Oscar, Oscar, Oscar


I felt like the Odd Couple's Felix Unger as I tut-tutted the Oscar telecast while safely planted in my couch potato spot last night.

The show was too long by 45 minutes at least (was Michael Cimino in the booth?) and probably an hour, and as entertainment it was uneven at best, though there were several high points.

I'm sorry most people had probably gone to bed by the time Martin Scorsese finally got the best director Oscar, only decades overdue.

Ellen Degeneres's laconic pace matched the pace of the show, which was not a good thing. Degeneres suggested Johnny Carson had been her favorite past host, and it showed, but Billy Crystal's frenetic pace and skewering of the audience works better in an age where reverence for Hollywood gets a little cloying if not annoying. Carson was clearly in awe of the stars, and Degeneres hasd a sort of aw shucks deference. Some gentle mocking–and at least one reference to Mel Gibson–should have been the order of the day.

For instance, DeGeneres, on the subject of tolerance, said somewhat earnestly that: "Without Jews, blacks and gays, there would be no Oscar."  I would have added. "Well, maybe you could get Mel Gibson to host," or something like that, only funnier.

The point is for the coasts to show middle America that they can be self deprecating and laugh at themselves at what is unquestionably a big night, but also unquestionable an orgy of fancy dresses and shoes and borrowed jewels and penguin suits. Nice touch, by the way, for that animation winner for Happy Feet to wear a white tie that made his tuxedo look even more like a penguin costume.

I loved the sort of "Wicked Stepsisters Lament" take on comedy as Oscar-stepchild from Jack Black, Will Ferrell and, I'm told, John C. Reilly (any kin to Jeannie C. Reilly?). Sadly for the comic crowd, it proved prophetic for one former TV comedian, Eddie Murphy, who was upset for best supporting actor honors by old pro Alan Arkin.

I wonder what the American Idol folks will say Tuesday about Jennifer Hudson's triumph after being voted off the show and dissed by Simon. She gave no shout-outs to the show during the ceremony, though she did say in the Barbara Walters special beforehand that she would probably thank the show in general, recognizing it had been her ticket to the big time, which is pretty huge for her these days with the SAG, Golden Globe and Oscar awards in rapid succession.

Al Gore's presidential candidacy feint was cute, too, if telegraphed. His somewhat halting faux announcement was cut short by the orchestra per Academy policy for overly long acceptance speeches. He seemed more wooden and less funny than I have seen him elsewhere.

Gore's Inconventient Truth won, though Gore didn't actually get the prize, which, sadly, sounds like another competition in the not-do-distant past. Actually, it won two awards, including for best song, a choice that ranks right up there with Keith Carradine's "I'm Easy" for "what were they thinking" honors. My choice was Randy Newman, but then again my choice is always Randy Newman.

That troupe of dancing shadows that formed tributes to the best movie nominees–and a couple of others–were arresting, though ABC or somebody seemed to be having some technical glitches.

I noticed that even though it was after 10 p.m., a couple of single-finger salutes were blurred during a movie clip reel for fear of offending.

I wonder if I was the only one to note this. It was in a montage of Hollywood portrayals of writers, so maybe that was why I was paying close attention, but it seemed to be that just as the music changed to the theme from Mission: Impossible, they were showing a clip from Ed Wood with Martin Laundau in the background. Landau won the Oscar for supporting actor as Bela Lugosi in tha film, but he was also in the original Mission: Impossible TV series.

Even with Inconvenient Truth on the agenda and the Bush administration under the gun in Washington for allegedly trying to manipulate media coverage of global warming, there was nothing in the way of administration bashing to speak of, or any politics for that matter.

Hollywood gave Gore a warm reception and several shout-outs, and there was a joke about his actually having won the election, but there were no water cooler moments to speak of.

For the second year in a row, and for whatever it means, L.A. was not one of the top-five markets for Oscar telecast viewing. Maybe they were all at the show or jockeying for space along the red carpet.

By John Eggerton