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Sunday, March 24, 2002

Now I know why I rested all weekend. I was saving up for the Oscar show. I don't think I sat down through the whole eight hours (or however long it was). I was pacing, taking notes, eating compulsively. It was almost as exciting here as it was in that new theater in Hollywood, where Whoopi Goldberg did the impossible. She mad Russell Crowe laugh.

So many great things happened during the show tonight that I can't even think about the quibbles I had over the nominations. (Ghost World. Billy Bob Thornton. Kevin Kline. Just for the record.) Anyway, they weren't as hideously discordant as the shunning of Magnolia two years ago and You Can Count On Me last year.

That's all in the past, though. This was one of the best award shows ever, for a bunch of reasons. First of all, two people that I think are wonderful won awards that I wanted them to win, even though I didn't expect it. I didn't think Randy Newman would ever win, after so many nominations, but the competition was pretty thin this year and they just couldn't give it to anybody else. Maybe they just wanted to hear that great speech he's been saving for so many years.

I've always loved Ron Howard's movies. I know most people think they're too sentimental and not edgy enough, but that's what I love about them. They have such a warm heart, and I like the inspiration and optimism they inevitably portray. I didn't think the Hollywood establishment had enough respect for him as a director to give him an Oscar, but they did, and his speech was from the heart, just like his films.

When I thought about what an historic night it was, with African Americans winning in both the best actor and best actress categories, I felt sorry that I hadn't seen either of their movies. If I were still into guilt, I might feel that, too. I'm a fan of Denzel's and I thought he should have won for The Hurricane, but Training Day didn't sound like my kind of movie. If Russell Crowe were as well-liked (or even as likeable) as Tom Hanks, he probably would have won this award.

And I've wanted to see Monster's Ball but haven't made it yet. Even without having seen her performance, though, I'm happy with Halle Berry's win. Sometimes the symbolism overshadows the actual value of the work, but in this case I'm sure she wouldn't have won if she didn't deserve it. This is not, after all, ice dancing.

It was fitting that this was the night the Academy chose to honor Sidney Poitier with an honorary award. He gave such a moving, dignified speech that it left me with the biggest lump in my throat of the whole night. Now that we've passed all these milestones, maybe we can now move on to a time when it's not a big deal if an African American actor wins. Or loses, for that matter.

It's a good thing I didn't have any money on the Academy Awards, because what I thought were sure things were completely wrong. I had Amélie written on my checkoff sheet as the best foreign language film winner, before the Oscar went to No Man's Land. And I was so certain that Ian McKellan would win as best supporting actor that I gasped when Jim Broadbent's name was called. I had to wonder if they gave it to him for both Iris and Moulin Rouge.

Speaking of which, my one disappointment was that Moulin Rouge didn't win more awards tonight. I shouldn't have expected it, though. When a movie is nominated for best picture but its director is overlooked, that's a sign that not many statuettes will be inscribed with its name. I could see early on that things weren't going to go that way, so I gave up on the idea and went with the flow. At least it won for art direction and costume design.

By the time the best picture was announced it was clear that the only possible winners were The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring or A Beautiful Mind. Every other film had eliminated itself by losing too many times earlier. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it seems to work. Still, I was shocked when A Beautiful Mind won. I guess they're just going to have to give next year's Oscar to the second movie in the trilogy.

Other than the awards themselves, the highlight of the evening for me was when Woody Allen walked on stage. And then he started talking, and suddenly it was forty years ago on The Ed Sullivan Show, and he was doing standup again. I honestly never thought I'd ever again see him do a comedy bit, even if it was a brief one to introduce a tribute to movies shot in New York. The next thing I want to see is a Nichols and May reunion. Then my life will be complete.

phoebe in the birch

Bird on a branch.

The Academy Awards show is the one live event that I get to see at the same time as everyone else in the country, not three hours later. I don't have to worry about accidentally hearing a result ahead of time (although it's hard to believe that's not going to happen somehow). It also ended three hours earlier than it did in the east, so I wonder why I felt so exhausted about halfway through. Didn't I sleep most of the weekend away? What's up with that?

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The Bitter Hag, March 22, The Voice

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One year ago: Hearing Things
"It would have been like having a pet elephant; you can never quite forget it's there, even when it's asleep."

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"It's not lying. It's looking on the bright side."

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