Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gracias, Oscar®

Wow, I can’t believe I’m here! There are so many people to thank. I hope I don’t leave anybody out. And please don’t “play me off” with the music before I am finished. I have waited a long time to get here and I’m going to make the most of it!

First, I want to thank the Academy, especially for being more ruthless than ever in keeping the awards show on schedule. Hardly anybody was allowed to ramble, except of course the really big winners. I especially appreciated this since I had a terrible cold and, instead of staying up all night like I usually do on Oscar night, I actually went to bed for a few hours, then got up and watched with a large glass of water and a bottle of cough syrup, instead of my customary Oscar night highball and snacks. I really appreciated that the show ended by 5:00 a.m. GMT instead of running past 6:00, like it usually does. I also want to thank the Academy for making it crystal clear what the pecking order is in Hollywood. “A” list people get to walk up to the stage by themselves. “B” list people have to stand together on the stage. “C” list people have to stand in the aisles. And the bottom rung, as always, get their awards somewhere else on a different night.

Speaking of compressing the timeframe, I also want to thank Rupert Murdoch, for getting back the broadcast rights to the Oscars in the UK. I was able to use my TiVo-like Sky+ to fast-forward through the commercial breaks and save even more time. When the BBC broadcast the awards, there was actually interesting stuff during these breaks (Jonathan Ross and guests being snide and satirical), which meant I had to spend more time watching the whole thing. Sky, in a novel twist, actually showed commercials during the commercial breaks. Which seems odd, when you consider that the BBC (which included no commercials) is broadcast free-to-air but I have to pay big bucks to get Sky Movies (which did include commercials). Go figure. Still, Sky did have UK presenters in between the commercials. There was some English guy who looked vaguely like Matt LeBlanc and a woman who was a dead ringer for Sharon Osbourne. Actually, it was Sharon Osbourne. Apparently, taking a cue from Chris Rock’s pre-Oscar comments about only gays watching the Oscars, they mostly devoted themselves to (extremely) remote coverage of Elton John’s Oscar party.

Speaking of Chris Rock, I would like to thank him for keeping things interesting by confounding expectations. We were all primed for something outrageous or at least scatological. Instead, his trademark attitude aside, he delivered a monologue and periodic quips that could have been written by Jay Leno’s gag writers. (Hey, that seven-second delay really does work!) Sure, he delivered a quite humorous analysis of President Bush’s job performance in the context of how it would pass muster for an employee at the Gap (“imagine closing your till and coming up 70 trillion dollars short”). But he also took shots are Michael Moore (saying he could have made Super Size Me because he’d “done the research”) and a certain Massachusetts senator (“Oprah is so rich, I just saw John Kerry propose to her a couple of hours ago”). He even did one of those Leno-patented man-in-the-street-interview segments at Magic Johnson’s cinema, which actually provided what was, by default, the most provocative moment of the night: highlighting the fact that white and black audiences tend to watch completely different movies.

Anyway, I miss Billy Crystal’s signature production numbers, even if they did take up time and draw out the program’s running time. But at least we had another one of Chuck Workman’s film montages. When I saw Workman’s short Precious Images nearly two decades ago, I was completely blown away. Seeing so many timeless, classic images in quick succession was an emotional rush for any film fan. By now, of course, we have seen so many of these things, that the thrill is gone, but they are still fun to watch. For instance, this year’s emphasized how Hollywood keeps doing the same thing over and over, by pairing old clips with more recent ones to demonstrate how filmmakers keep raiding their predecessors for images and inspiration. Among the interesting insights: Sean Penn has become this era’s James Cagney and Gollum is merely the new version of Macauley Culkin.

But back to my thank yous. To whoever it was who had the idea of pairing up Penélope Cruz and Salma Hayek as co-presenters, I just have one thing to say. On behalf of all heterosexual men everywhere, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! (Possibly related question: why did all the blonde women have their hair dyed brunette?)

And to both readers of this web site, thank you for not giving me too hard a time about my lame Oscar predictions.

And let me take this opportunity to thank the voting members of the Academy for thumbing their noses at the conservative commentators who were giving Clint Eastwood such a bad time over the euthanasia angle in Million Dollar Baby by voting his movie the Best Picture and giving Oscars to Clint and Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Not only that, but for good measure they also gave the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film to Mar Adentro, which is about a guy who spends practically the whole movie trying to die. I was thrilled for the film’s young and talented director, Alejandro Amenábar, even though I had a nagging suspicion that he actually won because the Academy members thought they were voting for Pedro Almodóvar.

And I want to thank Beyoncé for not singing two of the nominated songs. So, what was wrong with having the original artists sing the songs? At least Counting Crows got to sing their song from Shrek 2, allowing me to learn for the first time that their lead singer is from Centauri Prime. On that note, I really have to thank Jorge Drexler for sitting in his chair with barely concealed restraint, while Antonio Banderos and Carlos Santana did a number on his song from The Motorcycle Diaries and then, when he won, going up on the stage and, instead of giving a speech, singing the song himself.

And I must thank Hilary Swank for showing her professionalism by giving her acceptance speech in character. Her speech was nearly as good as the ones she delivered in Million Dollar Baby. And, of course, I have to thank Chad Lowe for demonstrating to all of us that we too could get to the Oscars if only we were married to Hilary Swank. Actually, he’s lucky he’s allowed in at all, after that Snow White song-and-dance number his brother Rob did on the Oscar telecast several years back. Anyway, Chad, you really can’t complain. At least she remembered to thank you this time.

And let me thank Jamie Foxx for giving the best acceptance speech of the evening. Just the right amount of emotion, personal stories and choked silences that nearly but didn’t quite go on too long. It was even better than Charlie Kaufman’s acceptance speech for the Best Original Screenplay award (for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), in which he more or less just counted down his remaining time on the clock.

Oh no! They’re starting to play the music. They’re drowning me out! Wait! I have two more very important people to thank! I have to thank my little girl. As I climbed out of the bed to go watch the Oscar telecast, she whispered to me, “Don’t worry, Dad. Even if you fall asleep, you’re still good.”

And finally, the most important thank you of all. Wait! Stop playing the music! I have one more person to thank. Please! They can’t hear me! Please!!

-S.L., 3 March 2005

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