Dear Troy and Bryan,
That ceremony really did fly by, didn't it? I never even had the time to take a break to make bananas Foster, as I'd planned (though if Itzhak Perlman's violin medley had lasted one minute longer, I might have tried). Jon Stewart carried off his role with cautious aplomb, even if the pre-taped segments (the best-actress attack ads, the gay-cowboy montage) were his best material. He did manage to ad-lib perhaps the funniest line of the night after the Three 6 Mafia's incomprehensibly effusive thank-you speech: "I think it just got a little easier out here for a pimp."
The essence of this year's awards, in which the academy's self-congratulatory tolerance about race trumped its self-congratulatory tolerance about sexual orientation, was crystallized in that line. For a while now, "pimp" has been emerging as a term of endearment, not to mention a marketing category: There are pimp cups, MTV's Pimp My Ride, etc. As a nation, should we be worried about the fact that the most heartwarming and spontaneous moment of last night's ceremony involved the idealization of the pimp? How hard is it out there for a ho? And is the academy's newfound pimp-love proof that race trumps gender as well, or would America be just as enamored of a white man singing a song called "Wife-Beater Blues"?
Since no one's talked about the fashion yet, I guess it falls to me to note that Stewart eschewed the monkey suit in favor of a Reservoir Dogs-style narrow black necktie, and that Charlize Theron's beehive up-do and gargantuan shoulder bow made her look like a present from Saks that you plan to return before you even unwrap it. Naomi Watts' asymmetrical, deconstructed Givenchy gown, in the pale Band-Aid color that predominated the evening (Uma and Reese also wore it) was so great I called my best friend in Texas to rave about it, and here the next day Watts is being roundly excoriated as the worst-dressed star at the ceremony. Though Naomi has made her mistakes in the past, anyone who doesn't love that Band-Aid dress is just wrong.
A high point: the moment in Robert Altman' s acceptance speech when he compared his collaborative style of filmmaking to building a sand castle on the beach with your friends, with whom you then "have a drink, watch the tide come in, and watch the ocean just take it away." I loved the affirmation of film's ephemerality, not to mention the fact that the metaphorical builders were not carefree children, but grown-ups with a buzz on.
I agree with Troy that Lily Tomlin's and Meryl Streep's charming Altman intro looked like a blast to rehearse: You could just imagine the two gals in sweats, giggling their way through a Saturday morning run-through. But what was happening with Lauren Bacall's stumbling lead-in to the (pointless) film noir montage? Is she just getting old, or did she just blow off preparation and rely on the teleprompter? She was still with-it enough that you could clock the exact moment, two-thirds of the way through the segment, when she began to regret taking on the gig in the first place.
I wish March of the Penguins had lost best documentary, for several reasons—first off, if there was a nature documentary honored this year, it should have been Werner Herzog's incomparable Grizzly Man, which wasn't even nominated. Second, I have a personal animus against penguins, who I think coast way too far on their accidental anthropomorphic cuteness. And finally, it would have been awesome to see the film's producers shuffle bleakly off after the ceremony, holding those giant stuffed penguins they brought to brandish as props during their acceptance speech.
And Bryan, in answer to your TV-critic question about the ABC promos for upcoming series: When the ad came on for the American Inventor premiere later this month, I squealed aloud in approval. What could be more of a reality-show natural than a fierce competition to create and market useless widgets? I loathe American Idol, but Inventor seems more in the new Project Runway vein of reality shows that are about craft, not art. Miracle Workers, on the other hand—a medical reality show in which sufficiently "deserving" sick people are rewarded with top-notch treatment—furnishes definitive proof of our culture's descent into wickedness. About that show, I can only reiterate what I wrote when I first heard about it last year (click here and scroll down): In the future, everyone will have health care for 15 minutes.