Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2006, Part One
The festivities began with KABC-TV's An Evening @ the Academy Awards, produced for the ABC-Owned & Operated Stations. For the second straight year, ABC7/L.A.'s Eyewitness News team made the horrid mistake of letting Roger Ebert overdo it with the interviews. First interview out of the chute: Dolly Parton, nominated for Best Original Song for the first time in 26 years. George Clooney, meanwhile, said that he was optioning his search for a brand new tuxedo. Still, we barely saw Ebert's current partner, Richard Roeper; and why we caught but a mere glimpse of Statler and Waldorf from Jim Henson's Muppets, on behalf of their On the Balcony segments for Movies.com, was something of a mystery. Nevertheless, too much time was spent with the interviews; once more, ABC7/L.A.'s team gets an F from your Dragonmaster. You guys really need to get yourself on track or rein in Ebert's time, one of the two.
The Academy-sanctioned Countdown show, with Billy Bush and company, was an hour-long effort this year; however, it seemed to me that many of the interview segments looked more pre-taped than live. Regardless, everyone assembled was rooting for the clear favorite: Brokeback Mountain. The first of the evening's commercials, a vintage spot from circa 1973, saluted Orville Redenbacher Popcorn's 40-year association with the movie industry. Another spot, this one for Applebee's, dared to channel Gilligan's Island (though I can't imagine why). Still, what was the Countdown show thinking if they assumed that some of us out there were familiar with topics as diverse as monkeys, villains, star-crossed lovers, etc.?
Along the way, Leonard Maltin from
Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America's Joel Siegel, and Anne Thompson from
HollywoodReporter.com were called upon to make their predictions as to the big winners; and Felicity Hoffman was surprised with some pre-taped good-luck wishes from her fellow Desperate Housewives; Milady Felicity burst into grateful tears, saying as well that those tears were enough to ruin her makeup! (Hey, lady, ya wanna be happy about it or not?) Lastly, with a little less than 6 1/2 minutes to showtime, we briefly glimpsed the Powers That Be in the Booth --- Gil Cates and Louis J. Horvitz --- readying their minions to get the machine going. And then, as of 8 PM Eastern time --- there was no turning back. The time to battle had begun.
Starting things off with a killer opening title sequence, these 78th Academy Awards promised, as the theme of this year's show had threatened, "A Return to Glamour." Still, given the spontaneity of the live telecast, I wonder just how much glamour was emphasized. Chuck Workman, Oscar clip-packager par excellence, contributed many of the evening's segmants, staring with a rather silly one, where new announcer Tom Kenny introduced our host, Billy Crystal. WRONG! Whoopi? Sadly, no. Last year's host, Chris Rock? I don't think so! Letterman? Oh, please! That Oprah/Uma thing was so centuries ago! Steve Martin? Alas, we wouldn't see him host, either (despite the fact that Stevo was, I think, Oscar's second-coolest host). Mel Gibson! You wish! Not even Mr. Moviefone was interested in hosting! That left Jon Stewart (Grrr! for the moment!). We saw him dream that he'd been chosen to host the Oscars --- and there, next to him in the bed, was George Clooney, saying to him: "Just start the show."
And so, the #4 male lead from Death to Smoochy (does anyone recall that film?) found himself facing over 1 billion viewers across the Planet! Here are a few items trimmed from his monologue:
"It's shocking to see so many of you stars without donating funds to the Democrats because it's the first time that most of you have ever voted for a winner!"
"Bjork would have been here tonight. Unfortunately, Dick Cheney shot her."
"Raise your hand if you went to see Crash."
"There's nothing remotely gay about classic Hollywood Westerns!" Cut to the first primary package of the night --- some of our classic Western tough guys [and gals] in action! That'll learn ya, huh, Jon? Regardless, after a few moments of chuckling forcedly (or so I was able to tell), the time had come to get serious, and start handing out the awards!
Kicking things off was Best Supporting Actor, with Nicole Kidman greeting everyone --- and right off the bat, everybody's wish was granted: George Clooney, Best Supporting Actor! Yessss!
"I don't quite know how you compare art," said George, "You look at these performances this year, of these actors and, unless we all did the same role --- everybody put on a Batsuit, and we'll all try that --- I don't know how you compare it. They are all stellar performances and wonderful work, and I'm truly honored to be up here. We are a little bit out of touch here in Hollywood every once in a while. I think that's probably a good thing, and I'm proud to be part of this community, and proud to be so out of touch." I don't know about that, George lad. There are still 45-year-old ladies, I would wot, who would have a desire to touch you! Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks followed that up with the network premiere, if you can call it that, of his "How Not to Do an Acceptance Speech" video --- it was rather short, and all too brief. Not one of Bruce Vilanch's best one-liners, but I've heard sillier skits.
The creepiest of the evening's presenters was Ben Stiller, wearing what Jon described as an "amazing green unitard" a unisex leotard, apparently, the idea being to demonstrate the green-screen format visual-effects buffs are so in love with these days. "This is blowin' Spielberg's mind!" Ben chuckled fiercely. Yeah, but what about the rest of us? Anywho, Joe Letteri, Brian van't Hul, Christian Rivers and Richard Taylor would be the chosen ones for that rather large ferocious gorilla. I believe it was Joe who thanked Andy Serkis for giving the Weta Digital dudes and dudettes the heart of Kong. They loved working with those Hobbit-loving heroes, and --- well, there wasn't a lot to say.
There was, on the other hand, much to present --- and now it was Reese Witherspoon's turn at the mike. Her assignment: Best Animated Feature --- and, for the first time since The Wrong Trousers, Wallace and Gromit were Oscar winners once more! The Curse of the Were-Rabbit obviously had some crackin' good cheesy repercussions, I'd say! And as Nick Park noted, Wallace's longtime voice, Peter Sallis, was in the audience to watch Nick and Steve Box accept their trophies .... complete with matching Wallace bow ties, too! Cool, says I!
The first segment wrapped up as Naomi Watts took to the Kodak Theatre stage to introduce Dolly Parton singing her original song Travelin' Thru', from Transamerica. And of course, Dolly, as one might expect, treated her audience as though she were in concert at her beloved Dollywood. And this year, rather than have the presenters introduce each of the five nominees for Best Picture in their own separate segments, Gil Cates decided to use those specific clips as commercial lead-ins. Why you didn't do that last year, Gilly boy, is beyond me; it would have made a shorter telecast than you would have planned for!
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter of Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2006!