"Live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, the 73rd Annual Academy Awards." Brought to you by the cars famous people don't drive, the beer famous people don't drink, the lower-middle-class retail outlets famous people's personal shoppers have never been inside of, two nightmare-inducing references to Bob Dole's "boy" and his inability to keep said boy "easy" when confronted with The Pepsi Girl All Grown Up, and a special grant from the My Sore Ass Foundation, which generously dedicated twelve consecutive hours of its considerably expanding surface area to E! pre-show coverage for the greater (well, in a manner of speaking) part of my Sunday afternoon.
The year's Oscar telecast proper went off with surprisingly little drama. Conventional speeches, an inoffensive host, a manageable length, a few (gasp!) actually deserved awards, and a perfectly normal famous-people-to-puffy-wrap-around-the-neck-swan-costume-dress ratio (okay, so maybe we're one over par in that department). Maybe it was the numbing pre-coverage that made the actual event seem so benign. It was sometime around 4:30 P.M., when one of E!'s "pundits" referred to the best movie I saw last year, You Can Count on Me, as "sappy and sentimental," that I started to wonder if all you need to land a spot as a correspondent on that network is three extra sets of furiously white teeth and proof that you own your own tuxedo. Back on ABC, Barbara Walters tells Ben Stiller he's not funny (Mr. Stiller's inability to volley back with something of the "Thanks. And I believe the majority of your r's to be 'eminently pronounceable,' you officious little shrew" variety didn't help his attempts to counter that argument) and the overly-scripted pre-show reminds us that a half-hour of dead air punctuated only by the sound of animals being slaughtered would have yielded the same "at least there was no Geena Davis" set of indifferent reviews. Because, really, you know E! will be a warmed-over rehash of clips involving Joan Rivers unhinging her jaw and devouring an A-lister looking every way but hers in an attempt to avoid the inevitable confrontation. You know Barbara Walters will resort to maudlin tactics and just start poking Faith Hill with a pointy stick should she be unable to induce teary repartee by more conventional methods. You know the night will be long and painful in so many ways. But you watch and give the event its rightful due. The Gay Man's Superbowl deserves no such less consideration.
The production of this year's ceremony looked in its opening moments to be a whole lot messier than it turned out. The narration on the red carpet fell a few seconds behind the non-accompanying shots of stars (and also of Winona Ryder) arriving at the Shrine. Rita Wilson's name was said during a sustained shot on Winona Ryder, but at least there was some consistency in the error, seeing as Winona was sporting Tom's ratty unwashed I-am-about-to-be-rescued-riiiiiiiiiight-now wig from the end of Cast Away's second act. We are told that "we've watched her grow from teen actress to full-fledged Hollywood star" during a shot of Chow Yun Fat, and we learn that the "he" who "did such an amazing job in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" refers, in fact, to Jennifer Lopez. Thank you, Omniscient Oscar Voice-over Pundit, for clearing up these remaining Hollywood mysteries and scandals. A pan across the Shrine's façade allows for some catch-up time, after which we meet Jeff Bridges in a tux, Angelina Jolie in a lab coat for her upcoming role in the medical porn thriller Playing Doctor, Mike Myers being ignored by everyone in Hollywood by official order of a governmental dictum handed down by the state of California, Kate Hudson and Chris Robinson's hair, Sir Anthony Hopkins leapfrogging over Bob Hope and Albert Finney to the top spot on my Hollywood Dead Pool list, accompanied by the brilliant narration "No one wants to sit next to him at the banquet," which stabs at topical but just comes off as mean-spirited and, well, dumb. Like the film that inspired such a line. Wow, LA has a lot of famous people. Can we go inside now? "Now let's go inside and enjoy the 73rd Annual Academy Awards." Thank you. Seal those doors up tight. Someone make sure those E! guys are on the other side.