We were shocked, shocked I tell you, when a befuddled Jack Nicholson read the word Crash off the envelope during the 78th Oscar ceremony Sunday evening.
Crash? What about the gay themed Brokeback Mountain?
It was his Marisa Tomei moment, theorized Scott, in whose apartment we had gathered for this annual tradition. One girl, with wrinkled brow, pressed him for his definition of a Marisa Tomei moment. “You know,” he said, explaining to this girl, far too young to remember the scandals of 1992, when Jack Palance, elderly and weird, had announced Marisa Tomei’s name as Best Supporting Actress of the year (for My Cousin Vinny). Insider gossips insisted that he had a) misread her name while stoned, b) disliked the “real winner,” Vanessa Redgrave, enough to give her the ultimate snub or c) actually had an unseemly, Woody Allen style crush on the much young Tomei and decided to win her the Oscar singlehandedly. I actually feel kind of sorry for Marisa Tomei, not only for the obvious reasons but because no one in America believes she won the Oscar fair and square.
But what’s “fair and square” in Hollywood anyway? Of course Marisa Tomei is more talented than Vanessa Redgrave––that’s a given. Anyway, we were breathless with shock and awe by the time Crash won the Oscar. There were about 20 of us gathered tonight at Scott and Cliff’s apartment, all of us with completed ballots nearby, for prizes were promised, and not one person in the room had written down Crash for best picture. Talk about an “upset”!
What was Jack Nicholson’s anti-gay agenda? I haven’t seen either Crash nor Brokeback Mountain, nor any of the other best picture nominees, but I feel sure that Nicholson was playing one of his hideous Shining pranks. He wasn’t the Joker for nothing, after all. Mike hung up the phone and reported that in LA, everyone loves Crash, which apparently is set there, and everyone relates to its fractured, disjunct yet ultimately hopeful portrait of black-white race relations. It hits them where they live says he with a disgusted grimace, and where they live is two inches deep. I’m of the opinion that Jack Nicholson probably didn’t even read the envelope (or Teleprompter), he just rattled off any old thing. Dodie (Bellamy) says that during a recent visit to an Academy voter, she heard that most of the voters refused even to open the high-security Brokeback Mountain DVDs the studios mailed out to each of them. Why vote for that, it’s stupid, and gay? On the couch to my left, a polite woman said, "so you haven’t seen any of the movies?" "No," I said, "but last night I saw most of Evita on HBO. She should have won the Oscar!" Who? Madonna? It might have been a fluke but she was great. I just don’t have time to see any best picture nominees. On the plane coming back from New York in February we had the chance to watch the Super Bowl or Walk the Line on Jet Blue. Dodie opted for Walk the Line, said it was amazing, that it was the picture of the year. So I went in with that, and then to my amazement I saw, it wasn’t even nominated. “So you did watch Walk the Line,” said my neighbor on the couch. “No actually I watched the Super Bowl instead. It just looked like it was going to be a biopic, of which no good ones have ever been made.”
As though to illustrate my thoughts, a montage of Hollywood’s greatest biopics then filled the screen. Russell Crowe showed clips from oh, I don’t know, Kinsey, The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, Madame Curie, Lust for Life, Gandhi, all these ludicrous films, The Pianist, The Doors, A Beautiful Mind, Lenny, Ed Wood, Monster, Chaplin, Mommie Dearest, dear God in Heaven, has there ever been a good one? The only one I sort of liked, Lady Sings the Blues, did not make the cut. Anyway I’m sure Walk the Line was a pip, just count me out. Reese Witherspoon sure showed what she was made of when she got up there, won the part, and announced that she had trounced Felicity Huffman (of TransAmerica, playing a MTF transsexual) and won the Oscar because she, unlike Huffman, had played a “real woman.” What’s with this “real woman” nonsense, Reese Witherspoon? People have been cruel, quick to judge Reese Witherspoon and given her the “poison dwarf” tag for being not only tiny but evil, but until tonight I never really joined the party. Now I’m like, Ryan Phillipe deserves the Nobel Prize for having to stay married to her bullshit. (And also, he should have won the Oscar for his imposing brilliance in Cruel Intentions (1999) instead of Kevin Spacey! That’s axiomatic in my neck of the woods). Tonight the camera lingered on Ryan Phillippe’s handsome, moonlike face as he sat there, all during Reese’s “real woman” speech, just hoping to catch his expression if she forgot to thank him a la Hilary Swank some years ago, thanking everyone else from Jesus to her agent but forgetting poor Chad Lowe, who looked as though the clouds had opened up and drenched him with tears. Well, Reese announced that she had a good husband and two lovely kids and Ryan continued to sit there, sort of downcast, but basically expressionless, as though determined not to join the Chad Lowe Club no matter what went down onstage. In the living room where we were all sitting, people were hollering out, “Reese is the moneymaker!”
Plus she has these strange knobs coming out of her forehead from which you could launch a thousand ships. Her family landed on Plymouth Rock, and she took a piece of it to California in her forehead. Did you ever see those Eva Hesse sculptures of pounds of plasticine dangling in mesh?
Oh well, she’s great. What I thought was crass was Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin improvising or whatever to introduce the special honorary Oscar to Robert Altman. OK, Lily Tomlin, she was in Nashville, great, but the only reason Meryl Streep was on that stage was because she and Tomlin are starring as sisters in the forthcoming Altman film Prairie Home Companion, it’s just cross collateral promotion. They should have gotten Shelley Duvall and oh, I don’t know, Elliott Gould to give him the award. Show some imagination, why always look to the box office for your cues? And what about the long montage of films with social significance, like Philadelphia and All the Presidents Men and The Grapes of Wrath? Fine, fine, pat yourself on the back Hollywood but the truth is that It’s a Bikini World (1966) was better than all of those movies put together. We’re watching Samuel L. Jackson showing all these uplifting clips from Gentleman’s Agreement and On the Waterfront and To Kill a Mockingbird and all of a sudden I spot the familiar visages of Keanu Reeves dating Diane Keaton from Something’s Gotta Give; only in Hollywood would the problem of younger men dating their mothers be considered of “social significance.” Another montage later on was about “epics.” Well Chuck Workman, whatever its sprightly charm, Grease 1 was not an epic.
Maybe Grease 2. And what about the Barbara Walters special, why did they move it to some other night? At Scott and Cliff’s party, Anne was disconcerted; she’d been out of the country for several years, teaching in Pusan, and coming back to America you expect your Oscars to end up with Barbara Walters eliciting absolutely nothing of interest from a trio of overblown ninnies, but then when they tell you, “Oh, we showed that last week,” you can’t help but feel a little like the whole world is changing, shifting, underneath one’s feet. I sat stony-eyed this year during the annual montage of “In Memoriam” showing the stars that “we” lost during the past year. For one thing, I don’t choose to remember film editors and casting directors, who have somehow snuck into these montages. I want the stars and no one else, OK maybe some directors. And for another, I wasn’t crying as I usually do because God gave the stars a holiday last year and only a few died and those, like John Mills, Shelley Winters, Teresa Wright and Simone Simon had lived good long lives. OK, one exception, my beloved and shining star Sandra Dee, who died too young and in such a shocking way, but I’m all cried out, if I let go any more tears I’d get these huge Reese Witherspoon bumps in my brow like Anish Kapoor made me out of brass.