out of clips,” riffs Stewart after this latest montage, doing his best to undercut the show's (hot) air of self-satisfaction. Unfortunately, the Daily Show-style political ad spoofs are falling flat.
10:08 In a sweet, reverential bit, Lilly Tomlin and Meryl Streep engage in pseudo-spontaneous, overlapping dialogue while introducing honorary Oscar recipient Robert Altman. Though the Altman montage is rather predictable, it is – given the phenomenal body of work on display – nonetheless quite moving. I guess this is my opportunity to rant about Altman’s lack of directing Oscars. But the truth is that these film clips prove, much better than my snarky blog post could, the egregiousness of the Academy’s oversight.
10:18 M. Night Shyamalan directs a commercial for American Express. Unsurprisingly, it’s all about himself.
10:20 During Three 6 Mafia’s rendition of Hustle & Flow’s “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” it becomes clear that the chorus’ lyrics have been changed from “a whole lot of bitches jumping ship” to “a whole lot of witches jumping ship.” This is almost as funny as the fact that they’re performing on the set of What’s Happening.
10:30 Jennifer Garner trips on her way to the microphone. Her new-mom rack is clearly the equilibrium-sabotaging culprit.
10:35 As always, the In Memoriam feature is sad. And as usual, the biggest applause goes to a minor celebrity like Pat Morita. Though in defense of Mr. Miyagi, the crane kick was almost as great a brawling innovation as Gun Kata. Almost.
10:38 Jews let out two consecutive sighs of relief after Will Smith says Paradise Now is from the “Palestinian Authority” (rather than from the non-existent “Palestine”) and then announces that Tsotsi is the Best Foreign Film winner.
10:33 Ziyi Zhang states that film is a visual medium that transcends language barriers, but does so in stilted English. Man, that’s just too easy.
Best Editing goes to Crash, a potential omen for future, bigger awards. Upon reaching the stage, winner Hughes Winborne says, “Paul Haggis – a force of nature.” What type of force of nature, however, is left open to debate.
10:45 Philip Seymour Hoffman wins, and is humble and genuinely moved. I, however, am literally jumping with joy over the fact that the show is only 2 ¾ hours long, and we’re already into the big awards.
10:55 It’s time for The New World’s only chance at Oscar gold, for Best Cinematography! And? And?!?! AND?!?!?!?!
And Memoirs of a Geisha wins instead. I’d jump out a window, or throw up – or both – if I put any stock in this stuff.
10:57 Best Actress winner Reese Witherspoon claims that, like June Carter always used to say, “I’m just trying to matter.” What she fails to realize is that Walk the Line matters about as much as my last nap.
11:08 It’d be nice to think Cronenberg’s A History of Violence might pick up a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but no, we’re now into Brokeback Mountain anointment time. Larry McMurtry spends his time on stage infuriating the Academy by repeatedly referring to his Golden Globes speech. Then he tells everyone to always remember the greatness of books. Which is fine, except that this is a MOVIE AWARDS SHOW. So, you know, stuff it.
Accepting his Best Original Screenplay award, Crash’s Haggis says, “Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.” Which, I guess, goes a long way toward explaining Crash’s graceless bluntness.
11:15 Long-locked Tom Hanks arrives, thus providing another opportunity to gaze at the horrific hairdo that will doom this summer’s The Da Vinci Code. I mean, he looks like the kind of drunken Eurotrash creep you’d find slurring come-ons to female passersby at a Parisian café at 3am.
Best Director goes to Ang Lee, thus more or less solidifying Brokeback’s status as the eventual Best Picture winner. Revealing that he took acceptance speech lessons from James “I’m King of the World” Cameron, Lee grabs his golden boy and immediately says, “I wish I knew how to quit you.” Sheesh.
11:22 We’re reached the end of the night, and it’s taken less than 3 ½ hours! That alone is something to celebrate. And to cap things off…CRASH WINS! Wow! Even presenter Jack Nicholson looks seriously taken aback by the news. And the auditorium is erupting in cheers. To say that the show ends on a shocking and controversial note is a massive understatement. The Academy just gave Crash its highest honor. Let me repeat: Wow.
And that’s that. People are happy. People are mad. People are sad. I’m exhausted. And come tomorrow morning, it seems likely that Paul Haggis will be the prime target of some serious, backlash-heavy critical bullets. To which one can only say – I hope he’s been boning up on his Gun Kata.