A little corny, but the opening with Tyra Banks walking the camera up to Peter Coyote announcing "This is the 72nd Annual Academy Awards" worked. Maybe it is because it was one of the more interesting behind-the-scenes walkthroughs in the history of the ceremony. Or maybe it is just that Coyote is such a neat fellow. That normal recap of the red carpet followed, as well as the exasperatingly boring Robert Rehme speech (though, he is still better than Arther Hiller's speeches from way back). Then came the big stuff, the Billy Crystal entrance and monologue.
It was 1996, the year I began reporting on the Oscars, that he started placing himself in films via Forrest Gump visual effects, but this year went far beyond the jobs done in 1996 and 1997. After a nice 2001: A Space Odyssey sent bone to the head, Crystal goes through time, or at least the portal that made Contact, and film history. Not only does he "see dead people" like Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush, he "talks" to DeNiro in Taxi Driver, seduce Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and squeal like a pig in Deliverance, Billy gets to throw out the funniest thing I have seen in the history of the Academy Awards. Having Stephen King as the lady with the stroller in the famous car chase from The French Connection was pure genius. That along with Lester Burnham's yearning for a shower and an incredible West Side Story song and dance number about the lack of dance numbers made this Billy compilation the best ever.
The monologue was quick and to the point, bringing out the problems that have faced the Academy Awards this year (lost ballots, stolen statues), bringing him right into those patented Best Picture nominee songs. Admittedly this year's pack could not hold a candle to those of 1996, but, of course, the films nominated this year cannot compare to those of 1996. They were funny, but doing the songs on particular actors are not near as funny as when the songs are about the films themselves. I would have been a little interested to see what he would have done with a song on The Sixth Sense and The Cider House Rules instead of Haley Joel Osment and Michael Caine, respectively (though the mentioning of Jaws 4 in the Caine retrospective was classic). But the American Beauty and The Insider tunes were at least up to par.
From there, the show commenced. There is nothing more astonishing in this year's list of presenters as Lucy Lui from television's Ally McBeal, but I finally found out the reason as she entered with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz, her co-stars in the new film update of Charlie's Angels. Anyway, these three gave the Best Costume Design award to Topsy-Turvy, a grand choice. This little win got my hopes up; this category was one that I was not too sure of and made me think that I might just fare really well this year after last year's fiasco. A Ripley win would have been preferable, but Topsy-Turvy would be my close second choice And that rounds us into the first commercial break.
Cute-kid nominee Haley Joel Osment comes in to introduce a film montage of child actors over the years. Please, someone relieve Chuck Workman of these tedious montages, he does way too many. It was supposed to remind viewers of great child actors, it only brought to me that The Exorcist and The Omen are some pretty messed-up films.
On tap presenter Mike Myers joined Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me co-star Heather Graham to give The Matrix its first win for the evening in the category of Best Sound. Once this category came through, I felt really good about the rest of my Matrix predictions. The Cider House Rules co-stars Tobey Maguire, Erykah Badu, and her hat gave Best Makeup to Topsy-Turvy. I was a little surprised here, usually they give it to the lowest-key fare of the year, hence the reason I've missed this category three years in a row. At least I got to hear the Topsy-Turvy music again. Why Winona Ryder to present The Cider House Rules as a Best Picture nominee? Who knows!
I would like to nominate James Coburn as the smoothest operator in Hollywood. No one had me as excited as a presenter this year as the caffeine riddled Roberto Benigni. Of course, he gave the Best Supporting Actress to the predictable Angelina Jolie, looking like Elvira. Nothing like awarding the least deserving nominee. (By the way, the Samantha Morton clip reminded me of just how incredible she was in Sweet in Lowdown; I'd say that she'd be my second place hopeful behind Chloe Sevigny.) Onto another break.
The great Morgan Freeman came in following the hilarious Crystal joke pitting Halle Berry in a Driving Miss Daisy action sequel. Freeman introduces Workman's second montage within an hour, this one about the use of history in film. The only perk of this really long montage was that it showed some films that few would consider classics like films of Mel Brooks and the Monty Python troupe. This year's ceremony was the longest in the history of the awards, which is understandable considering the liberal work for Chuck Workman this year (to his credit, Workman actually had to work this year, neither of the aforementioned montages called for that Singin' in the Rain clip).
Then came Cate Blanchett and Jude Law representing The Talented Mr. Ripley, this year's should have been Best Picture nominee, to give Best Live-Action Short to My Mother Dreams Satan's Disciples in New York, a less than deserving film when compared to the incredible Kleingold. Michael Caine and Billy Crystal than proceeded to set-up the stage for Best Animated Short with toys of Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Toy Story 2. I must admit that I never considered Duncan a worthy nominee, but he is a really likable guy as shown in this year's ceremony. As for the category, they gave it to The Old Man and the Sea, the only nominee that I failed to see, which blinded me from steering away from the entrancing When the Day Breaks.