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REPOST: The 72nd Academy Awards

Just ignore the Premier ident in the top right hand corner of these pictures, will you? I'm too tired to airbrush it out right now. Originally posted on The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey 27/03/2000.

The 80th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday February 24th, 2008. Which means it must be eight years since the last time I sat up all night to watch the ceremony live. Here's what it felt like back then.

No Country For Old Men for the win, in case you're asking. Disclaimer: haven't seen There Will Be Blood yet.

Dateline: A Sofa, London, Monday March 27th 2000

12.07am: Reflections While Waiting For An Eight Cup Cafetiere To Brew
I suspect that Spank's American readers don't have any idea just how difficult it is to watch the Oscars here in Britain. I'm sure they all make a night of it, and go to parties, and dress up like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction with a shagging great syringe sticking out of their chest and everything. Over here, it's not so easy.

The obvious problem is with the time difference. Live coverage of the Oscar ceremony doesn't make it over here until 2.30 in the morning, which kind of rules out the option of getting a few friends over to watch it and still keeping your moderately responsible job in the computer industry the next day. I've done it once before in 1995, when Pulp Fiction was up for loads of awards but Forrest Gump picked up virtually all of them. That disappointment, coupled with David Letterman's career-worst compereing job (not to mention the way I spent most of the next day face down in a keyboard), meant that I didn't try it again for a few years.

In the intervening time since 1995, there's been a further complication: the self-styled billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch has bought out the UK rights to the ceremony, meaning it's only available on one of his premium movie channels, Sky Premier. This is, of course, a total sod to the vast majority of the population who don't have access to the channel. Not so much a problem for me, at least until this coming Wednesday...

...and this, ultimately, is why I'm still awake this late on Oscar night. On Wednesday I'm making the big move to digital cable, and I'm using it as an excuse to rationalise the list of channels I currently subscribe to. The first ones to go will be the Sky premium channels because, frankly, they're shit. (Roll on the delights of Film Four.) So, this may well be the last year I could get to see the Oscars for some time.

Besides, thanks to some prescient selection by the people responsible for the London Film Festival last year, I've already seen most of the Oscar contenders: American Beauty, The Insider, The Cider House Rules, Being John Malkovich and Topsy-Turvy all had screenings there, and reviews can be found on this site if you dig around a bit. Others like The Sixth Sense and The End Of The Affair I've caught up with on their release, and last week I had a bit of a binge checking out pretty every other nominee that was still doing the rounds in London. (This culminated in six hours in a multiplex on Saturday seeing The Green Mile and The Hurricane back to back, which pretty much covers my requirements for Black Men Being Noble In Prison movies for the next twelve months.)

So, I've done my research. I've taken enough time off work to cover a lie-in on Monday and the coming of the cable guy on Wednesday. The coffee's on the boil. They're just winding up the curtain-raiser screening of The Full Monty on Sky Premier, and I've seen as much as I can possibly handle of Robert Carlyle's arse. Let's do it.

Tania Bryer completely oblivious to the celebrity transvestites directly behind her 1.07am: Australian Beauty
Of course, they can't just start a show like this at 2.30 in the morning and expect people to sit up for it. So Sky decide to have a pre-match warmup starting at 1am, in which resident movie guru Barry Norman sits around in an anonymous venue down the road from where it's all happening and discusses what's potentially going to happen. He's joined by critic Kenneth Turan - which kinda makes sense - and Elle Macpherson - which doesn't. Macpherson is every dumb supermodel cliche rolled into one: she's brought her one opinion for the night (American Beauty will win everything), and is incapable of  saying anything beyond that, apart from assorted stats of previous winners that she's looked up. Meanwhile, Tania Bryer is stuck outside the Shrine auditorium with a malfunctioning earpiece and looking blankly at the camera when they cut to her. This could be a long night.

1.25am: I Don't Wanna Sound Like A Queer Or Nothin'
Tania's earpiece is fixed. By God, I wish it wasn't. She gets one on-camera interview (Charlize Theron - calm down, Patrick) the whole time she's out there, filling in with inane babble about how she talked to Michael Caine half an hour ago, totally oblivious to the fact that South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone are parading round directly behind her wearing women's evening dress. Barry Norman tells her to look around for a big surprise, and she turns in entirely the wrong direction and says "Oh yes! Phil Collins!" See what you guys over the Atlantic are missing now?

2.03am: Cue The Glitz
Finally, we cut to ABC's live coverage, and with half an hour to go till the show itself, we get to see some proper on-the-street star interviews: Tom & Nicole, Cameron Diaz and Michael Caine turn up in the space of five minutes. Sure, most of the talk is about who made their frocks, but it's great to see a team in front of the camera who can actually work on the fly. Bazza is unstoppable when he's got an autocue, but he can't extemporise to save his life.

2.10am: We'll Be Right Back
Genius move of the night: during an ad break, there's an advert for Sainsbury's that consists of a 30 second shot of one of their carrier bags blowing around in slow motion a la American Beauty. No captions. No voiceover. Fabulous.

2:33am: I Am So Not Spartacus
Great opening to the show proper. Billy Crystal's traditional intro has him cut into a dozen or so movie classics, including an evil Psycho gag where he meets Kevin Spacey in the shower. "This is your shower?" asks Crystal. "From the beginning of the movie?" Spacey holds up a shower gel dispenser and grins hideously. With all the American Beauty references so far, it's going to be a hell of a shock if it doesn't win.

2.52am: Finally, An Award
The forthcoming Charlie's Angels cast - Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu - give out the first gong: and immediately it's a triumph for the Brits as Topsy-Turvy picks up Best Costume Design and Best Make-Up in rapid succession. Extrapolating from this result, we will now win everything. Suck on that, Hollywood.

3.13am: Angelina Jolie, Best Supporting Actress
OK, maybe we're not so unstoppable. I only got to see Girl, Interrupted twelve hours ago and it annoyed the hell out of me: Jolie's great to watch, sure, but she's only got a supporting role in the sense that the whole movie would collapse without her. Besides, I can remember the days when she was doing schlock like Cyborg 2, which must be due an opportunistic re-release by now. I'd have gone for Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich myself, but nobody listens to me.

3.43am: Best Original Songs
All five nominees performed in a row, starting with Sarah Maclachlan doing When She Loved Me from Toy Story 2. Is it just the sleep deprivation and caffeine getting to me, or has nobody considered the lesbian implications of this song before? The choice is a tricky one to call: my heart says Aimee Mann's Save Me, but my baser organs say South Park's Blame Canada. After much speculation and rumour about how the latter would play on telly, in the end they cut just one word. It becomes the biggest production number of the evening, coincidentally giving Robin Williams the funniest material he's worked with in years. How can any of the other songs compete against these two?

3.54am: Best Original Song, You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins
"I don't know how my life can go on," he says. Looking forward to a big messy suicide in the very near future, Phil.

4.10am: Goodnight, You Princes Of Bermondsey
Judi Dench comes on stage to an extraordinary hip-hop arrangement of the Shakespeare In Love theme, to introduce the nominees for Best Supporting Actor. This category's got the most stereotypical bunch of Oscar-type performances - mentally deficient large black guy with healing powers, woman-hating bloke with serious paternal issues, kid who sees dead people, ether-addicted doctor. Jude Law was always out of the running through having to play a normal person, to be honest. But Michael Caine gets the award to a standing ovation, and gives a touchingly generous speech in which he credits all his co-nominees. In particular, he congratulates Tom Cruise on managing to avoid a pay cut by not winning this Oscar - "Do you know how much supporting actors get paid these days?"

If you haven't read all of this page yet and don't want to know who won the big prizes, look away now. Oops. 4.36am: The Halfway Mark
Two hours in, and it's that mid-point lull where they hit you with all the technical awards before building up to the biggies. At this stage The Matrix has now won more awards than any other film tonight, picking up Oscars for Visual Effects, Sound and Sound Effects Editing. It's followed by another epic piece of filler, as Burt Bacharach introduces a massively over-extended all-star medley of previous Best Original Song winners. Unfortunately, it only makes Phil Collins' award look even more like the result of chronic drug abuse on the part of the Academy.

5.07am: Best Foreign Language Film, All About My Mother
This was always going to be emotional: and with Pedro Almodovar's old mucker Antonio Banderas co-presenting the award, it ascended to a whole new level. Almodovar dedicated his Oscar to all the Spanish people who were still up at 6.07am CET to watch him, which was cute. Eventually Banderas had to physically drag him from the stage. It's not very often that the right foreign film gets the award, so let's celebrate when it does. (Shame Festen wasn't nominated, though.)

5.15am: And The Award For Best Loved Dead Person Goes To...
Madeline Kahn (just pipping George C. Scott at the post for volume of applause during the In Memoriam section). "Let's face it... everyzing below ze vaist ist kaput."

5.30am: More Techies
Sleepy Hollow gets Best Art Direction, The Matrix gets Best Editing (that makes it four now). It's worth pointing out that the show's been going on for three hours, and American Beauty's won nothing yet. Followed by a long digression as they give Warren Beatty his Irving G. Thalberg Award. Sure he's done some crap in his time (not to mention blowing out two LFF Closing Galas in a row), but he did make Reds, and I can forgive any man for that. Given that his speech climaxed with an extended riff on the phrase "Please forgive me, I'll try to do better", how can I do otherwise?

5.52am: This Is Where It Starts
Conrad L. Hall gets American Beauty its first award, for Best Cinematography. "When [Sam Mendes] showed up looking like Orson Welles, I thought, Oh my God..." From this point, the show picks up some much-needed speed and becomes a potential Beautyfest. The one category left that it can't win - Best Adapted Screenplay - is presented by Kevin Spacey, and goes to John Irving for The Cider House Rules. Original Screenplay goes to Alan Ball for Beauty's script: I'm with FilmFan of Talking Film on this one - "Being John Malkovich SHOULD win (or else they should find a new definition of 'original')".

6.08am: "They Asked Me To Stay The Hell Off The Furniture"
A comparatively restrained Roberto Benigni gives the Best Actress award to Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry, one of the few major nominees I haven't seen yet - I missed the LFF screening, and it doesn't open in the UK till April. Turan describes Swank's win as the sort of Cinderella story that the Academy loves, but I definitely want to see this film despite that.

6.24am: All Over Bar The Shooting
From this point the momentum's unstoppable. Kevin Spacey for Best Actor ("This is the highlight of my day"). Sam Mendes for Best Director (kind of incestuous having his studio head Steven Spielberg present it to him, but there you go). And finally, American Beauty for Best Picture, presented pretty much on the show's four hour mark, making it five awards in total for the film. Curious how an hour ago the result was wide open, but in the final twenty minutes it became pretty much an anti-climax.

6.35am: "The Shortest Oscar Show This Century" (Billy Crystal)
At least I'm not as pissed off with the result as I was back in 1995. American Beauty is easily the best of the five nominees for Best Picture, although it's sad to see that The Insider (nearly as good) came away with nothing, while great films like Being John Malkovich and Magnolia hardly even got a mention in nominations. But let's face it, nobody's ever really considered the Oscars to be a hallmark of quality: it's just this year, the standard of product coming out of Hollywood has been surprisingly higher than of late. And those lesser nominated movies will still be out there: in fact, I may even go and see Malkovich again just for the hell of it. After all, I do find that flashback sequence curiously appealing. Being a monkey, and all.

Links

The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences are the owners of the copyright for the Oscar statue and name, but it's 8.30am now and I need to get to bed, so I can't be bothered looking for the HTML code for the numerous copyright signs I should technically litter this page with. Sue me.

The Official Academy Awards Site is an offshoot of the above and contains all the information on the Oscars that you could possibly need.

The Internet Movie Database is your one-stop shop for all movie data, so naturally they've got an Oscars page [curiously outdated link] too.

Film Unlimited is one of my favourite UK movie resources, and they've got Oscar coverage as well.

Sky TV's official site is the temple of crapness you'd expect from a Rupert Murdoch enterprise, and you can see how they hyped their Oscar show [dead link] here.

American Beauty, The Cider House Rules [dead link], The Green Mile, The Insider and The Sixth Sense [I see dead link] all have official sites. Other official movie sites are available.

Comments

Fischer

Wow, the 2000 best picture nominees look like a pretty feeble bunch at this remove, don't they? Beyond The Insider I can't imagine ever actually choosing to see any of them again, although I wouldn't change the channel just because 6th Sense or Cider House came on.

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