As always, actors say they oughta be in pictures

March 26, 1998

Tim Rowland

What was it, about six months ago that Hollywood stars were all decrying the obscene excesses of the paparazzi?

Yet there they were Monday evening, all clawing for a moment in front of the camera like cats fighting over the last fish head on a Nova Scotia tuna boat.

"Forget what I said last year, take a picture of meeeeeeeee!"

There was known photographer-hater Alec Baldwin mugging happily for the cameras; there was Cher, so desperate for attention she was dressed up in a ridiculous costume that should have gotten her arrested for impersonating an Ottoman Empire kerosene floor lamp.

But I say this in a loving way, because this was Academy Award week, the cinema industry's season to glow.

And a long season it's been. The Academy Awards are a bit like Christmas. Remember when the decorations didn't go up until December, and now they're up the second after Halloween?


Same with the Oscars. Time was, no one even thought about them until the weekend before the ceremony. This year I recall reading an article about the chances of "Titanic" winning the Best Picture award two weeks before this cinematic glacier was even released.

All this advance hype is probably the reason the statue itself is holding a sword. The poor thing's probably thinking "If I have to listen to one more Brillo-head from Buzz Magazine handicapping the pictures, I'm going to open a vein."

"Titanic" did win, of course. And certainly it's a pretty neat movie. But the best?

Look at the awards themselves. "Titanic," according to the Academy, did not have the best actors, it did not have the best supporting actors, it did not have the best script, it did not have the best screenplay. But but somehow it's the best picture.

In case you missed "Titanic," allow me to sum up the dialogue:

"Boat's leaking."

"Gosh. What do we do?"

"Let me paint you in the nude."

Killer special effects though. I personally don't like this trend, because it will only encourage more special effects and less good talk.

"Good Will Hunting," by contrast, had marvelous performances and a snappy script, but because Robin Williams didn't bounce off a propeller, it's toast.

"The Full Monty" was probably the funniest film of the year, but because it looked as if it could have been shot with Uncle Biff's video cam it never had a chance. Just like it never had a chance of playing much in Hagerstown. (Hagerstown theater motto: "All Disney, All the Time." Don't bother us with "Lone Star," we're too busy running "The Lion King" for the 786th consecutive week.)

Thank heavens for the Shepherdstown Opera House.

I was happy for Jack Nicholson, a man who doesn't even need good dialogue. I don't buy into the popular cliche that he's guilty of over-acting. No one ever accuses Michael Jordan of over-scoring.

But I do miss all the politics and resulting controversy that used to crop up at Oscar time. Why must we put up with Billy Crystal's tiresome, retreaded schtick when we could have Vanessa Redgrave shrieking about the Palestinians or the technical staff of some forgettable soundtrack imploring us not to eat nonunion lettuce?

Here's how to make a perfect Oscar night: 1. Get rid of Crystal. This instantly pares an hour off the show, and makes it eminently more watchable. 2. Tell Madonna if she wants to be on, her hair must look like something other than curly peanut brittle. 3. Announce Best Picture first, leaving the rest of the show for diehards who are actually interested in who wins the award for Best Use of Paraffin in a Hindu Musical Comedy Performed by Interior NFL Linemen. Finally, give an award to any actor with enough guts to stand up on the night of the Academy Awards and speak out against those dastardly photographers.

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