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Oscar had a great costume designer this year-- he looked slim, but his midsection was as flabby as ever. A longer sit than even THE ENGLISH PATIENT, the top winner of the evening, the 69th Annual Academy Awards was a painfully padded parade of songs, clips, mon- tages, surprise appearances, and tongue-twisting teleprompting; a night where every other winner received their choice of (a.) a standing ovation or (b.) a thirty-second acceptance speech. Things got off to a great start, though, with Billy Crystal appearing in a clip from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, followed by a series of Best Picture bits. (Talking on the phone to Tom Cruise, getting hugged by Armin Mueller-Stahl, etc. And has there been a funnier sight in five years, than that of David Letterman careening to the ground in a certain yellow biplane?) Crystal's Best Picture medley was also very funny. (Singing about JERRY MAGUIRE: "And if you don't score this goal, you still go home with Nicole.") Once the presenters took to the football field-sized stage, the ceremony started getting strange. This was the night that Sandra Bullock cited Hillary Clinton, Juliette Binoche spoke in tongues, Courtney Love behaved herself, and Jim Carrey talked with his behind. Some of the bits were a blast, in particular Steve Martin's string of jokes and Kevin Spacey's impromptu impersonation of Christopher Walken. Even Beavis and Butt-head behaved themselves-- and wore tuxedos, no less! (The less said about their live-action counterparts, Chris Farley and David Spade, the better.) No sight of Jack nor Jack's sunglasses this year, but the fashions were nice. (Nothing outrageous, just the occasional Bad Dress. Such as what Claire Danes was wearing.) In addition to Lauren Bacall's loss, the evening offered other sur- prises. Debbie Reynolds griped about the quality of the writing, until her daughter, Carrie Fisher, appeared. David Helfgott, the subject of SHINE, also appeared and pounded his way through "Flight of the Bumblebee." Cuba Gooding Jr. started a mini-riot. The most touching sight, though, was that of Muhammad Ali taking the stage with George Foreman, after WHEN WE WERE KINGS won Best Documentary. And, had that stupid swirling camera not cut away so quickly, the moment might have been even *more* memorable for those of us watch- ing at home. The producers did other dumb things, from the repre- hensible number of truncated acceptance speeches, to all those mind-numbing montages. I mean, really, a montage about film edit- ing that includes live dancing? And how many times were the same Best Picture clips played throughout the evening? Things started getting interesting again at the end of the evening. Billy Bob and the Coens winning writing awards for SLING BLADE and FARGO, respectively. Andrew Lloyd-Weber thanking the fact that THE ENGLISH PATIENT didn't contain a song. Kristen Scott-Thomas ap- pearing as a presenter with natural choice Jack Valenti. KOYLA director Jan Sverak's touching speech. Jodie Foster trying to be funny. Best Actress winner Francis McDormand acknowledging the other winners. Best Picture producer Saul Zaentz runningeth over at the mouth. And presenter Susan Sarandon mercifully skipping her canned comments in the interest of time. Thank God for small favors. Maybe next year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will do something *really* radical and scrap the songs and the repeating Best Picture clips and we'll all get to bed, oh, ten minutes earlier. Major-category winners: Best Picture - THE ENGLISH PATIENT Best Director - Anthony Minghella Best Actor - Geoffrey Rush Best Actress - Francis McDormand Best Supp. Actor - Cuba Gooding Jr. Best Supp. Actress - Juliette Binoche Best Orig. Screenplay - FARGO Best Adapt. Screenplay - SLING BLADE Final count, by my count: THE ENGLISH PATIENT - 9 FARGO - 2 EMMA - 1 EVITA - 1 INDEPENDENCE DAY - 1 THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS - 1 JERRY MAGUIRE - 1 KOLYA - 1 THE NUTTY PROFESSOR - 1 QUEST - 1 SHINE - 1 SLING BLADE - 1 WHEN WE WERE KINGS - 1 BREATHING LESSONS (short) - 1 DEAR DIARY (short) - 1 Copyright 1997 by Michael J. Legeros
Originally posted to triangle.movies as OSCAR HELL: Was It Ever Going To End?