Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Bloated Oscar still has appeal

        Here is my guilty little secret. I watch the Academy Awards on television. Every year. I stay awake for the entire production, and I have done so since Bob Hope was the host and I needed permission to stay up that late. I've been watching this show so long I can remember when they used to introduce the geeks who counted the ballots.

        I'm hooked.

        Sunday night was a record four hours and 23 minutes of movie stars thanking their parents and agents and and directors and piano teachers and beloved spouses, whom they know perfectly well they are on the verge of dumping. What was once simply a very long award presentation now is a very long award presentation preceded by a very long discussion of apparel and jewelry.

        “Who are you wearing?”


        “Ooooh. Fabulous.”

        And I am fabulously watching this in my wrong-side-out sweat shirt. My jeans are unbuttoned, and I am eating popcorn from a vat.

        As a seasoned couch potato, I carefully schedule the pizza delivery during the awards for cinematography and sound editing or the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Joan's Red Carpet

        Joan Rivers, who more or less owns the Red Carpet fashion parade, offers the tantalizing possibility of a snide remark amid the gush-o-rama. Maybe she will demand answers to questions we'd ask if we had her nerve.

        Such as, “Did all the really hip movie stars comb their hair with the same fork?”

        Or “Aren't those new breasts?”

        Reality TV? Why would anybody watch an obscure bartender eat worms when you can see a grown-up Opie collect an Oscar? When you could see Love Story couple Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw reunited? And Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford Almost the Way They Were? why would you watch an island full of people savage each other to win when you could watch Mr. Sidney Poitier win with generosity and class.

        “I accept this award,” he said, “in memory of all the African-American actors and actresses who went before me in the difficult years. On whose shoulders I was privileged to stand to see where I might go.”

        Then — as though it had been scripted — another vista opened up. Halle Berry, the first woman of color to be awarded the Academy Award for a leading role, sobbed uncontrollably then choked out, “This moment is so much bigger than me.” And if she was acting, then she deserves another Oscar.

        I love the movies. When I was growing up in Lima, Ohio, movies took me to Anne Frank's attic and the courtroom of Atticus Finch. They allowed me to see the country where my grandfather was born, long before I could go there in person.

        I sit through the turgid canned dialogue just for the occasional genuine drama. Roberto Benigni leaping along the backs of seats. Sally “You Like Me, You Really Like Me” Field. David Niven's urbane remark that the streaker running past him showed off “his shortcomings.”

        This year, Halle Berry bawled her head off as she realized that “this door has been opened.”

        And I was glad I was awake to see it.
        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer. Laura can be heard at noon Fridays on WVXU radio (91.7 FM).


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