Because of the enthusiastic response to last year's "live" coverage of the Oscars, I have decided to do it again - call this the second annual edition. To all 700+ readers who tuned in some time during the 1998 coverage, many thanks. Last year, I updated every ten minutes, and, with all of the e-mail I was answering, it left me feeling somewhat out of breath. Consequently, this year, I'll be updating every fifteen minutes, starting at 7:30 pm EST. If you plan to follow the updates live, this is the URL, and you'll need to hit the "Reload" button to get the latest. The entire log will also be available afterwards. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org will be answered as promptly as time allows. Please be patient.
7:45 pm EST:
For those who want to play along in the "Beat Berardinelli" Oscar sweepstakes (no prizes other than bragging rights will be awarded to winners -- but do drop me a line if you do better than me), here's my complete list of predictions. Dozens of people enjoyed pointing out that they bettered my 67% score last year. Note that I'm not taking any guesses in the shorts categories, because I don't care about them.
8:00 pm EST:
A few thoughts about Elia Kazan (recipient of this year's lifetime achievement award):
[For those who don't know what the fuss is about, film maker Elia Kazan, who is being honored this year with a special award, named names before Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Un-American Activities, resulting in the blacklisting and besmirching of several reputations.]
If all that truly mattered, as the Academy contends, is the man's work, then Kazan is deserving of his award. The problem is, I don't buy that argument. By their nature, the Academy Awards are more of a popularity contest than a genuine vote for quality, so it's disingenuous to state that personality has nothing to do with it. As a result, it's hard to condone the handing out of this award in this forum, even on the basis of artistic merit.
Why not give the award to some equally-deserving film maker from the same era who does not carry such reprehensible baggage? Perhaps the Academy craved the controversy surrounding Kazan. It's guaranteed to raise ratings and inject some drama into the proceedings. Maybe that's just the cynic in me talking. But Hollywood is a town full of cynics...
8:15 pm EST:
On the surface, starting the ceremony 30 minutes earlier is a good thing. Unfortunately, that could be seen by the show's producers as an excuse to drag things out for another half-hour.
Do we really have to endure this moronic pre-show? Geena Davis is insufferable, and that idiot interviewing Benigni appears to have recently undergone a frontal lobotomy.
Could Helen Hunt possibly wear any more makeup? She looks like she's going to a Halloween party.
I like Tom Hanks' unshaven look.
8:30 pm EST:
This type of promotional crap really puts me in a bad mood. If they do this again next year, I'm going to skip it altogether. (I'm only watching it this year because I mistakenly believed that the Oscar telecast was going to begin at 8:00.) This part of the commentary is rather sparse because it's difficult to say something intelligent about such mindless drivel.
It's apparent from the brief "interview" with Liv Tyler that she's not especially good at extemporaneous speaking. She sounded like she's in about sixth grade. And is that smile glued on Geena Davis' face?
8:45 pm EST:
Everyone seems to be wearing depressingly conservative clothing.
I would have paid real money to have seen Billy Crystal in that Elizabeth costume. I wish Whoopi hadn't added the "Just kidding" onto the comment about the President of the Academy putting Ned Devine to sleep.
What was the purpose of the extended montage of clips? Sure, it was fun to take a short trip down nostalgia lane, but the destination hardly seems worth the expenditure of time. This is not a good way to trim back the running length.
9:00 pm EST:
Did anyone think Whoopi Goldberg's rant sounded like it should have been done to the tune of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". Despite the salacious jokes, I was underimpressed by the opening monologue. At least there were a few chuckles to be had, but the "Armageddon" pun was awful.
9:15 pm EST:
I really wish they would cut out the intros and clips for the Best Picture nominations. By now, surely everyone has seen these scenes about six dozen times. Yet another excuse to waste time.
"When You Believe": Whitney and Mariah. Time for a bathroom break.
9:30 pm EST:
An hour gone by and very little accomplished. Par for the course. Why should this year be any different?
9:45 pm EST:
Whoopi asks if we're having a good time. No. I'm bored.
Another song. Time for another break. Maybe I can clear out some of the e-mail backlog.
10:00 pm EST:
John Glenn - waste of time. Not to mention patronizing.
One would have to assume that Travolta's salute is going to be for either Sinatra or Kubrick. I can't think of anyone else worthy of the label who died in the past year (actually, Kurosawa was, but there's not much chance of him being honored here).
10:15 pm EST:
I hope Benigni wins something. I really want to see him on stage.
And only moments later...
More time-wasting stupidity. If I wanted to see dancing, I'd go to a live performance. And if I want to hear the score, I'll buy the soundtrack. With a little judicious trimming, they could easily get the Oscar telecast down to 2 1/2 hours with no problem.
10:30 pm EST:
Travolta's tribute is for Sinatra. I suppose I can't complain about this. It's at least well-done.
Technical problems with the Technical Awards. How apropos...
10:45 pm EST:
Another song. Time to grab a snack. Whoopi's comment about this ceremony lasting for six days and seven nights appears to be on target.
11:00 pm EST:
The horse upstaged Val Kilmer. Time for more filler.
11:15 pm EST:
Is it bedtime yet? Is the end in sight? We're coming up on three loooooooong hours.
Another song. Aren't they finished with these yet? Time for a nap.
11:30 pm EST:
Finally, the Kazan award. What's with De Niro's hair? It's pretty obvious that neither Scorsese nor De Niro is comfortable with reading from a teleprompter. Everything to follow was an anticlimax. Nothing even remotely controversial (although a small cadre of audience members stayed seated and did not clap).
11:45 pm EST:
Celine Dion. Time to vomit.
I always appreciate the obituaries. There are usually a few names here that I didn't know were dead. Kubrick's absence is surprising, but I guess he died too close to the awards ceremony to be included. (This happened a few years ago when Kieslowski died - his passing wasn't noted until a year later.)
Basically, all that's left are the big awards. We're in the final stretch. Thank god. But it will still be a miracle if the show ends much before the 4 hour mark. And that's ridiculously long for a program with only about 2 hours of legitimate content.
Interesting. Nice of Whoopi to acknowledge Gene Siskel. Curious that she didn't mention Kubrick.
12:15 am EST:
Finally, something for Kubrick. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to mention him at all... A nice touch to have Spielberg, who's poised to win his second Best Director award, head up the tribute.
12:30 am EST:
Kudos to Ebert for picking the Best Picture, but I still ended up with a slightly better score. 13 out of 21, or 62%.
The total running time (excluding the pre-show) is a whopping 4 hours, 2 minutes -- far, far too long (and 20 minutes longer than last year's). I would be surprised if this isn't the longest-ever Oscar ceremony, and it sort of validates my worry that the earlier starting time is being taken as an opportunity to string things out. Overall, this wasn't just long, it was boring as well. Easily the worst Academy Awards Ceremony I have ever endured.
Until next year - same time, same place, (maybe) same URL.
© 1999 James Berardinelli