How To Watch the Oscars

In Praise of Three 6 Mafia
E-mail debates of newsworthy topics.
March 6 2006 12:00 PM

How To Watch the Oscars

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Bryan and Dana:

Crash, huh? Well, its victory provided presenter Jack Nicholson with a good opportunity to present Jack Nicholson. He pronounced the syllable with just the right note of surprise, combining incredulity with reassurance and saying warmly, with his eyebrows, "That's Hollywood."

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson
Bryan Curtis is a Slate staff writer. You can e-mail him at curtisb@slate.com.Troy Patterson andDana Stevens are Slate critics. Write Dana at surfergirl@thehighsign.net.
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This is the space where I should be parroting the notions that Paul Haggis' ensemble drama hit the jackpot by speaking to Angeleno automotive culture, that its promotional campaign combined shock and awe, that its take on race approached a Serious Issue in just the right tone. You needn't look any further than last night's self-congratulatory montage of "confrontational" films—by the way, did that include Something's Gotta Give?!—to see that Oscar will award you many more points for effort than he will for subtlety.

Meanwhile, I needed to look away from last night's production of Crash's "In the Deep." If you haven't blocked out the performance, you'll remember that Kathleen "Bird" York streamed her treacle forth while, upstage, interpretive dancers made like they were escaping from the flames of a car wreck. But the dancers moved very slowly, so it seemed that they were practicing tai chi or, in a more wishful moment, that they were zombies intent upon attacking York and devouring her brain.

While I had no such luck, the Three 6 Mafia did execute some successful mind-eating. For plain energy, engaging incongruity, and funk-psychedelic dissonance, their performance of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp"—the hook of which will be getting half-consciously whistled around the world this week—was topped only by their acceptance of the best original song award, a spectacle raucous beyond comprehension. I'm only positive that they thanked God and said what's up to George Clooney.

Clooney's wry spirit seemed to preside over the evening. He worked reliably as a punchline for both Stewart and best documentary short co-winner Corinne Marrinan ("I'd like to thank the academy for seating me next to George Clooney at the nominee's luncheon"), and his tauntingly lefty acceptance speech ("I'm proud to be out of touch") earned the one smattering of applause to break out at the Oscar party I attended.

That was it for partisan statements, right? Rachel Weisz did use the word "unflinching" to describe The Constant Gardener's take on big bad Big Pharma, and those March of the Penguins Frenchmen looked mildly subversive without ties on, but no one else felt much of a need to lace this kudofest with politics. Stewart made a few harmless cracks about limousine liberalism and one lame one about Dick Cheney's marksmanship, otherwise steering clear of the topical. Rather, in the best bits of comedy, his writers imagined Oscar campaigns aspolitical ones and presented mock attack ads. I loved that the supposed slam at Judi Dench was paid for by "Dames for Truth." Overall, Stewart was sharp, clean, and sensibly deferential. Once, looking back at Joan Didion's first novel, Martin Amis called it "contently minor, above all," and the line applies here.

The only thing weirder than the Hallmark-moment music playing under the acceptance speeches was the camera's new habit of pulling in very close on the winners. I am now concerned that Reese Witherspoon has no pores.

What else? Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep's great Altmanesque homage to Altman looked like a lot of fun to rehearse. I'll be TiVo-ing the ultrashameless Miracle Workers in case I ever need to flush out my tear ducts in a jiffy. I will pay a sum in the mid-three figures to anyone who can provide me with a full and accurate transcript of Nicholson's conversation with seat-neighbor Keira Knightley. Do either of you have a contact? Lemme know.

Yours,
Troy