Letters to Holly

Monday, March 6

The Oscar Diary/Weekend

Unlike previous years, this show really and truly starts at 8 p.m. instead of starting at 8:30 after red-carpet interviews. We didn’t see any of this.

8:01 The theme of the evening, “A Return to Glamour,” is established right away as a CGI opening presents a city of movie stars. Characters are clipped from movies and put side-by-side on the street as famous vehicles fly overhead. It looks really expensive.

8:04 The previous Oscar hosts turn down the chance to host this year in a pretty funny segment. It ends with Jon Stewart waking up to find himself in bed with George Clooney, and he’s more than happy to host.

8:08 The stage is huge and gorgeous, a slick silver and gold set highlighting class and glamour. It’s meant to convey a movie theatre, underscoring the appeal of going out to the movies. That theme will pop up again throughout the night as studios desperately try to win us back to the theatres so we can overpay for drinks while watching under-lit screens and craning to hear over the dumb-ass audience members who think they’re sitting in their living room.

8:10 Stewart’s funny, but he’s not trying to turn the show into his own show. We may finally have our new Carson. Although Steve Martin was just fine, his recent teen movies have turned him into an onscreen glorified bumbling babysitter.

8:18 Clooney wins best supporting actor. “Guess this means I’m not winning best director.” He then proudly admits that Hollywood is out of touch with America as it has made AIDS movies when no one would talk about it and offered civil rights stories before Brown vs. Board. It’s a classy speech, befitting the tone of the evening.

8:29 The obligatory wacky presenter dilutes the class of the proceedings. Ben Stiller wears a green-screen effects suit as he announces King Kong as the winner for special effects. Imagine being the winner. You’ve got your tux, you’re surrounded by stars, you win an Oscar, and this is the guy handing it to you. Try to act amused.

8:31 Wallace and Gromit wins best animated feature. The winners get their Oscars from Reese Witherspoon. If one had to choose between Stiller in that costume and her, would anyone over the age of 12 pick Stiller? Then again, the winners wear giant cartoon bowties and immediately slip smaller duplicates on their awards.

8:35 Dolly Parton sings her nominated song. There’s no abstract set or interpretive dance. It’s just her, being Dolly, singing her song. Like the woman needs more props. Funny story: A syndicated radio host named Albert Mohler took some shots at her song last week, condemning its interpretation of Christian tolerance and salvation. Because, God knows, the one thing you don’t want Christianity to appear is tolerant. Also, what kind of schmuck thinks he’s gonna win over an audience by knocking Dolly Parton? All the people in showbiz to demagogue to make a name, and he picks the saint of Tennessee.

8:40 The Wilson brothers announce live action short. Eh.

8:46 In another of these mindboggling lame traditions, cartoon characters (this time from Chicken Little) present the nominations and winner for best short animated feature. Hey, indy animators proclaiming the power of hand-drawn animation, you just got your gold from Disney characters. You can never escape The Machine.

8:51 Jennifer Aniston gives the best costume award to Colleen Atwood. Maybe I’m just callous, but it’s about time she made a movie that turned a profit. Otherwise, she looks like she won’t be anything than The Ditched Girl from “Friends.” I say she’s back on TV in three years.

8:56 Will Farrell and Steve Carrell announce best makeup while wearing too much of it. Unlike Farrell, who has to be Loud Zany Guy to be funny, Steve just has to stand there. It’s no contest. Will wants to be funny. Steve is. Narnia beats out Star Wars, and the winner’s mic is cut after 60 seconds. The Academy is stern this year about the show’s running time.

9:00 Your Sister about Jon Stewart: “Is he supposed to be funny?”
Me: “No one bats a thousand.”
My brain: “I married this woman?”

9:02 Morgan Freeman gives the best supporting actress award to Rachel Weisz. Being English, her acceptance speech is confident, concise, and beautifully enunciated. Remember this later when Phillip Seymour Hoffman wins and delivers his thank-yous like he’s working off a hangover.

9:11 Lauren Bacall has trouble reading the teleprompter as she introduces a montage of noir films. She looks great, by the way. And she embodies the theme of class. Shame she’s making a living these days hawking Fancy Feast cat food.

9:15 A home-run comedy skit straight from “The Daily Show” presents best actress nominee campaign ads. In a time of war, do we really want to give the Oscar to someone who sounds foreign when we can anoint a gal named Reese Witherspoon?

9:18 Best documentary short. Eh.

9:20 March of the Penguins wins for best documentary. The winners carry stuffed penguins to the stage. The theme of class just walked backstage to throw back some scotch.

9:24 The nominated song from Crash is performed in front of a burning car and people moving in slow motion amid heavy dry-ice fog. That’s the abstract sledgehammer of poignancy we’ve come to expect from the Oscars. Remember when Savion Glover tap-danced to the score from Saving Private Ryan years back? Ah, mindless incongruity, thy name is Oscar.

9:29 During a commercial break, ESPN2 announces the Oakland Raiders cut their starting QB, Kerry Collins. Speaking as a franchise-long fan of the Panthers – the team he quit on in their third season – I congratulate karma for doing a fine job.

9:32 Memoirs of a Geisha wins for best art direction. It really does look like a sumptuous film. Too bad Your Sister disliked the book so much. I didn’t get more than fifty pages into it.

9:35 Samuel L Jackson presents a stand-out montage on films of social and cultural commentary. Inherit the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird should be required viewing in high school. Also, everyone should watch In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner because Sidney Poitier is just that damn good.

9:40 Academy president Sid Ganis underscores substantive filmmaking and storytelling as vital forms of art. Also, DVDs are stinky poo-poo, and you should only see movies in a theatre. If I could taser the jerk behind me narrating the film, I would. This should be the rule: Every adult gets a taser and can zap two rude people each movie. This will be my platform when I run for office.

9:43 Salma Hayek (who is 4 feet tall and three inches wide) introduces Itzhak Perlman performing a medley of the best scores. His is the violin we hear in 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof. He also used to pop up on “Sesame Street.” Brokeback Mountain wins the Oscar, beating out two John Williams scores.

9:50 The show is flying by.

9:56 Jake Gyllenhall introduces a montage of epic films. Oh, and DVDs eat babies and steal your boyfriends. Go to a theatre. Wait, included in the montages is a clip from Smokey and the Bandit. Even I, who played with my parents’ CB and built model Trans Ams, can’t get behind that.

9:59 Jon Stewart announces the show is all out of clips. If you have any at home, they need them.

10:00 King Kong wins for sound mixing. Seeing the clip for War of the Worlds makes us want to see it again. Not so for the Kong clips. Not only was Kong more recent, but unlike the Lord of the Rings movies, it feels like a three-hour film.

10:15 A great M. Night Shyamalan American Express commercial. I like each film this guy has made regardless if they all use the gotcha plot twists. I don’t care. They’re really well done.

10:17 Ludacris presents the nominated rap from Hustle and Flow, “It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp.” If it wins, it won’t be the first rap to win best song; Eminem already did that. But it will be the first gritty rap by a black act to win, and that makes a big difference. The song is accessorized by more pantomime, and I’m pretty sure she’s saying “shit” in the chorus. But it’s almost 10:30; the kids should be in bed by now anyway.

10:22 Latifah announces that the rap wins, and the rappers go nuts. More importantly, only three songs are nominated this year, and none is from a Disney film or a Broadway adaptation. The latter always include a new song for Oscar consideration, and neither Rent nor The Producers got a nod. Interesting. Stewart notes the elation of the winners and says all Oscar recipients should act like that.

10:26 More campaign ads, this time for sound editing. King Kong wins its third technical Oscar the night.

10:30 Clooney presents the In Memoriam. Always an emotional moment in the show.

10:37 Will Smith gives the best foreign award to Tsotsi, a South African film. Maybe it’s coincidence, but NPR pushed this film hard in the past few months.

10:40 Zhang Ziyi gives Crash the Oscar for editing. She totally blew everyone out of the water with her dress. No one else even came close. I admit it: she’s incredibly hot. If Your Sister can have her harem list, I can call dibs on the Chinese gal.

10:43 Hillary Swank (looking swank) gives the best actor Oscar to Hoffman. You know the big guy from Twister and Boogie Nights. And indeed, he thanks everyone while looking like he just woke up from a bender and realized he drunkenly joined the Taliban.

10:54 I TiFaux the show to tuck Your Sister into bed.

10:57 Travolta gives Geisha the cinematography award.

10:58 Jamie Foxx gives Reese Witherspoon the best actress Oscar. And she utterly deserved it. She again shows the small-town poise that suggests that even if she discovers her husband is an octopus and her dad is a Wookie, she’ll still smile and stand tall. She was also good in Vanity Fair. Wait, did I miss the writing awards? Are they finally giving the category its due by moving it next to the director and film nominations? Astounding. Usually they’re given out in the first 90 minutes between scenes of puppets acting out best song candidates.

11:08 Dustin Hoffman announces Brokeback wins for best adapted screenplay. Co-winner Larry McMurtry wears jeans to keep his Western writer cred.

11:12 Uma Thurman, turning more and more into Glenn Close’s clone, gives Crash the Oscar for original screenplay.

11:19 Tom Hanks gives Ang Lee the best director award for Brokeback. It’s well deserved.

11:20 Jack Nicholson milks his stage time a bit before shocking the crowd with the announcement that Crash won best picture. Yet another director/picture split. The producer’s mic is cut off for an ad break. Her joy is diluted.

11:28 Stewart says good night. This was a speedy three hours plus, and there was no scandalous moment to besmirch the ceremony. Stewart was good; he deserves to come back next year.

So how did my predictions work out? 2-6. That’s one for three and pretty darn good as a batting average.

The dinner Friday went OK after some initial discomfort. We hadn’t all been in the same room for more than a year and the last time I talked to the priest, he had a different perception of me. Since then, I haven’t gone to All Saints at all, feeling as I did that I was party crashing. The lasagna was bland as the original recipe was designed for sausage and not ground beef. But eventually the dinner conversation got rolling and a good time was had. I’m somewhat in shock that I traded Depeche Mode memories with a priest, but Father Mark’s truly a cool guy.

Saturday, I got back to the gym for a light workout and read a solid Rolling Stone article on Scientology. It’s in the issue with snowboarder Shaun White on the cover. We visited my parents to spoil mom for her birthday. She wanted Eagles CDs, and I got her the two hits collections. It went well; they love Your Sister like mad. They’re getting a gas stove similar to ours so we gave them the lowdown of what we discovered when we switched from electric. Mom needs new cookware, and Your Sister uncharacteristically leaped at the chance to go shopping with her. Gadzooks.

Sunday, I awoke at a mind-splitting 7 a.m. and was so bored and addle-minded that I actually got work done. I polished off some grading paperwork, drew a bit, dusted off an old Star Wars computer game and read my monthly haul of comics. I’ll go into that with more detail later on, but I get my stuff shipped to me from my old store in Spartanburg. Your sister, I might add, was so wiped out from the evils of shopping that she slept until 3 p.m.

Sketch Day
I can’t recall if Spider-Man was my first favorite superhero, but he was definitely early on. There was the original cartoon, the comics, the coloring books, and the live-action skits from “Electric Company” all before I was five. It was great to be a kid in the mid-‘70s, what with the Batman reruns and Wonder Woman, Superman, Captain Marvel, Isis, and Spider-Man all performed by live actors.

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