OF ALL THE PRESTIGIOUS awards that the entertainment industry gives to itself in humble recognition of its own sheer fabulousness - the Emmys, the Grammys, the Tonys, the Golden Globes, The Wallys, The Silver Spheres, The Vinnys, the Cubic Zirconium Orbs of Distinction, the Sneezys and the Award That They Always Give To Kelsey Grammer - there is none so prestigious as the Oscars.
That's why an estimated 40 billion people will tune in this year to watch the Academy Awards show, which begins at 5:30 p.m. (Pacific) on March 24, with the climactic announcement of Best Picture scheduled to be announced at 8:30 p.m. (Pacific) on March 28.
Yes, it will be 99 hours of nonstop entertainment, "Hollywood-style," broken down as follows:
- Movie stars reading spontaneous banter from teleprompters: 6 hours, 37 minutes.
- Shots of the always fascinating Jack Nicholson sitting in the audience: 4 hours, 19 minutes.
- Jokes involving Enron: 1 hour.
- Memorable, unscripted moments: 3 minutes.
- People you never heard of thanking other people you never heard of: 87 hours.
Of course this is the "best case" scenario; usually the show runs long. Nothing can be done about this. The producers have tried everything to pick up the pace, including, last year, sharpshooters. As soon as a winner's thank-you speech reached the two-minute mark - FWWWWT - a tranquilizer dart would lodge itself in his or her neck. But this did no good. The winner for Longest Short Foreign Film hung tough for more than 11 minutes, sustaining dart after dart until he looked like a tuxedo-wearing porcupine, but doggedly continuing to thank people, some apparently picked at random from a telephone directory, before staggering off the stage with enough sedative in his bloodstream to immobilize a water buffalo.
That's the kind of adrenaline rush you get at the Academy Awards. I know because I was there once, in 1987, along with the movie critics, who are very bitter because they know, in their hearts, that their teeth will never look as nice as the teeth of the people they write about. The critics are also angry because, in their opinion, the Oscars always go to the wrong people. Here's how they explained it to me: Each year, the Academy gives the awards to people who really should have won LAST year. The reason they didn't win last year was that the Academy was giving the awards to people who should have won the year before THAT. This has been going on all the way back to the first Academy Awards, which apparently were handed out by total morons.
Who deserves to win this year's awards? This is an especially difficult question this year, because there were so many fine performances and movies, and I have not seen any of them. My wife and I have a two-year-old daughter, and on those rare occasions when we have a baby sitter, we use the time for activities we need to catch up on, such as brushing our teeth.
So the only movie I've seen this past year is "The Sound of Music," from 1965, on DVD. But I've seen it a LOT. It's my daughter's favorite movie. She thinks it's called "Boys and Girls," as in, "Watch Boys and Girls? Watch Boys and Girls? Watch Boys and Girls?" etc. We watch it eight or more times per day.
"The Sound of Music" is the heartwarming story, set in 1937, of the von Trapp family in Austria, where for some reason everybody speaks English with a British accent, except for the oldest von Trapp daughter, Liesl, who has a distinct American accent, possibly as a result of an accident that also caused her to lose a vowel. There is trouble in the von Trapp family because (a) the children don't know any songs, and (b) World War II is about to break out. Meanwhile Julie Andrews is studying to be a nun, but is having second thoughts because when she asks the head nun for advice, the head nun starts shrieking about climbing mountains in a voice that could bore holes through steel.
So Julie becomes the governess of the von Trapp children and wins them over by making clothes for them out of hideous draperies. Then she teaches them the song "Doe, a deer, a female deer" etc., which they sing, thanks to the DVD player's handy "repeat" button, over and over and over and over, until the Nazis flee, screaming, never to return. So it's a happy ending, and I hope we can say the same for this year's Academy Awards. Thanks for reading this. I also want to thank my agent, Al Hart, and FWWWWT -