The Academy Awards are more than a night of high ratings, vacuous banter and rambling speeches. In L.A., they're an excuse for a weekend-long party, a chance for Hollywood to celebrate itself. Some snapshots:
It all comes down to just five words: "And the Oscar goes to ..."
The first last night went to Cuba Gooding Jr., who not only was responsible for the movie mantra of the year -- "Show me the money!" -- but also lit up the screen in "Jerry Maguire."
Appropriately, his awards performance lit up the Oscars, too. Disregarding protocol, he refused to leave the stage after the requisite 45 seconds. Instead, he thanked just about everybody in Hollywood. "That music sure was quick," he told reporters afterward, still flying high.
"Did you all notice that? They got four hours for this show."
Was it tough playing the charismatic, vocal, loyal football player who kept the film's title character from becoming totally unemployed? "How can you say it's difficult?" he said, ebulliently. "It's what I do."
Outside looking in
Pre-show awards for the stars headed inside for the big show:
Biggest pre-arrival hand: Joan Rivers, who got a round of applause for hiking her dress up.
Biggest case of mistaken identity: Helen Hunt. When she showed up, some fans started yelling, "Jodie! Jodie Foster!"
Biggest applause without an introduction: Muhammad Ali, subject of the Best Documentary nominee "When We Were Kings." He's still the greatest.
Best line: From George Foreman, whose heavyweight loss to Ali is documented in the documentary. "I'm looking to win the fight this time around."
Most unsportsmanlike act: About three dozen protesters, who unfurled banners and hurled verbal abuse at director Milos Forman, nominated for directing "The People Vs. Larry Flynt." They were escorted away.
Most premature act: Those same protesters could have booed Flynt himself, who, 30 minutes later, arrived almost unnoticed.
Biggest squeal-producer: Tom Cruise.
Well, you can't make everyone happy.
Take Steve Goldstein. He and about a dozen others were marching outside the Shrine last night, protesting discrimination" in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.
"We're asking more consideration be given to beach movies," said Goldstein, describing himself as the vice president of propaganda for Cuervo Nation. He even showed a picture of his foreign land, saying it was in the British Virgin Islands.
Well, he sounded serious.
Let's grant that the film, "Beach of a Nation," comes from a foreign country. Is it in a foreign language?
"It's in beach talk," he said, "a lot of 'Hey dudes' and 'Surf's up.' "
Sure sounds foreign.
How does an Oscar hopeful spend the weekend before the big night? Nothing special, insisted Supporting Actress nominee Lauren Bacall, waiting for her luggage at LAX Saturday afternoon.
OK, let's try this: How do you assess your chances?
"I don't really know," she said, anxious to get her bags and end this impromptu question-and-answer session. "I think I have an even chance, as good a chance as everyone else."
One more try: Will you be escorted by your son, Stephen Bogart, who recently wrote a book about you and your late husband (some actor named Humphrey).
"Oh yes, I'll be with all my children," Bacall said, politely but succinctly. "Now if you'll excuse me, I really have to get my bags.
Camping it up
You had to get there early for a good seat outside the Oscars.
Maybe not as early as Wednesday, which is when people reportedly began camping outside the Shrine Auditorium, but certainly by noon Saturday. That's when Pinkerton guards actually let fans onto the bleachers, which filled up almost immediately.
"I wanted to see the stars and everything," said Jessica Folkins, a college student at Azusa Pacific, in Pasadena. "I've lived here ,, for three years and I've never really seen any stars."
Some of Hollywood's big names were honored early -- as part of Sunday's 17th annual Razzies, celebrating the worst in cinema.
The worst of '96? "Striptease," Demi Moore's $12.5 million payday that, to paraphrase one reviewer, did more to combat the popularity of strip clubs than all the world's moralists combined. Not only did it win Worst Picture, but Moore strutted her way to Worst Actress (her performance in "The Juror" is also noted), she and Burt Reynolds were named Worst Screen
Couple, and Andrew Bergman earned every bit of his Worst Director and Worst Screenplay awards.
Pamela Anderson Lee was named Worst New Star for "Barb Wire"; Tom Arnold and Pauly Shore, co-Worst Actors for "The Stupids" (along with two other films) and "Bio-Dome," and "Twister," which won for the Worst Written Film Grossing Over $100 Million Award.
Pub Date: 3/25/97