As my longtime readers and fans know, I have only contempt for the silly trinket known as The Oscar, which is why in a movie career that spanned the silents and the talkies, I have never been nominated for one. The Academy respected my contempt, and never nominated me, which is more than they did for George C. Scott or Marlon Brando. The Academy demonstrated their contempt for Scott & Brando by forcing Oscars on them against their wills, the poor dears. That's probably what killed them.
The Oscars have grown into such a major event, the so-called "Gay Superbowl", that they are impossible to ignore. So what the swill? I might as well weigh in with my two Euros.
There was a half hour delay getting started, because last year's Oscar show wasn't quite over yet. No Country For Old Men had become No Country For Even Older Men. Josh Brolin never had to leave his seat.
And it started right out with a big disappointment: Huge Jackman was wearing clothes. Honestly, with openly-gay Bill Condon producing, and the Sexiest Man Alive hosting, the one thing I thought I could count on was Huge hosting in a tasteful, designer thong. They always promise to speed the show up, and they never actually manage it, but Huge hosting nude would at least have made it seem shorter. No such luck. Of course, Huge is Australian; maybe he was just disoriented from having to host upside down.
Huge opened with a big, Billy Crystal-esque musical number, which benefited from Huge being a real song-and-dance man who began in musicals. The song included jokes about no one seeing The Reader. That was refreshingly honest. Then, perhaps to counter that un-Oscarish honesty, Huge returned to traditional Oscar insincerity by telling Mickey Roarke ,"You look great." No he doesn't. Check a mirror, Huge. That is what "Looking Great" is all about.
Once the tech crew figured out how to open the curtains, Condon and company unveiled their idea of slimming down the presentation: having five presenters for one Oscar! Now if you had five presenters presenting five Oscars all at once, in the words of Chico Marx, then-a you got somethin'!
For another show-slimming tactic, over the evening they explained how to make movies to the members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. That's a good use of time.
Could we just keep Tina Fey and Steve Martin, and send everyone else home? "Don't fall in love with me," said Martin. Sorry, Steve. You're 35 years too late.
Openly-gay writer Dustin Lance Black won Best Original Screenplay for milking Milk. His real reward was escaping the Mormon Church, which has so kindly spent thousands of dollars this year to deprive him of his equal marital rights. Black's moving speech was almost drowned out by the sounds of televisions being switched off all over Utah and the deep south.
The screenplay excerpt for the inexplicably over-nominated Curious Case of Benjamin Button included the stage direction: "There's an inept quiet" What is an "inept quiet"? How does it differ from a skillful quiet? How does a director show that a quiet is inept? By making it noisy? What we have here is an inept screenwriter. Fortunately, it lost to Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Password.
Presenting all the animation awards, Jack Black revealed that he saw nothing last year that he wasn't in. How coincidental. I saw nothing he was in.
Daniel Craig came out and talked about something. I have no idea what. I was too busy swooning.
Best Art Direction went to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Why? People who like this stupid film call it a "special movie." Yes, it's "special" in the same sense as the "Special Olympics". I don't think anyone has ever done a better job of Art Directing than Mike Nichols, back in Carnal Knowledge and Catch-22, where he did a swell job of directing Art Garfunkle. You think he's easy to direct? You try it.
I found it ironic that Daniel Craig was awarding Best Costumes, as he is the living embodiment of the irrelevancy of costumes, since he looks his best in no clothes at all. It went to The Duchess. How does a movie win an Oscar when no one saw it, not even the people who made it?
Best Make Up went to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That makes sense, since they just made up a nonexistent premise for the film. It is a challenge to make Brad Pitt look creepy, but is it enough for an Oscar? Admittedly, Heath Ledger's Joker make up did look rather slapdash.
It's a good thing they announced Twilight's Robert Pattinson's name nice and loudly, as no one there would have had any idea who he was. The Academy is noticeably short on severely-overweight teenage girls.
Ben Stiller and Natalie Portman made an interesting couple. Natalie is about the size of one of Ben Stiller's arms.
Anthony Dod Mantle was lucky to win Best Cinematography for Slumdog Weakest Link, as he will never win Best Hairstyling. Honestly, if that hairstyle doesn't work on Russell Crowe, why would he think it would look good on him? Hell, that hair wouldn't look good on Anne Hathaway. But I liked him, as he was the one winner who was clearly drunk. How else to explain wearing cream shoes with a black tuxedo?
Jessica Beal presented The Technical Oscars, so titled because they're only technically Oscars at all, really known as "The Boring Awards." Actually, you could hardly call it a presentation, as they only mentioned one winner - ONE! Apparently they are the "We don't really mean it" Oscars. So Condon's idea of speeding up The Oscars is to cut out the Oscars that are already cut out. Classy.
To add more time to the show, which they must have feared was running short, they ran a "Comedy" montage made by Judd Apatow. If I wanted to watch Judd Apatow movies, I wouldn't be watching the Oscars. Or be able to write - or read. It was bizarre to watch James Franco watch himself making out with Sean Penn. But then, watching anyone make out with Sean Penn is a little strange. Frankly, Franco could do better.
Huge Jackman stated, "You're probably wondering why I'm wearing this suit?" Damn right. 82 minutes in, and he was still fully dressed. He launched into a time-saving big musical number which was lots of fun, though I kept wondering who the babe in red he was performing with was. Only afterwards did they announce it was Beyonce Knowles. I'm supposed to just recognize her? I'm 111. That's why I didn't review The Grammys. I did recognize Zac Efron, but only because I'd seen Hairspray.
They were now clearly going to use five past winners to present each acting award. Why? For Best Supporting Actor they had five presenters, but no winner. They were so desperate to fill out the five slots, that they settled for Cuba Gooding Jr., although the Academy has been hoping everyone would just forget that they ever gave him one. Last year's winner, the dreamy and divine Javier Bardem, didn't even bother showing up, though whether this was because he wouldn't lower himself to share a stage with Cuba, or just that his mom had a prior engagement wasn't made clear. It was amusing to have Cuba, a real black man but only a fake actor, announcing the nomination of Robert Downey Jr., a real actor, but only a fake black man.
Christopher Walken, I adore you. You can make almost anything better just by showing up, but what was the deal with your hair? Is that your ear hair groomed?
Heath Ledger won Best Supporting actor. I had Little Dougie type that sentence last week, to get an early start on this review. It was not, to put it mildly, any surprise. Heath's family's acceptance presentation was about as spontaneous as the musical numbers, though I was amused by the shots of the never-had-a-chance other nominees posing with serious and concerned fake expressions on their faces as they watched. You just know that each was thinking, "Heath's dead. This award could have helped my career!"
The next big waste of time was a montage of documentary film makers blathering.
Bill Mahar presented the documentary awards, a deep irony, since Mahar had made the most-non-fictional non-fiction movie of the year, which had not been nominated because it was too true, presenting the one fact people most want to hide from, the fact that there is no God. And Mahar's excellent documentary has already made more money than all the nominated documentaries combined. God forbid it should get nominated, and I mean that in the most literal sense possible. Let's face it, in this backward, superstitious nation, we'll have a black, female, gay president before we ever get an atheist president.
Best Documentary Feature went to a movie about a tightrope-walker. Man on Wire. Yeah, some borderline-nutso circus wire walker is far more important that a film on how religious delusions will kill us all. I mean it didn't even go to the documentary made by Werner Herzog, an authentic cinematic genius.
Then the silly wire-walker, Philippe Petit ("Petit" eh? So that's why he's overcompensating.) says he'll give "The shortest speech in Oscar History," which, at six words, was already longer than Alfred Hitchcock's five word speech, "Thank you very much indeed." so wire boy doesn't even know his Oscar history. And then he kept chattering anyway. And just to class up his exit, he attempted to fellate his Oscar. (Actually, it wasn't even his; it belongs to the film's makers, not its subject.)
Time for yet another time waster, an "Action" montage. Then up pops Will Smith, who made it clear that he prefers brainless movies, ones that don't require him to listen or think.
Will presented Best Visual Effects to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It had already won Best Make Up. The make up was its special effect. Just CGI-ing make ups onto other actors hardly compares to the actual effects work in the other two nominees, The Dark Knight and Ironman, both better movies as well. What Benjamin Button ought to have won was Best Inflation of a Stupid Idea Into a Bloated Movie that the Entire Industry All Seems to Be Afraid of Pointing Out Has No Substance. The Emperor's New Clothes Award.
Four times we had five presenters handing out a single award. Now we had Will Smith, one presenter, handing out four awards. This makes no sense to me.
The Dark Knight won Best Sound Editing. The makers of Dark Knight were relieved finally to have a living winner, although Heath Ledger's family were all set to accept the award.
Indian sound engineer Resul Pookutty, in accepting his Oscar for Best Sound Mixing for Slumdog Match Game '73, said "This is unbelievable," then adding "We can't believe this," in case any of us are unfamiliar with what "This is unbelievable" means. By the way, does anyone know the difference between sound editing and sound mixing? Is there a difference?
Best Film editing was also won by Slumdog Family Feud, by an editor, Chris Dickens, who sadly, is not Charles Dickens.
Before a commercial break they warned us about the upcoming Jerry Lewis tribute, so people with weak stomachs could switch over to The Amazing Race.
The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was given to Jerry Lewis for doing humanity the service of not directing one of his Godawful, unwatchable movies in over a quarter of a century. If Jean Hersholt had known that one day an award in his name would go to Jerry Lewis, he'd have been meaner.
I know and understand that Jerry has over the years, raised millions and millions of dollars for the treatment of muscular dystrophy. This is an Absolute Good, regardless of whether he did it for the unselfish reasons he unselfishly reminds us of at any and all opportunities, or whether he does it so that people will think of him as being as saintly as he does, which is what I believe.
They had Eddie Murphy present the award. This was smart. Eddie's Nutty Professor movies make Jerry's The Nutty Professor look almost like a good film, and thus having Eddie on stage made Jerry look better too.
The film montage of Jerry's career referred to when "the world first came to love Jerry Lewis." That fictional event has yet to happen. 60 years ago, there were a lot of Jerry Lewis fans, but France isn't "The World." Little Dougie used to love Jerry intensely himself. But then he turned 6.
Jerry has, without question, made a number of industry-revolutionizing technical innovations. And Jerry is actually a damn good dramatic actor. His work in The King of Comedy and Wiseguy was first-rate. And nobody does smarmy with less irony.
Jerry's speech began with: "Thank you so very much. For most of my life I thought that doing good for someone didn't mean you would receive commendation for that act of kindness." Now that is a professional comedian. He opened with a joke. But his best line came later: "The humility I feel is staggering." Jerry is deeply impressed by his amazing humility. He is so humble, he's humbled by his humility. He's the humblest man since Uriah Heep. But perhaps Best Editing should have gone to Jerry, for he kept his speech blessedly brief. Thank you, Jerry.
Best Original Score should have gone to Kate Winslet for The Reader, but it went instead to A. R. Rahman for Slumdog Deal or No Deal. Rahman ended his speech with "God is great." I expected Bill Mahar to pop his head in and say, "No he's not."
They had a medley of the nominees for Best Song You Didn't Hear As You Left The Theater, which was mostly a fun big Bollywood production number. Notably absent was Peter Gabriel, who had previously withdrawn, stating, "If I can't bore them for the full four minutes, then I won't bore them at all!"
Best (Foreign Language) Song - went to A. R. Rahman's Jai Ho, which I think is Indian for "J-Lo." In his speech this time, Rahman left us with this tidbit: "All my life I've had a choice of hate or love." Well that certainly distinguishes him from the rest of humanity.
Why wasn't Waltz With Bashir nominated for Best Animated feature? It's a feature. It's animated. It got reviews that most films would kill for, and it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. And if Waltz With Bashir can be considered alongside non-animated films as an equal, why must English language animated films be confined to an animation ghetto?
Best Foreign Language Film went to the Japanese movie Departures. Set in a mortuary, it's about what happens to people after Godzilla steps on them.
Queen Latifah sang the great song I'll Be Seeing You over the dead people montage. While everyone was relieved to see that I wasn't in the montage, the problem is that now, at the end of awards season, we've seen all these same dead people in montage after montage over the last two months, and frankly, it's getting old. No fresh faces. The only point of interest was hearing who the audience broke into applause for, and who it didn't.
Folks getting applause: Cyd Charisse, Bernie Mac, Ollie Johnstone (A lovely man), Michael Crichton, Nina Foch, Pat Hingle, Harold Pinter, Abby Mann, Roy Scheider, Richard Widmark, Isaac Hayes, Ricardo Montalban, Paul Scofield, Stan Winstone, Ned Tannen, James Whitmore (A fresh face), Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, and Paul Newman. (Who got cheers! I hope that meant they loved him.)
Folks getting silence: Bud Stone, Van Johnson, Charles Joffe, Kon Ichikawa, Charles H. Schneer (Such a darling man, eulogized at length over on my flog, in The Man Who Doomed San Francisco), David Watkin, Robert Mulligan, Evelyn Keyes, Maila Nurmi, Manny Farber (A film critic, you can't expect applause from people he gave bad reviews), Jules Dassin, and Charleton Heston (a deafening silence).
There was no speech from the president of the Academy. Now that is how you slim down a show.
Best Direction went to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Video Village, although I liked the other nominees, West, North, and Up.
Did someone pour water on Shirley McLaine's wig? I wouldn't blame them if they had. I've been tempted to dump drinks on her myself, except I hate wasting good vodka on a bad wig.
It was not fair to Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman to make them stand on a stage with Sophia Loren. Sophia has real, lasting beauty, not unlike me, and looked fabulous. Sure, she's had work done, but with her, the surgeon had something to work with. That said, Sophia looked bored and hostile as she paid verbal tribute to the tragically under-praised Meryl Streep.
One Best Actress nominee was Melisso Leo - Who? - in some movie I have never heard of, called Frozen River - Huh? Was this the obligatory obscurity nomination?
Nicole Kidman darling, eat something. I beg you. And get some sun.
In Changeling, Angelina Jolie played a woman who had misplaced one of her billions of kids. Hard to get really worked up. After all, she may have just miscounted at dinner.
Kate Winslet, who looked smashing, but also looked to be verging on middle-age - where's that young girl of Titanic? - won Best Actress. So now we're giving Oscars for statutory rape by Nazis? Kate said of her Oscar: "It's not a shampoo bottle now -- bit it will be!" She also said: "I'm sorry Meryl, but you have to just suck that up." What a rude thing to say to a woman with her daughter sitting right beside her. Plus she split an infinitive.
The montage of Best Actor nominees included a shot of John Wayne, just to remind everyone that the award is meaningless. The clip of Adrian Brody sticking his tongue down Halle Berry's throat was included by request of Brody. Memories.
Why didn't Frank Langella win Best Actor? Well perhaps there was a clue in what Michael Douglas said of him, namely that he "brought new life to Richard Nixon." NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! That's the last thing anyone wants!
Robert DeNiro had the funniest line of the evening. "How for so many years did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight men?" I can't improve on that.
Adrian Brody said that for Richard Jenkins's career, Google him. Adrian, for an actor's film credits, you don't Google them; you IMDb them. Get a clue. And a nose job.
Sir Anthony Hopkins looked like he could just eat Brad Pitt up. So could I, but I would omit the fava beans.
Sir Ben Kingsley carefully avoided saying the things about Mickey Roarke that people who have worked with him would have said: slightly insane, famously difficult, "aromatic."
Sean Penn won Best Actor, although how hard is it for a man who was once married to Madonna to convince us he's gay? I'm expecting Guy Ritchie to come out any day now. "You commie, homo-loving, sons-of-guns." Sean addressed the audience with unusual candor. And, no joke, I found Sean's speech moving.
Notorious homophobe Mel Gibson's appearance in the clips for Milk dishonored that film. What? They couldn't find a clip of Anita Bryant?
Best Picture went to Slumdog Trivial Pursuit, the best movie Regis Philbin has ever starred in. What? I'm sorry, the best movie Meredith Viera has ever starred in. I didn't realize it was the daytime verison. This was an evening with lots of Indians, but no cowboys.
But after three and a half hours, my choice for Best Direction was the EXIT sign. Next time Huge, undress for success.
To read more of Tallulah Morehead, and to see what Huge didn't show us, go to
The Morehead the Merrier.