Where's Elizabeth Taylor when you need her? By and large as spontaneous as a State of the Union address, last night's broadcast of the 73rd Annual Academy Awards felt like it went on for longer than even production on any of the best picture nominees. (In fact, Gladiator costume designer Janty Yates spent more time making her way to the dais than Mickey Rourke's last two pictures spent in theaters.) However, as will happen any time there's a get-together of Tinseltown's beautiful people, things occasionally got pretty interesting. So, for viewers who dozed off during the ceremony and for celebrities who attended, but forgot to bring their No-Doz TV Guide Online presents a rundown of the wake-up calls that you might have missed.
Steve Martin's turn as the good humor man. Although the show itself seemed to drag with all of the honorary awards getting handed out, how could it not? none of the blame can be placed on its first-time host. Recovering quickly from a belabored introduction that found him being ejected from a space satellite, the former Saturday Night Live regular adopted a persona that recalled the title of one of his own pictures The Jerk and to great effect. In his opening monologue, he took a jab at Hollywood's notorious playboy du jour, cracking that, even after Ellen Burstyn gained weight and made herself appear older than she is for Requiem for a Dream, "Russell Crowe still hit on her." Later, he announced that the Feds investigating the plot to abduct the best actor victor at last had released the name of their prime suspect: "Tom Hanks," he scolded, "you should be ashamed of yourself."
Even better than Martin's punchlines (or the deadpan manner in which he delivered them) was what they revealed about the personalities of the butts of his jokes. While, following the Burstyn zinger, Crowe glared as if he wanted to throw Martin to the lions, good sport Hanks played up his kidnapper role, giving the camera a look of remorse that would have befit a mug shot.
Russell Crowe's audition to play a motivational speaker. Accepting his award late in the show, Gladiator's conquering hero displayed an unexpected soft side, encouraging the down-and-out to hold onto hope, and expressing his gratitude to "my mum and dad, who I just don't thank enough."
Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson's staging of a mother/daughter laugh-in. First, Almost Famous also-ran Hudson took the stage in a mauve number that made her resemble a Martian flapper. Then, after tripping over her words explaining that it was time for a potty break er, that is, a performance by Yo Yo Ma, the Jimi Hendrix of the classical set Hawn let out the giggle that made her really famous and remarked with genial exasperation, "You think when you grow up, you at least get to learn how to read!"
John Travolta's seeming inability to recognize irony when he or everybody else, at least sees it. The La La Land Lazarus, whose promising post-Pulp Fiction career was laid to rest by Battlefield Earth, reverently tossed to a montage of industryites felled in the last 12 months.
The "fowl play" that befell songbird Björk. The Icelandic pop pixie rendered her Dancer in the Dark number, "I've Seen It All," with a stunning fragility that harkened back to her shattering performance in that picture. Unfortunately, her soaring vocals couldn't possibly have made as lasting an impression as the faux swan that hung around her neck like a Beanie Ballgown.
Hilary Swank's extension of her 15 minutes. Before announcing this year's nominees for best actor, last year's best actress finally finished saying thank you for her Oscar to her husband, Chad Lowe, and her father, both of whom she initially omitted from her speech.
Bob Dylan's nooks and crannies. Rasping through his winning Wonder Boys theme, "Things Have Changed," via satellite, the rocker with the craggiest countenance this side of Mount Rushmore was shot in a close-up that was so tight, for a moment, the whole world was his dermatologist.
Kevin Spacey's revelation of Dame Judi Dench's side career. Prior to presenting the best actress statuette, the American Beauty leading man announced that he had left behind his tuxedo in Nova Scotia and that it was the Chocolat supporting actress who had shuttled it to him. "Classiest delivery service I ever had," he remarked.
Julia Roberts's ecstatic and altogether unabridged acceptance speech. After having some difficulty ascending the stairs to the stage in a black-and-white dress that drew comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and eventually being helped by chivalrous beau Benjamin Bratt the best actress winner sweetly declined to take the bribe that the telecast's producers held out to nominees in hopes of getting them to express their gratitude in less than a minute. "I have a television, so I'm going to spend some time up here," she said, then let the conductor of the orchestra know that she was going to be awhile. "Sir, you're so great with that stick, but why don't you sit?" Then, utterly aglow, the Erin Brockovich star went on to thank "everybody I've ever met in my life."