Friday, March 02, 2007
Ignoring Paris Hilton
So The Associated Press ignored Paris Hilton for a week.

A worthy, if ultimately futile, gesture: As the article notes, US Weekly runs something Hilton-related almost every week. You can plug one hole in the dam, but the water still gets through.

(And yes, I know it's all the more absurd to be writing this on the day Anna Nicole Smith gets buried, and the news coverage rises again. So will Internet traffic, I guarantee you.)

Still, what do you think of the AP's attempt? And who or what would you like to see ignored?
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The worst thing about the Oscars
And we thought the Super Bowl was long.

This year's Oscars ran almost four hours, ending a few minutes shy of 12:30 a.m. in the Eastern Time Zone. Even recent Super Bowls have been shorter than that -- and much more exciting.

Moreover, at least the big NFL game starts at approximately 6:18 p.m. ET (give or take a few minutes). The Oscars, advertised to start at 8 p.m. ET, actually start at 8:30 p.m. Why? So ABC's interviewers have time for one more dumb question? (And the show may start and end earlier in the West, but the running time is the same.)

So here are a couple suggestions, ABC and Oscar producers: First, if you must do a little vamping to goose ratings at the beginning of the show, start the actual telecast around 15 minutes after the hour or so. That way your local affiliates and all the cable networks doing their one-hour pre-Oscar shows (including CNN) still get the 7 p.m. ET hour, but you've just shaved about 15 minutes off the Oscars' running time.

Second, ditch at least one of the montage sequences and trim the rest. Was there really a need to show a clip from EVERY foreign-language film winner? And did we need that montage with the "White Heat" and "Dr. Strangelove" clips? I love those movies, but that's why I watch TCM (like CNN, a division of Time Warner).

Yes, we'll always have long speeches and deadly introductions. But I'd rather see Jerry Lewis kill time with endless medleys of "There's No Business Like Show Business" than hold my eyes open for an overlong show. And it's my job to watch; the general public doesn't have to.

(And hey, Major League Baseball: You could start the playoffs and World Series earlier, too.)
Monday, February 26, 2007
Some final words
The Oscar winners in the press room ended up running well behind the actual show -- the producer who accepted the award for "The Departed" finished up around 10:35 p.m. PT, or more than an hour after the Oscars ended.

The final four honored individuals to troop into the press room -- actors Forest Whitaker and Alan Arkin, actress Helen Mirren and director Martin Scorsese -- were thoughtful in their answers to the sometimes repetitious questions of the reporters.

Whitaker on paying tribute to his ancestors: "I'm standing on a lot of people's shoulders."

Arkin on acting awards: "This is not about furlongs. I don't believe in competition between artists. ... The criteria is very shadowy. I don't keep score." And why, then, did the Academy give him the Oscar? "I haven't got a clue."

Mirren on her training: "The roles that really bring you to this point [are in] the theater work I do."

And Scorsese, obviously pleased to be holding the golden statuette, but still getting ready for something new:

"I'm glad it's taken this long," he said in his rat-a-tat-tat New York accent. "It's been worth it. ... [But] if I don't win the awards, fine. [As long as I] keep making the pictures."
Sunday, February 25, 2007
The 2000 recount, revisited
As former vice president Al Gore and "An Inconvenient Truth" winners entered the press room, a reporter raised his hand to ask a question.

"Mr. President ... " he began.

The crowd chuckled and Gore did a mock "Who, me?"

Gore said, "I was president of the senate, so it was all right."
Which is why I'm a lousy Oscar forecaster
"The Lives of Others" -- not "Pan's Labyrinth" -- wins best foreign language film. (And my money was on "Children of Men" for cinematography.)
Three for 'Pan'
With three Oscars, "Pan's Labyrinth" is the only film with multiple awards. It's the favorite to win best foreign language film, too. Indeed, many critics thought it was the best film of 2006, period.
Ouch
The "Dreamgirls" sound mixers just spoke and one of them didn't have kind words for 19-time loser Kevin O'Connell. Maybe he should find another line of work, he said, after characterizing him as an "OK" mixer.

I don't think he was joking. If we was, nobody got the joke.
Hope and laughs
Ari Sandel made his live-action short, "West Bank Story," as his master's thesis. His only goal, he said, was to get it into Sundance.

Now he has an Oscar.

He wanted to make sure the film, about battling Jewish and Arab falafel vendors, was "pro-peace," he said.

"The response from Jews and Arabs has been overwhelming," he said. "In that respect it's a success."

Up next? A documentary with Vince Vaughn.
Oscar's Susan Lucci
Few nominees have had it as tough as Kevin O'Connell. The "Apocalypto" sound mixer has now been nominated 19 times -- and never won.
The veteran wins
Oscar likes to bestow awards on the long-timers -- and it just did it again, with the supporting actor award for Alan Arkin despite Eddie Murphy winning everything in sight before this. I can only wonder what Murphy thinks now. "Norbit 2," anybody?
One award does not a trend make ...
But already people here are wondering -- how many awards will "Dreamgirls" win, having lost its first shot? And how will the Mexican trio make out?

OK, enough pointless noodling. Back to Ferrell, Black and Reilly.
Overused words
If I hear the ABC pre-show hosts use the words "icon" or "iconic" one more time, I'll have to throw a small but heavy religious figure at them.
View from the press room
The Oscar press room is a converted ballroom in the Renaissance Hotel next to the Kodak Theatre. Security is tight to get here: from the red carpet, there's a prescribed route through the Hollywood & Highland shopping complex and past two checkpoints.

Once here, things are a little cramped -- there are hundreds of reporters here lined up at tables with their laptops and cell phones -- but we're well cared for. The room features eight big-screen TVs to watch the show, a variety of informational material and, of course, food: pasta, vegetables, sesame chicken, skewers of beef, and plenty more.

The Academy knows: a well-fed press corps is much easier to deal with. And no reporter has ever turned down free food.
Beautiful seat fillers
As I was walking over to the press room, I passed a long line of beautifully dressed people waiting in a single-file line. They weren't celebrities, but they were lottery winners of a sort: They are seat fillers.

When an Oscar winner is chosen and rises from his or her seat, a seat-filler takes the spot. That way the Kodak Theatre looks continually packed -- and colorful.
The crowd loves 'Sunshine'
The crowd is behind Little Miss Sunshine for best picture, based on applause solicited by TCM's Robert Osborne.
Out early on the red carpet
I'm in the print/Internet bleachers, waiting for the carpet to start. It's early yet -- the stars really don't get going until about 3:30 or so -- but there's a growing sense of anticipation.

TV anchors are doing their stand-ups and going over notes, and every so often a cheer rises from the bleachers. It's not because a star is walking by. It's to provide a colorful background for a live TV cut-in.
Formal wear required
It's not just the stars who dress to the nines on Oscar day. Everyone within shouting distance of the red carpet -- significant others, personal assistants and PR people, Academy personnel and (yes) the news media -- must wear formal dress as well.

Which leads to the somewhat odd feeling of being one of hundreds of people milling around in a tux or evening gown on a red carpet in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon, across the street from the novelty shops that sell cheesy T-shirts and postcards.

Still, one must have one's dignity. My wife, being the wise woman she is, urged me to buy a tux several years ago, because you never know when a formal event will beckon. So I am prepared to go into Oscar battle fully formed: polished black shoes, cufflinks and studs, BlackBerry clipped to my cummerbund. And, of course, a bow tie.
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