Well, Whadja Expect? The Triumph of Art?

Last night's suck-up-to-the-bucks monstrosity proved once again that the Oscars are the Grammies of film.

By Cintra Wilson

Published March 25, 1998 8:09AM (EST)

After an Oscar night devoted to unapologetic commercialism and the complete abnegation of all artistic craft for the sake of box-office heavyweight gloating, all one could really ask was, "Where was El DiCaprio?"

Was he off learning to become a Scientologist in order to cure himself of tabloid homosexuality?

Cowering with Michael Jackson in the petting zoo? Grinding up a sandwich bag of Peruvian Flake in the strobelit VIP womb of the Viper Room and jabbering about real estate? Crying on the couch with a team of Jungian therapists who massaged his hands and read him Joseph Campbell? ("Yes, Leo -- Fame hurts. Look what it did to Perseus. Do you think you should take another Xanax?") Where was the shiny boy who is now in the terrifying jockey position of being the Ubiquitous Person of the Moment Who Shall be Loved Into Pulpy Matter by Blindly Devouring Fans?

He has something like four photo albums of himself on the New York Times Bestseller list, his little childish jawline fixed on "manly" setting, his eyes staring earnestly off into middle-distance. No wonder Kate Winslet is so seethingly pissed off. All that crucial nationwide masturbation happening and nobody hanging posters of her.

"Amistad," and its not-so mysterious absence, really set the tone for the whole night. I had a feeling it would be totally ignored -- all those expensive Ralph Lauren shots of naked black athletes writhing for survival in a cruel and ignorant early America. "You watch," I said, months ago. "They'll trot the beautiful African guy onstage at the ceremony to present best sound editing in a foreign short film and that will be all you see of 'Amistad.' This won't be one of what the Academy must refer to as their 'Noble Cripple & Spade' years. They paid too much PC and indie attention last year; it frightened the big pants off the cash kings. They won't feel secure in Hollywood again until they have Mike Leigh directing Pepsi commercials and Emily Watson guest-drowning on 'Baywatch.'"

All the oppressed minority propers of last night went to documentaries on the Holocaust, Hollywood's favorite genocide. I had a feeling the Academy was getting tired and cranky viewing the black plight. And nobody seriously thought they'd rally behind the Branch Davidians and give the documentary Oscar to "Waco: Rules of Engagement." Why recognize a new villain like the ATF when you can trot those useful Nazis out, year after year? Why ever recognize Spike Lee for anything, when his mean little films so hate Whitey? Let's all laugh again watching old footage of that Indian babe accepting the award for Brando. What a kook he was, trying to get all political with those weird brown people. He must have been drunk that day, or too darn fat.

I guess you can tell the couples in Hollywood now by the fact that they look like they're on the same drug: Matt Dillon and Cameron Diaz, for example, both featuring that red-rimmed, sanpaku (a Japanese term for the condition when the whites of the eyes are visible under the eyeballs -- they think it means you're half dead) look, and speaking really slowly as if from far, far away. The scruffily pert Meg Ryan seemed to be waggling with drink like notorious degenerate husband Dennis Quaid, and had mascara smeared on her cheeks. There were others who might have been humming with stimulants but were probably just aggressively face-lifted into a constant look of surprise, like Cher.

Helen Hunt? I remember a day when TV acting was considered too coarse and obvious for the big screen.

Ben Affleck? Matt Damon? I don't know anybody who liked that film. Is this some kind of Velvet Mafia coup?

Jack Nicholson? Jesus, could that dessicated old vampire really have churned out a Nicholson performance so starkly different from all the other Nicholson performances that he merited a whole new trophy? Robin Williams? OK, why?
Kim Basinger? Why, why, why? What are the RULES to this game? There must have been a time when the Oscar winners reflected the votes of the outside world too, and were not just the vanity parade of some elite group of fame-community power faces and their super-agents. It was interesting, though; it basically showed us that Hollywood is an organism that's totally out of control, governed only by the weird preferential swells of box-office economics. It was the "Titanic" show from front to back -- the whole set of the Oscars LOOKED like the Titanic. "Titanic" made a billion dollars. Little gold statues for everyone involved. Here you go. It proved once and for all that the Oscars are the Grammies of film.

It was pretty indistinguishable from the Grammies at times last night, judging from all that Turbo Karaoke Emotion. Flatley is Lord of the Dance; Bolton, however, is Lord of the Song. And Celine Dion is Lady.

The morbidly shriveling and schoolmarmish Dion, wearing a neoprene cassock, failed to sexualize any portion of the stage while trembling with pain over the eyebleeding Titanic ballad. I watched her aged Svengali boyfriend remote-controlling her arm movements from the audience with a small steering wheel. He'll let her jump for a nice bag of sardines when she gets home, maybe reward her with a three-pack of fresh nylons. Then she'll retreat to her little haystack for her five-hour rest.

There are some really hot babes in Hollywood who were reduced to Vanna White hood ornament status by the Academy -- Ashley Judd, for one. Drew Barrymore. Jennifer Lopez, while in possession of a peeling rack, looked like she needed more vocal training from her acting coach so she wouldn't sound like she grew up in the barrios of Echo Park carving "Chicas Locas" into her thigh with a Bic pen. She seemed hyperconscious of this; she is kind of begging for somebody like Celine Dion's unsmiling dungeonmaster to Henry Higgins her into a real Lady.

Hey, whenever there's a dull Oscar moment, why not cut to a shot of Michael Caine, doddering? Or a doddering kodiak bear? Bear, Michael Caine. Caine, bear. Oscar night! Whee.

You knew that Kate Winslet really felt she had the Oscar in her bones. It was her Oscar, she KNEW it. She felt severely robbed. You could tell by the way the black foam started pouring out of her mouth and ears when they gave the award to Hunt. You knew Kate had her entire night planned around flashbulb handshakes and gracious Lovegetting. You could tell that she needed the Oscar for sick personal reasons. La Winslet's greasy curls looked more and more Medusa-like throughout the evening; the hatred in her aura smogged in that whole end of the room. She was going to go back to the hotel, get shitfaced and eat 24 Ho Ho's, sobbing and spitting and throwing ashtrays out the window. FUCK the Oscars! FUCK them! Buh-hoo-hoooo-hoooo-hooo-hooo. Sniff. Buh-hoo-hoo-hoo.

Everyone at my Oscar party felt kind of sick inside during James Cameron's grotesquely self-aggrandizing speeches; he proved once and for all that he's a totally loathsome Costnerian dullard. You could tell when he got the best picture award that muscular wife Linda Hamilton must have chastized him for being such an ego-bloated dunce during his best director acceptance speech: "Hey Jim, that movie you made? All those people actually DIED on the Titanic. Maybe you oughta say something."

So then Cameron trots out this laughably unmoving, totally obvious face-saving and time-eating device of "a few seconds of silence" for the dead of the Titanic ... What the fuck was that, Jim? I'm glad he gave away all his points. I'm glad he made no money.

I guess the lowbrow sponsorship really summed it all up in a flash: The 70th Oscars, brought to you by Kentucky Fried Chicken, Camaro and J.C. Penney. Oh, so THAT's who saw "Titanic." None of my friends did.

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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