I think we can all agree that the 72nd Academy Awards ceremony was painfully boring and bad, despite the heroic efforts of Billy Crystal. By comparison, last year's Oscars were wildly entertaining, moving and cathartic, including the Debbie Allen interpretive horror dance of embarrassment and pain.
In fact, the best part of the whole evening of TV viewing was the Baba Wawa interviews beforehand, especially with Wicky Martin. Wicky managed a career death-defying, triple-bypass-toe-loop axel of high-speed spin surgery acrobatics, and not only didn't admit that he was gay but made his nonadmittance not even sound like a nonadmittance for reasons of being gay, while sending out a gay-positive message! Ay, carambola! The star fruit of the tropics! Cirque de Oli! Viva la Wicky!
So that was exciting, as were the always totally wonderful Mike Myers and Catherine Zeta-Jones' vulgarsaurus of an engagement ring diamond from horny senior Michael Douglas, the size of a punch bowl. But the fun pretty much stopped there.
Whoever decided Tyra Banks could talk? Maybe her Victoria's Secret-stuffing golden globes would be OK slagging around at the Golden Globes, but she was all wrong as a pre-Oscar commentator -- a shrill moron, a screaming, squeaking RoboBimbo, utterly bereft of poise, grace or personal charm. Banks needs to go back to the two-dimensional world of silently wearing panties in magazines, and/or sitting in the front row during WNBA games and fostering rumors that she's a lesbian. If she talks much more, America won't want to masturbate at her anymore.
Speaking of, on the fashion walk side of things, tits were big this year; the possums were swinging, and with weblike nothingness holding them back. Cameron Diaz adopted the full rib cage exposure, the neckline-down-to-groin effect of Jennifer Lopez, a look that merely makes the viewers at home wonder what kind of lint comes off on her nipples when she unglues the macrami.
But apart from the untethered hooters, from the neck up the majority of Hollywood-nicks looked sickly, pale and disturbed this year. The audience lighting was perhaps the most unforgiving in recorded history, casting a greenish and scurvied hue on the crowd, cruelly accentuating all of their eye-bag spackle seams and flesh-colored blemish-putty mounds. Everyone but Angela Bassett and the silvery manta-ray girls who hand out the statuettes looked chewed up, pocky and cadaverous; some looked mentally tortured.
Every time the camera swung over to Keanu Reeves for a "Matrix" appreciation shot, he looked as if he was mumbling to himself -- sweaty, confused and doddering. He looked like he just got out of shock therapy and might be keeling over into becoming a slower-burning, low-tar version of Jan-Michael Vincent.
The generally cute Drew Barrymore looked like she had fished Madonna's hair from last year out of the celebrity free box.
Maria Shriver's jaw has been replaced with two ironing boards, placed in a "V."
Even Lady Gwyneth, this decade's closest approximation to Grace Kelly, looked exhausted and gray, and seemed to have slept in her dress and spilled coffee down the front, a look usually reserved for Diane Keaton.
Winona Ryder seems brittle, hard and unhappy these days. All of the loose juice she had that made her such a captivating teen has gone the way of any sanguine sexuality she may have had; all of her blood has been replaced with various expensive pink moisturizers. She's becoming a schoolmarmish lady with a sharp little nose and tight lips.
Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of "Being John Malkovich," seemed to be having a terrible angsty meltdown; Fiona Apple had to dramatically console Paul Thomas Anderson, who looked as if he wanted to stick sharp things in his arteries.
Natural age seemed to sweep over the usual small constellation of perennial stars like the influenza of '21.
Jack "Goddamned" Nicholson in his trademark bloodshot-camouflage glasses looked as flea-bitten, ego frenzied and poisonous as a Nazi war criminal when he presented the Irving G. Thalberg award to his lifelong boon/strip-club companion, Warren Beatty, who looked like he needed to be reironed and seemed miserable to be at the Oscars again, as if it were an annual family reunion he can't abide going to anymore.
You can't give somebody a Thalberg without everyone in the audience thinking, "Great fuck, is Warren dying? What's he got, Alzheimer's?" The fact that they let Beatty talk for so long only made his death seem more imminent. It cast a pall on the rest of the evening.
Even the musicians were hurting. Burt Bacharach, suave cocksmith of yore, seemed in need of an oxygen tank; Ray Charles, though his phrasing was still better than anything else on the stage, sounded as if his voice had been packed in mothballs for several months and he needed an all-out larynx transplant.
Old men and young women were still the order of the day in Hollywood-land last night, as were the usual baldfaced grotesqueries of award misplacing.
Dull-edged plastic battle-ax Phil Collins beat out actually fresh and interesting talent Aimee Mann for best music because, in Hollywood, there can't always be aesthetic justice, or everyone would starve.
Angelina Jolie, big-lipped ingenue, accepted her best supporting actress Oscar looking like a vampire bat, and made sexy demonstrations of ecstatic love toward her own brother, who wept. It was a weirdly intimate "Angels and Insects" moment and seemed to warrant the writing of an immediate unauthorized biography.
Michael Caine, Old Guy Who Won't Go Away (in the same camp with Nicholson, Beatty and Cher), won for best supporting actor. Sunday night was the apotheosis of Caine.
I really, really hate the way that the Oscar show producers, whenever a black or Hispanic person is mentioned, immediately cut to a reaction shot of a black or Hispanic person. When Morgan Freeman was talking, the cameras industriously cut to all six black people in the audience, each one nodding seriously. We saw unsmiling black people Denzel Washington and wife when Crystal made a crack about Isaac Hayes getting submerged in dry ice during the "Shaft" medley, and then saw Samuel L. Jackson when he mentioned "The Green Mile" because that movie had a big black guy in it. The organizers got the two Latin stars, Penilope Cruz and that pimpy-pantsed Antonio Banderas scalawag to scream out the name of another Latin winner, Pedro Almodsvar, in an attempt to re-create the Sophia Loren/Roberto Benigni moment of last year. Then they cut to a reaction shot of Gloria Estefan. When Chow Yun-Fat took the stage, there weren't any Chinese-Americans in the audience to cut to, so they bunched him in with the Latinos. The Oscars need to stop visually quarantining multicolored people. They're not going to infect others outside their own racial on-camera orientation.
The only good thing about this Oscar show was that a lot of good work got recognized. I was thrilled to see "Topsy-Turvy" get noticed at all, even if it was for a ghetto award like best costumes. I thought all of the "American Beauty" awards (except maybe that of the Talented Mr. Spacey) were well deserved. I wanted Jim Taylor and Alexander Payne to win best screen adaptation for "Election," but that's because Taylor is a pal of ours, and I personally loved the film a lot. Still, it was good to see John Irving make a nice stand on behalf of pro-choice-manship, since Susan Sarandon wasn't around to do it. Hilary Swank came out of nowhere and outclassed everyone with her poise and talent. "See?" the Oscars seemed to be saying. "We're not the Grammys; we didn't let 'The Sixth Sense' win anything! We're good. We love art, not just money, even if we did feature an 'N Sync segment."
The night wasn't interesting, but at least it wasn't evil. Sometimes, that's enough. Last night, though, it wasn't.