So wrong on many fronts was this so-called insider, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The Oscars weren’t dull, they weren’t predictable, the strangest things happened. There were upsets galore, and all the heavy-handed campaigning backfired. So much for all the parties at the Motion Picture home. Believe me, Eminem and Roman Polanski didn’t campaign there. These kinds of shockers actually kill the germs of cynicism and freshen the air. We needed that.
I even forgot about the war intermittently (when permitted). The show must go on, after all, and go on it did. Not only did Nicole show, she won, and Harvey lost, as thoroughly as a person could be said to have lost, given that one of his two pictures, Chicago, won best picture and he was nominated in what seemed like every category. But Chicago was the People’s Movie, and my esteemed fellow critics hotly debated The Pianist—which I adored. And let it not be said in this ugly year of the revival of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion that the Jews stole the Oscar too. So, I think it all ended gloriously.
Moral victories abounded. From the huge ones, like the stunner of all stunners—Roman Polanski’s absent and silent win—to Eminem’s defeat of U2’s song, despite the fact that no one even performed his song—nor was he present to collect the award. Then there was Adrien Brody’s verbose and endearing version of Halle’s moving speech. It was a shocker and a sign of the most amazing things to come. Nicole’s victory, too, had gone from a shoo-in to an underdog triumph with all the Miramax hullabaloo mixing things up all season; that she won was almost as surprising as if one of the other underdog astonishing performances did. (I could have voted for three of them this year. That’s not brown-nosing—it was an impossible choice. Really.)
And when all the party favors hit the ground, the out-of-control spending suddenly seemed utterly ridiculous. Particularly for the director’s award. I felt bad for Marty Scorsese when the camera popped on him jumping up for Roman’s unexpected standing O. He must have been horrified by the campaigning process that seemed to attach after the fact to an unpleasant working experience and that endeavored to wash over it like anesthesia.
It was a bad night, too, for Holocaust deniers and anyone who thought that Hollywood’s policitical knee was jerking firmly in one direction or another. I found the Michael Moore Moment astonishing from start to finish, First, the standing ovation, usually reserved for the likes of O’Tooles and de Havillands. Then the full-on duct-tape speech, followed by cheering and booing in equal measures. (He didn’t neglect to pick up the statuette, by he way, and he gave a near-identical speech earlier in the week at the Indie Spirit Awards.)
The point is, I think, Michael Moore wasn’t booed entirely because of his politics. (Although, it was because of that too—the Heston-Schwarzenegger-Stallone contingent was probably there.) He was booed also because he bummed out the Oscars just when they were getting interesting.
Nicole had clearly struggled with showing up, and there she was. She said she came despite the fact that the world was so confused, she realized, because art matters, her work matters. Bus drivers drive buses. Entertainers entertain. And the show must go on. As a Fray observer noted, the Oscars went on in World War II. For a few little hours we were diverted from the horror overseas and caught up in our own petty little fun rituals again. Exercise your free speech all you want, Michael, but BE FUNNY! (But he was wild, wasn’t he? Where was Princess Littlefeather when we needed her?)