Amnesia, Conspiracy, and Paper Moons

Dear David and Lynda,

Whoa. Where am I? It’s all a blur. I can’t remember anything after, “Virginia, Steve Martin’s coming on. …”

OK, not true. I know I watched the Oscars; I remember being happy for Adrien Brody. But what about that heavy emphasis last night on Oscar Winner Syndrome—the blackout apparently induced by the sound of one’s own name over the PA at the Academy Awards? In a celebrity PSA, Robin Williams demonstrated how a winner’s hearing is temporarily distorted. On stage, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Nicole Kidman both pleaded fugue state. And later, in their press conferences, they and others made the syndrome sound downright traumatic. Might there be support groups that could draw membership from all the awards shows? Oh, but maybe you don’t black out when you win the golden popcorn on MTV.

Having won nothing—no pools—I didn’t black out. I lucidly enjoyed the night in the company of friends who are wonderful hosts, not least because they know the difference between wit and low blows when it comes to hooting at the TV screen. I am trying to learn from them.

I also liked the understated clothing in the honest daytime light of L.A. (the red carpet was for once not lit day-for-night for the benefit of those on the East Coast); the low silicone quotient (indeed, some women appear to have let their pectoral muscles overtake their breasts); and at least the opening lines of Steve Martin, who emphasized from the start how attenuated the presumed connection was between the ceremony and the war. “No fancy red carpet. That’ll send them a message.”

I was grateful for victory of Chris Cooper, who, having turned in such a big, happy performance as John Laroche in Adaptation,gave an extremely straight-faced statement to the press after the show. Cooper seems to be missing the enzyme that gives a man away as a professional actor the moment he opens his mouth. Finally, it was pure pleasure to see Adrien Brody, our young new heavyweight champ, take his prize to a standing ovation from the alpha-actor duo of Jack Nicholson and Nicolas Cage. Whatever their steroid banter really was (Mustang Ranch reminiscences?), it seemed to be, for the moment, “The new kid’s cool. Let him in.”

I was pleased about Chicago, though not as pleased as I expected to be. I had hoped its winning would pave the way for future comedies in the Best Picture category, but, by the end of the down-gowned night, I was chastened. For all my qualms about the lackluster and even artificial moral “realism” of The Pianist, I came around, semiconsciously, to wanting Polanski’s movie to win. The Pianist may be philosophically unsound, but it is a dense and provoking film—and it contains a star performance and a number of unpredictable and brilliant scenes. I do think its awards were, as Lynda put it, among the night’s moral triumphs. And David, I meant to tell you this first thing this morning: I think you were right to champion it.

But wait a second. Did anyone but me catch David’s aside in his last post, the one in which he said it was great to see shots of Adrien Brody’s mother, David’s former colleague at the Village Voice? Hmm. Brody “gave the best performance of the year.” The Pianist is “the best movie of the year.” And then … our excellent movie critic wants to lead a convoy to Tribeca to audit the enemy Miramax. Is anyone putting this together—Edelstein’s good old Greenwich Village versus bad new Harveytown? These are the real gangs of New York, folks.

One thought about Michael Moore, whose gangsterism was, last night, far more in evidence than Harvey’s. Yes, he said we have a fictitious president who was elected for fictitious reasons and now is conducting a fictitious war. But that’s boilerplate rant. What he said that really smarted was that he—and his confreres on stage—uniquely maintain a preference for truth over lies because they make documentaries. They deal in fact and not fiction. Unlike Hollywood producers, directors, costume designers, animators, actors, or the rest of us romantics who live under paper moons and cardboard skies.

Now, what kind of thing is that to say on Oscar night?

Yours very truly,