The 69th Annual Academy Awards (Mon. (24), 6-9:35 p.m., ABC) Produced live from the Shrine Auditorium by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Producer, Gilbert Cates; associate producer, Michael B. Seligman; director, Louis J. Horvitz; associate directors, Jim Tanker, Mike Polito, Debbie Palacio, Christine Clark-Bradley, Marilyn Seabury, Sharon Taylor, Vince Maynard; writers, Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Bruce Vilanch, Carrie Fisher, Ed Driscoll, Joe Bollster, Billy Martin, David Steinberg; film sequences supervisor, Douglass M. Stewart; special film material, Chuck Workman, Jon Bloom, Mike Shapiro, Shanda Sawyer, Troy Miller; costume designer, Ray Aghayan; music director, Bill Conti; production supervisor, John M. Best; production designer, Roy Christopher; art directors, Elina Katsiola, Michael Gallenberg, Keaton Walker; choreographer, Otis Sallid; production managers, Joe Neary, Tony Neely, Stan Weber, Dave Morris , Arturo Gonzalez; technical director, John B. Field; audio director, Ed Greene; fashion coordinator, Fred Hayman; lighting designer, Bob Dickinson; engineer in charge, Sue Arrington; executive in charge of talent, Danette Herman. Host: Billy Crystal. Presenters: Julie Andrews, Angela Bassett, Beavis and Butt-head, Juliette Binoche, Kenneth Branagh, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Chris Farley, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Salma Hayek, Arthur Hiller, Helen Hunt, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Love, Andie McDowell, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Chris O'Donnell, Al Pacino, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Will Smith, Mira Sorvino, Kevin Spacey, David Spade, Jack Valenti, Sigourney Weaver. Performers: Madonna, Celine Dion, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Loggins, the Wonders, Lord of the Dance cast. Again serving notice that he remains Mr. Monday Night now and perhaps forever, Billy Crystal showed 'em how it's done with an Oscarcast hosting gig that had more pure verve and spunk than any of the previous three telecasts that lacked his glib presence. That was evident from the first minute he appeared onscreen --- an ingenious and uproarious opening sequence in which he inserted himself into all five of the Oscar-nominated films in a mock quest to gauge opinion over whether he should again host the Academy Awards. Yoda says yes. David Letterman, in a divebombing fighter plane, recommends he tie "Uma to Oprah, Oprah to Uma." Then he crashed. It might well have been the most clever and inventive opening in Oscar history, punctuated with Crystal doing his trademark sly medley that had only the slightest hint of overkill. As usual, Crystal was a one-liner and ad-lib machine. Many were of the inside-industry variety (calling Los Angeles "Sundance by the sea" and noting the 163 major releases this year, "unless you count Michael Ovitz"), while others had more political overtones ("The only one guaranteed to wake up with a statue tomorrow is Tipper Gore"). His return came not a moment too soon to rescue the proceedings, however, as he was surrounded by all manner of strange bedfellows in a show seemingly themed "A Salute to Inconsistency" --- and to length. In a night of a few surprises but only intermittent suspense, producer Gil Cates presided over a ceremony that was at turns absurd and funny, warm and awkward, classy and strained. There was a preoccupation with the clock but too little attention paid to its bloated hurry-up-and-wait pacing. Director Louis J. Horvitz allowed some winners to chat into oblivion without striking up the band; others got the hook without a chance to thank the wife and kids. It was the misfortune of Cates and Horvitz that this Oscarcast peaked barely 15 minutes after it began with Cuba Gooding Jr.'s emotional and just plain joyous acceptance speech for the supporting actor prize. He was the Energizer Bunny of Oscar victors, running a full magical minute past the music cue and thanking pretty much everybody except his goldfish. For sheer electricity, nothing could top that. Indeed, the rest of the evening had its work cut out trying to match the exuberance and vitality of that rip-roaring opening, and it really never came close except when Billy Bob Thornton took the adapted screenplay prize in a highly popular win. Other high points included Frances McDormand's smart and poignant acceptance speech for her best actress nod, presenter Susan Sarandon's "time-challenged" order to move the TelePrompTer along and Crystal's welcome to nearly snubbed Oscar attendee Larry Flynt and his praising the passed-over Madonna for agreeing to perform a song. "That showed a great deal of class," Crystal said. And indeed it did. Yet what largely distinguished this Oscarcast was weirdness, beginning with the puzzling decision to open the broadcast with Academy prexy Arthur Hiller enthusing, "You keep going to the movies, and we'll keep making them." Tellingly, he didn't say anything about nominating them. The 69th annual awards also gave us salutes to both William Shakespeare and to film editors. That editing production number appeared to have little to do with genuine editing, aside from those who edit while dancing Irish jigs chorus-line-style. It was also genuinely ironic that in a year when Hollywood decided to honor editors, it couldn't even keep its Oscar show below 3 hours. Did anyone consider, say, editing out the editing number? An early montage featuring movie houses and oddly packaged film clips appeared to be a tribute to popcorn. It surely had little relevance to the proceedings, playing up the fact that whatever it costs to get into movies these days, it's a small price considering how exciting it is to have your seat kicked by people who refuse to shut up. Choreographer Otis Sallid favored filling the screen with hyperactivity for "That Thing You Do!" (whatever those dancers were doing in the production number, it sure didn't appear human). It was also perhaps a mistake to include David Helfgott, the pianist whom Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for portraying in "Shine." The reaction to him was oddly muted and carried the whiff of exploitation. The camerawork was on the unwieldy side, with Horvitz often favoring shots that appeared to originate from the Shrine Auditorium blimp. Nary a rafter was left unexplored, particularly on the musical perfs by Madonna, Kenny Loggins and Celine Dion. And just exactly what was the director thinking when he cut to Ralph Fiennes and his handmade sign in the middle of Saul Zaentz's best picture acceptance for "English Patient"? Even the commercials --- many of them sporting a Super Bowl-style pomp and creativity --- contributed to the odd cadence of the evening. They included Dennis Miller doing a talkshow in which he interviews M&M's and AT&T transforming the Elton John classic "Rocket Man" into a communications industry anthem. Only Crystal was able to rise above the peculiar tenor of the evening to send everyone home exhausted but often entertained. He is clearly the straw that stirs the Oscar drink, and when he isn't on hand it feels like an infant that has been separated from its mother. AU: Ray Richmond

The 69th Annual Academy Awards (Mon. (24), 6-9:35 p.m., ABC) Produced live from the Shrine Auditorium by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Producer, Gilbert Cates; associate producer, Michael B. Seligman; director, Louis J. Horvitz; associate directors, Jim Tanker, Mike Polito, Debbie Palacio, Christine Clark-Bradley, Marilyn Seabury, Sharon Taylor, Vince Maynard; writers, Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Bruce Vilanch, Carrie Fisher, Ed Driscoll, Joe Bollster, Billy Martin, David Steinberg; film sequences supervisor, Douglass M. Stewart; special film material, Chuck Workman, Jon Bloom, Mike Shapiro, Shanda Sawyer, Troy Miller; costume designer, Ray Aghayan; music director, Bill Conti; production supervisor, John M. Best; production designer, Roy Christopher; art directors, Elina Katsiola, Michael Gallenberg, Keaton Walker; choreographer, Otis Sallid; production managers, Joe Neary, Tony Neely, Stan Weber, Dave Morris , Arturo Gonzalez; technical director, John B. Field; audio director, Ed Greene; fashion coordinator, Fred Hayman; lighting designer, Bob Dickinson; engineer in charge, Sue Arrington; executive in charge of talent, Danette Herman. Host: Billy Crystal. Presenters: Julie Andrews, Angela Bassett, Beavis and Butt-head, Juliette Binoche, Kenneth Branagh, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Chris Farley, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Salma Hayek, Arthur Hiller, Helen Hunt, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Love, Andie McDowell, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Chris O’Donnell, Al Pacino, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Will Smith, Mira Sorvino, Kevin Spacey, David Spade, Jack Valenti, Sigourney Weaver. Performers: Madonna, Celine Dion, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Loggins, the Wonders, Lord of the Dance cast. Again serving notice that he remains Mr. Monday Night now and perhaps forever, Billy Crystal showed ‘em how it’s done with an Oscarcast hosting gig that had more pure verve and spunk than any of the previous three telecasts that lacked his glib presence. That was evident from the first minute he appeared onscreen — an ingenious and uproarious opening sequence in which he inserted himself into all five of the Oscar-nominated films in a mock quest to gauge opinion over whether he should again host the Academy Awards. Yoda says yes. David Letterman, in a divebombing fighter plane, recommends he tie “Uma to Oprah, Oprah to Uma.” Then he crashed. It might well have been the most clever and inventive opening in Oscar history, punctuated with Crystal doing his trademark sly medley that had only the slightest hint of overkill. As usual, Crystal was a one-liner and ad-lib machine. Many were of the inside-industry variety (calling Los Angeles “Sundance by the sea” and noting the 163 major releases this year, “unless you count Michael Ovitz”), while others had more political overtones (“The only one guaranteed to wake up with a statue tomorrow is Tipper Gore”). His return came not a moment too soon to rescue the proceedings, however, as he was surrounded by all manner of strange bedfellows in a show seemingly themed “A Salute to Inconsistency” — and to length. In a night of a few surprises but only intermittent suspense, producer Gil Cates presided over a ceremony that was at turns absurd and funny, warm and awkward, classy and strained. There was a preoccupation with the clock but too little attention paid to its bloated hurry-up-and-wait pacing. Director Louis J. Horvitz allowed some winners to chat into oblivion without striking up the band; others got the hook without a chance to thank the wife and kids. It was the misfortune of Cates and Horvitz that this Oscarcast peaked barely 15 minutes after it began with Cuba Gooding Jr.’s emotional and just plain joyous acceptance speech for the supporting actor prize. He was the Energizer Bunny of Oscar victors, running a full magical minute past the music cue and thanking pretty much everybody except his goldfish. For sheer electricity, nothing could top that. Indeed, the rest of the evening had its work cut out trying to match the exuberance and vitality of that rip-roaring opening, and it really never came close except when Billy Bob Thornton took the adapted screenplay prize in a highly popular win. Other high points included Frances McDormand’s smart and poignant acceptance speech for her best actress nod, presenter Susan Sarandon’s “time-challenged” order to move the TelePrompTer along and Crystal’s welcome to nearly snubbed Oscar attendee Larry Flynt and his praising the passed-over Madonna for agreeing to perform a song. “That showed a great deal of class,” Crystal said. And indeed it did. Yet what largely distinguished this Oscarcast was weirdness, beginning with the puzzling decision to open the broadcast with Academy prexy Arthur Hiller enthusing, “You keep going to the movies, and we’ll keep making them.” Tellingly, he didn’t say anything about nominating them. The 69th annual awards also gave us salutes to both William Shakespeare and to film editors. That editing production number appeared to have little to do with genuine editing, aside from those who edit while dancing Irish jigs chorus-line-style. It was also genuinely ironic that in a year when Hollywood decided to honor editors, it couldn’t even keep its Oscar show below 3 hours. Did anyone consider, say, editing out the editing number? An early montage featuring movie houses and oddly packaged film clips appeared to be a tribute to popcorn. It surely had little relevance to the proceedings, playing up the fact that whatever it costs to get into movies these days, it’s a small price considering how exciting it is to have your seat kicked by people who refuse to shut up. Choreographer Otis Sallid favored filling the screen with hyperactivity for “That Thing You Do!” (whatever those dancers were doing in the production number, it sure didn’t appear human). It was also perhaps a mistake to include David Helfgott, the pianist whom Geoffrey Rush won an Oscar for portraying in “Shine.” The reaction to him was oddly muted and carried the whiff of exploitation. The camerawork was on the unwieldy side, with Horvitz often favoring shots that appeared to originate from the Shrine Auditorium blimp. Nary a rafter was left unexplored, particularly on the musical perfs by Madonna, Kenny Loggins and Celine Dion. And just exactly what was the director thinking when he cut to Ralph Fiennes and his handmade sign in the middle of Saul Zaentz’s best picture acceptance for “English Patient”? Even the commercials — many of them sporting a Super Bowl-style pomp and creativity — contributed to the odd cadence of the evening. They included Dennis Miller doing a talkshow in which he interviews M&M’s and AT&T transforming the Elton John classic “Rocket Man” into a communications industry anthem. Only Crystal was able to rise above the peculiar tenor of the evening to send everyone home exhausted but often entertained. He is clearly the straw that stirs the Oscar drink, and when he isn’t on hand it feels like an infant that has been separated from its mother. AU: Ray Richmond

The 69th Annual Academy Awards

Mon. (24), 6-9:35 p.m., ABC

Production

Produced live from the Shrine Auditorium by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Producer, Gilbert Cates; associate producer, Michael B. Seligman; director, Louis J. Horvitz; associate directors, Jim Tanker, Mike Polito, Debbie Palacio, Christine Clark-Bradley, Marilyn Seabury, Sharon Taylor, Vince Maynard; writers, Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan, Bruce Vilanch, Carrie Fisher, Ed Driscoll, Joe Bollster, Billy Martin, David Steinberg; film sequences supervisor, Douglass M. Stewart; special film material, Chuck Workman, Jon Bloom, Mike Shapiro, Shanda Sawyer, Troy Miller;

Crew

costume designer, Ray Aghayan; music director, Bill Conti; production supervisor, John M. Best; production designer, Roy Christopher; art directors, Elina Katsiola, Michael Gallenberg, Keaton Walker; choreographer, Otis Sallid; production managers, Joe Neary, Tony Neely, Stan Weber, Dave Morris, Arturo Gonzalez; technical director, John B. Field; audio director, Ed Greene; fashion coordinator, Fred Hayman; lighting designer, Bob Dickinson; engineer in charge, Sue Arrington; executive in charge of talent, Danette Herman.

Cast

Host: Billy Crystal.
Presenters: Julie Andrews, Angela Bassett, Beavis and Butt-head, Juliette Binoche, Kenneth Branagh, Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Jim Carrey, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Chris Farley, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Goldie Hawn, Salma Hayek, Arthur Hiller, Helen Hunt, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Love, Andie McDowell, Steve Martin, Bette Midler, Chris O'Donnell, Al Pacino, Debbie Reynolds, Susan Sarandon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Will Smith, Mira Sorvino, Kevin Spacey, David Spade, Jack Valenti, Sigourney Weaver. Performers: Madonna, Celine Dion, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Loggins, the Wonders, Lord of the Dance cast.

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