The Sixty-Ninth Oscars

The dowdy, the disabled and the Devil

By Cintra Wilson
March 26, 1997 1:00AM (UTC)
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i didn't like "The English Patient."

Another journalist girlfriend of mine was covering the party that voting
New York members of the Academy attended at famous Elaine's. "How were
they?" I asked, wondering what the Academy people looked like.

"Prunes. Awful. Sucked dry," she said.


"Any stars?"

"Old, old. Chita Rivera, Sylvia Miles and Tina Louise -- Ginger from
'Gilligan's Island.'"

"Octogenarian Trim."

"Exactly. Old slags who couldn't get invited to the real one." I
pictured some hairy old white vulture gawking at the rivulets of puckering
skin down the neckline of Tina Louise, trying to get her fucked up on
Frangelico. Ow.


Once again, the Academy has made it perfectly clear that Retards are the
order of the day. This has been true ever since "The Miracle Worker."
Anybody portraying somebody with the bootprint of a clumsy god pressed into
their forehead -- waggling palsies and tongues like tennis balls -- will
take home a naked gold man on Oscar Night. The Academy has never figured
out that doing those spasms and tics is much easier than simply delivering
an emotionally complicated line.

Last night, added to Billy Bob Thornton and Geoffrey Rush were ACTUAL disabled
persons David Helfgott and Muhammad Ali, both doddering vegetables,
although Helfgott was still able to crank out a savant edition of "Flight
of the Bumblebee" better than most ninth-grade piano competition winners.
Ali, teetering on the verge of any unimaginable flight of punch-ruined
behavior, had to be escorted away from the cameras as quickly as possible
before he urinated on Sigourney Weaver or something equally unsocialized.
When the camera was cutting away to people's faces Moved by the Presence of
Ali, they made the mistake of showing James Woods, who was shaking his head
in agony and saying something out of the side of his mouth like "Jesus, get
that poor uncomprehending infant off the stage. Give him some soft foam
animals and a bag of Cheetos, and let him go play with Rodney King." The
cameras quickly pulled all the way back to the 900th row in the balcony and
focused on Oscar's golden buttocks, while the music and applause knobs
turned to deafening levels designed to obliterate Ali entirely.

I noticed with some amusement that "When We Were Kings" won for best
documentary -- I guess it was the (H)Ooops! Dreams Award. Yeah. I guess
that makes it all OK now.


Everyone looked lovely, with the exception of Mira Sorvino, whose dress
was made entirely of Cheerios, blowsy old Susan Sarandon and the generally
dowdy Diane Keaton, who appeared to be wearing a rhinestone whiplash brace.

I found it incredibly ironic that Courtney Love presented the award for
Best Makeup Artistry, her own appearance being a feat of rubber tubing and
silicone putty disks no less spectacular than that of Eddie Murphy's
award-winning transformation in "The Nutty Professor."


Madonna has always looked naked to me at the Oscars, because at the
Oscars there are usually six or seven truly talented people in the
audience, and she's performing in front of them, and they can see exactly
what she is, and she knows it, and she's always shivering with fear and
bracing herself with that steely "You Must Love Me" brand of tenacity she's
always had. She did it with some forgettable Dick Tracy number a couple of
years back, and last night felt compelled to weep real tears singing the
Andrew Lloyd Webber snore lullaby because she knew she couldn't actually
sing it, and decided to balance out her lack of pipes with some "acting"
that the folks could appreciate. "My, she can cry on cue, just like an
Actress," we were meant to say, not noticing her weak, tremulous, dumb
musical theater voice. It was like watching your cousin in a high school
talent show sing some bad slow song real sincerely with too much vibrato,
where the guilelessness of it hurts because she isn't very good and it's
cringeworthy. It always becomes blindingly clear, whenever she has done
this, that Madonna isn't a singer, and should go with that thing she does
do, which I guess is be personally interesting and super-famous, like
Courtney Love, who now has the advantage over Madonna of being able to play
herself on film. That's something Madonna could never do, because she never
had a self. Courtney was lucky in a way Madonna wasn't : You can't avoid
having a self if you've done a ton of drugs while you're a mom and your
husband is dead. Celine Dion is a worthless establishment whore, a
simpering, white-cake Karen Carpenter stroking the most banal priapic nerve
denominator in the music industry, but she still sounded a lot better than
Madonna. And I even LIKE Madonna.

LORD OF THE DANCE. Jesus save our poor imperiled souls. Watching the
obscenely huge, swollen phenomenon of Michael Flatley, the hopping, bucking
satyr in the rubber pants and leather headband, was sort of like peeking
into Oscar's top drawer and seeing a two-foot black strap-on dildo on top
of a bunch of Zamphir CDs. The pipes of Pan are deep up inside of Michael
Flatley. That man is ubiquitous, and it is because he is the Devil. If
they're supposed to be Irish jig dancers, why are his back-up dancers
dressed like French maids from a German latex fetish video? Why is his
chest shaved and oiled? Why is he wearing LaToya's matador jacket? Why? He
is the Devil. Those aren't fire pots on the stage. Those burning explosions
that came like exclamation points to each jab of sweatily jigging torso
came directly from Michael Flatley's sulfury bowels. I beg of you. The Lord
of the Dance is a False God, a heathen aberration intent on the smiting of
everything pure! Beware!

There were at least two great things about the Oscars: Billy Crystal,
who is now so utterly relaxed and pleasant in front of everybody in the
world that it doesn't matter what he says, he's just nice to watch, and
Frances McDormand, the least likely
Best Actress of the bunch, but easily the most fun. Choreographer Michael
Kidd, who won some kind of special Oscar for all of his work in the past,
said something to the effect that film has forgotten how to celebrate the
Joy of Living. We certainly need more Frances McDormands in Hollywood, even
if her husband did make her famous. She delivers the Joy.

Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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