For the first time that I can remember, I watched an entire Oscar awards show, not just because I was rooting for "Return of the King," but was also curious about a number of other things: would Renee Zwelliger continue her well-deserved awards sweep for Supporting Actress for "Cold Mountain"? (Yes.) Could "Triplets of Belleville" beat out "Finding Nemo" for Best Animated Feature? (Nope.) How would they stage the performance of "Belleville Rendezvous," nominated for Best Song? (Very entertainingly, see below.) I was also interested in how films I enjoyed like "Cold Mountain," "Master and Commander," and "Pirates of the Caribbean" would do where nominated. Since I really don't care for grim fare like "Mystic River" and "Monster," I wasn't as interested in the other acting awards, which were pretty clearly going to deserving performances in those films.
The Awards show was pleasantly free of glitches and faux pas. Billy Crystal was in fairly good form, droll, but not hysterically funny. Some of the better jokes of the night were Crystal's remark that now that everyone in New Zealand had been thanked, people were now being imported to be thanked further, and the "Best Foreign Film" winner's vote of thanks that "Lord of the Rings" was not competing in that category also. Sean Penn's one very brief jab at missing WMD's was the only political reference by an award winner. Fashions were generally interesting and tasteful, although, judging by the morning paper I am not the only one who found Uma Thurman's marabou-trimmed frock unbecoming, nor was I the only one to nominate Jamie Lee Curtis and Susan Sarandon for "Most Likely to Suffer a Wardrobe Malfunction" due to their slightly too low-cut dresses. Liv Tyler, whom I have previously declared to be the most beautiful woman in film today, looked stunning in an elegant black dress, but adopted startlingly geeky glasses on stage in order to read from the TelePrompTer.
In my opinion, the worst choice of the night went to whomever selected Julia Roberts to deliver the tribute to Katharine Hepburn, which she delivered in a coarse and nearly crass fashion. One of the better choices was the well-deserved career tribute to Blake Edwards, who managed to upstage Jim Carey and deliver a very classy acceptance speech to boot.
While gratifying, it was surprising and, by the end of the show, almost embarrassing that "Return of the King" swept all before it and captured every Oscar it was nominated for. Surprising, since some of the competition was indeed estimable, especially in the area of special effects for films like "Master and Commander" and "Pirates of the Caribbean". I found the "Best Original Song" category and performances very interesting. Folk singer Allison Krause performed both "Will You Be My Ain True Love," (accompanied by Sting) and "Scarlet Tide" (with Elvis Costello and sacred harp singers); Annie Lennox performed her song "Into the West," with orchestra backup; Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara recreated their "Mitch and Mickey" characters to present "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow," and the only real production number of the night was the sprightly nightclub floorshow for "Belleville Rendezvous." Comment was made on the lack of overblown production numbers, but this was due to the type of songs, in part. "Scarlet Tide," "Will You Be My Ain True Love," and "A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow" are all folk songs in form. In fact, I doubt that the Oscar show has ever before had either a psaltery (played by Sting) or an autoharp (Catherine "Mickey" O'Hara) on stage before. I suppose we could have had some kind of "elf ballet" for "Into the West," but I don't think it would have been a good idea or that Lennox would have gone for it. By the way, I was impressed to discover that's apparently her real voice—not overly electronically augmented. I was not familiar with her work before and must look it up.
The show finished with our side's garnering the "Best Picture" Award with the staff and most of the major cast on stage, a bit after eleven PM our time, which was close to schedule. Eleven awards ties "Return of the King" with "Ben Hur" and "Titanic" for most Oscars, a well-deserved accolade, but makes me wish they could have garnered JUST ONE MORE. ("We wants it, my Precious!") Oh, well. Tolkien and Jackson have their due. Hurrah!