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Posted at 9:54 AM ET, 03/ 6/2006

And the Oscar Morning Hangover Goes to...

By Liz Kelly

Anyone else want their Sunday night back?

Seeing the stars turn out en masse for Academy Awards night is kind of neat and each year I inevitably park myself on the couch to ogle outfits while my husband decamps to anywhere out of earshot, in this case to the kitchen TV to watch "The Bad and the Beautiful" on Turner Classic Movies.

The red carpet, at least, is an awesome feat to watch unfold in what ends up being a very short 120 minutes prior to the Oscar broadcast. For every George Clooney or Charlize Theron, there are an exponentially greater number of behind-the-scenes scurriers. Look a little to George's left or over Charlize's shoulder and you'll see them: producers, cameramen, security details, handlers and publicists all jockeying their clients into position.

Starlets calculatedly dally in front of banks of cameras, going through a predictable range of poses (This year it was painful to watch Heath Ledger shooed away from Michelle Williams for solo shots), while Joan Rivers, Isaac Mizrahi and who knows how many other live coverage hosts all compete to get the best quotable (best is a relative term here, where the burning question is usually "Who are you wearing?") from the passing smorgasbord of stars.


Heath Ledger looks on as daffodil -- aka Michelle Williams -- strikes a pose. (AP)

Fashion wise, there are the reliably glamorous (Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston), the reliably out-there (Dolly Parton, Lisa Rinna) and some stars who you're loathe to condemn -- after all, it's their first Oscar night -- but just want to hustle back to the stylist before they make it too far down the red carpet (Felicity Huffman, Michelle Williams).

There is the gossip: why is Sandra Bullock with Keanu instead of new hubby Jesse James? Will Hillary and Chad come together? No. Will Jennifer show up with Vince Vaughn? Erhm, no. Could Ryan Seacrest possibly be over-exposed. Yes. How cringe-worthy was Jon Stewart's monologue? Not as bad as Ben Stiller's lame green screen spoof.

There were some nice moments, too. Ludacris telling a clueless Isaac Mizrahi his fashion idol is "Chris Bridges" (hint: that's Luda's real name), Lauren Bacall introducing a special tribute to film noir, Wallace & Grommit creators Nick Park and Steve Box accepting their best animation Oscar in matching ties and matching refreshing good nature, the absolutely jubilant acceptance by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard for their Oscar-winning song (Hustle & Flow's "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp").


Nick Park, left, and Steve Box. (AP)

Despite all the concentrated star power, though, my attention started wandering early in the evening. After 90 minutes of red carpet gawking and the evening's early awards, I was overcome by the perennial feeling of watching a convention for an industry I don't work for and or a prom for a high school I don't attend and that like most conventions or proms, the attendees aren't enjoying themselves that much. Employee of the year awards are distributed, deals are made, someone's making out in the corner, feet hurt and we're counting down the time till we can make a break for home.

When all is said and done, I kind of wish I'd spent the evening with the husband watching "The Bad and the Beautiful", the 1952 Kirk Douglas/Lana Turner story about a man who became one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood by using those around him. Why? Because I'm not into Hollywood for the truth, but for the fantasy. And, sorry, but Oscar night's just a little too real.

washingtonpost.com's Full Coverage. Also, three post-Oscar live discussions today: 11: Oscar Fashion, 12:30: Winners & Losers, 2: Social Scene.

By Liz Kelly  | March 6, 2006; 9:54 AM ET
Categories:  Miscellaneous  
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Comments

Liz, I think you're way off re: Jon Stewart's monologue. I thought it was hilarious, and the opening "dream sequence" film was priceless. In fact, Stewart's hosting made the entire Oscarcast worth watching.

Posted by: DMS | March 6, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I agree w/ Liz. Stewart was underwhelming, to say the least. But I think Shales was too hard on him. I think the issue was more a poor fit between Stewart and the venue, rather than simply a lame performance on his part. Stewart's specialy is skewering; he's really not in showbiz in the sense that Billy Crystal is. Granted, he had a lot of time to try to figure out how to be himself in a way that would not be too shocking or offensive to either the live or television audiences, but comics can't be good if they are straining, and Stewart was. He was straining to suppress his natural tendency to point out absurdity and hypocrisy in the name of social appropriateness.

Posted by: THS | March 6, 2006 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Anyone see Lauren Hutton on the red carpet? She looked like she was on something.

Posted by: KCB | March 6, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Wrong on Felicity Huffman.

Posted by: OMD | March 6, 2006 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Totally wrong on Michelle Williams. She's the one of the few who actually had an original look instead of letting a bored stylist dress her in Cookie Cutter Couture. Original color, fantastic make-up. Every time the camera panned to her she glowed. She rocked.

Stewart did just fine. Get over the memory of Johnny Carson. It IS an industry convention, and it's the same way Washingtonians scratch their head as to why no one cares about the SCOTUS hearings. But I guarantee you that the average viewer at home had a fine if uneventful time watching the show, same as every other year.

Posted by: WMK | March 6, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Did Shales watch the same Oscars show I did? I thought Jon Stewart did a tremendous job, I laughed out loud many many times. He poked fun without being mean, wasn't overtly political (which I was surprised about, but on reflection, thought it was a wise decision). His only sin was to dare to poke fun at Hollywood for taking itself too seriously, not giving any awards to Scorsese, etc. Shales must be too sentimental about the past... I mean Billy Crystal was good in previous shows, but Stewart was every bit as good, if not better. Shales was absurdly mean and cruel, and Stewart has way more class than Shales ever could dream of.

Posted by: DrBob | March 6, 2006 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Uh, I don't understand why you have any cred doing a Washington Post blog?! Shouldn't someone who knows what they're talking about be writing this?

Posted by: Jason | March 6, 2006 4:44 PM | Report abuse

...unlike the comments, where you can't write until you prove you never know what you're talking about.

That said, I thought Stewart bombed. His dry delivery really only works for political material (witness his less-than-stellar movie career), and he didn't do any.

Yes, he did make fun of Oscar taking itself too seriously, but you know what? The more you do those jokes, the faster you start bombing, as Chris Rock can tell you. Rock and Stewart both are brillant comics who just aren't right for the Oscars. I'd expect to see Steve Martin back next year.

Posted by: mmy | March 6, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I, being the husband relagated to another TV and too lazy to climb the stairs, opted to join the Memsahib and struggle through the entire ordeal. My Yeas and Nays:

Red Carpet - Most elegant and tastefully attired: Jada Pinkett Smith and George Clooney.

Jon Stewart - out of his element.

Best Presenters - The duo of Liliy Tomlin and Meryl Streep.

Best casually attired presenter - Morgan Freeman; not many could have carried it off with such panache.

Out of a very short and totally uninspired list of Oscar-nominated songs; the worst song ever presented with an Oscar - "It's hard out here for a pimp." What trash! That's the only Oscar-winner I've ever heard who's lyrics were "bleeped," as was the acceptance.

Fortunately, I was able to miss some of the show by performing some well-needed maintenance on the computer, which, boring as that is, was somewhat more entertaining.

Posted by: Bobbo | March 6, 2006 5:41 PM | Report abuse

From Hallandale Beach, FL

As any longtime Oscar-watcher like me can tell you, since we can't control the actual outcome of the votes, absent a crazy only-at-the-Oscars incident or huge upset, what we want most is a degree of spontanaity and genuine sense of enthusiasm among the participants, because otherwise there's no real sense in televising it "LIVE." Or watching it live.

Unfortunately, as the celebrity media biz has grown exponentially, it's also seen a corresponding exponential growth in many trends that aren't positive for actual film fans, in much the same way that the increased media and promotional hoopla surrounding the Super Bowl games sometimes seems to threaten the importance of the game itself.
For instance, as was already noted, the veritable armies of non-talent camped on the Red Carpet, to the point where I'm constantly distracted by all the PAs and helper-bees, and can't concentrate on whom I want to see, much less, see whom they run into by accident.
"Hello Ms. Streep, I'm Heath Ledger, and this is my girlfriend Michelle Williams. We're big fans..."
Those chance encounters of talent are part of the appeal of watching the Oscars -and the increased appeal among attending talent of the Golden Globes- as long as the talking heads at the tab/celeb TV shows aren't big-footing everyone into posing for their own purposes.

One of the most prescient comments I heard all night, on E!'s post-Oscar telecast, came from someone I least expected it from, actor Eric Bana (Munich), attending his first Oscar ceremony.
Standing outside of the Governor's Ball with his wife, he remarked that having watched telecasts back home in Australia, he was genuinely disappointed by the low numbers of movie fans present, and noted the relative marginalization of the real movie fans who were there, who vote with their feet by showing up early to get choice seats in the bleachers. Now here was a guy reading my mind!!
The fans are marginalized in favor of increased numbers of media, to what end? At some point, aren't there enough photographers there to take photos? Sometimes less really is more.

As for explanations as to why this year's event was SO FLAT and devoid of excitement, what's gone largely unremarked upon is the unusually large number of both big old-line stars and younger stars who didn't have a feature film out last year, like Redford and Newman, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Platrow to name but a few.
Of course, that doesn't explain Gil Cates suddenly cutting away from the second person at the podium accepting the Oscar for Best Picture, to go to a commercial, as audience members cringed as the voice-over came on the PA, and they realized what was happening.

Improvements?
Well, getting rid of Gil Cates -whose Fifteen Minutes is SO up!- is a MUST! His decision to use music during speeches may be THE worst single new idea of the year. In any field.
Institute some tough love and tighten up those Red Carpet requirements, so we don't have to witness no-talents gabbing on cellphones like every single televised sporting event on TV, esp. baseball games, with their lingering shots of donkeys behind home plate or team dugouts talking to their friends.
Put the beefy security guards in appropriate jackets that stand out from the crowd so everyone knows who and where they are, but otherwise, sweep the Red Carpet clean of the nobodies!
And finally, Peter Coyote needs to come back as the voice of the Oscars, because he makes the proceedings better with his voice and introductions of talent. Get him back, pronto!

Posted by: David Bruce Smith | March 6, 2006 6:14 PM | Report abuse

One thing today's "day afters" have shown me is that everyone has different ideas about Oscar night, how it went, what was good and what wasn't.

For example, I normally adore Lauren Bacall, but last night she was flubbing her Film Noir introduction so badly that I finally muted her out of embarassment. Ben Stiller is not my favorite personality, but I thought his green screen getup was hilarious.

And I'm not trying to be personally harsh when I say you may be the first professional celebrity observer to say that "Oscar night's just a little too real." Huh? What?

It also strikes me as strange that the writer of "Celebritology" would find Oscar night boring and end up wishing they'd spent the evening watching an old movie instead. I do understand the impulse and perhaps it is just unfortunate phrasing, but still...odd.

Posted by: H From California | March 6, 2006 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Steven Wright host next year.

Posted by: OtotheStotheCtotheAtotheR | March 6, 2006 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Re Shales
His column was mean and rude. Whatever credibility he had with me vanished with his inexplicable embrace of Jessica Alba. Of all the talent gathered at the Kodak theater, he chooses to drool over a nubile young starlet without a quality movie to her name who could also be his daughter? Really unseemly.

And one final comment:
Last night I couldn't help noting that for three hours worth of awards, viewers were subjected to two hours of red carpet arrivals and three further hours of awkward post-show gawking and party hopping.

Anyone truly wondering why interest might be waning doesn't have far to look for an answer. Just as tabloid mags have exploded to such an extent over the past few years that now they are devouring one another, Oscar producers have done the same.

Few people want to be force fed meaningless celebrity drivel for 8 hours. The media frenzy and PR machinations have never been more forceful, and people know there are going to be very few real moments.

Add in to the equation that more and more Oscar is starting to look like Night of a Thousand Ads, and it's no wonder viewers are tuning out.

Posted by: H From California | March 6, 2006 7:33 PM | Report abuse

To H from California: If you don't want to be "force fed meaningless celebrity drivel for 8 hours," there's always the possibility of turning the TV off for some or all of those hours. Watching is not a requirement.

Posted by: SJG | March 7, 2006 1:07 AM | Report abuse

I love the Stephen Wright suggestion for hosting. How about Larry David if Stephen is busy?

Am I the only person who did not care for the Lily Tomlin-Meryl streep intro? Too inside baseball for me - I guess I am not sufficiently hip to immediately grasp Robert Altman's film-making techniques.

Posted by: OMD | March 7, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Come tizzle

Posted by: Nibbizle | September 26, 2006 10:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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