Oscars pull off intimacy, focus on films

GOOD MORNING AND CONGRATS OSCAR WINNERS: Inside the Shrine Sunday night it felt like all the stops were pulled out for the 72nd Academy Awards. And the audience loved it. It was the perfect marriage of films, music and the emotions they draw out. Nevertheless, Billy Crystal also made it feel like an intimate nightclub. The audience at the Shrine was entertained during the show and even during commercials by live music and singing provided by — Burt Bacharach. The Zanucks made film the most important thing of the Oscars, which it should be, and Chuck Workman utilized footage from the beginnings of movies to today to emphasize movies’ importance. Popular winners in the audience included Michael Caine, of course, who got the first standing ovation of the night at 7:15. Caine’s magnificent presence and humor continued to win the audience over as he told Tom Cruise if you won “for supporting actor your price would go down. You have no idea what a supporting actor gets paid!” Caine unknowingly got another round of applause during the magnificent medley of movie music when “Alfie” was played and sung, and clips of the young Michael Caine were shown on the huge screen. The screen was purposely designed in a ratio 1.85:1 like a movie screen rather than a television screen. It is rare that a music segment of an Oscar show gets a standing ovation but this one orchestrated by Burt Bacharach certainly deserved it as did all those participating. Undoubtedly one of the most emotional segments of these Oscars was the presentation by Jack Nicholson to pal Warren Beatty. It started off humorously, but the true friendship of the two was felt by the audience. And Beatty obviously seemed ready to break up at any moment — a rarity for him, as he expressed his thanks eloquently to those responsible for his career, his friendship and whatever successes he has had professionally. Beatty topped himself with his thanks to wife Annette Bening and his advice to his three young children who he knew were obviously watching. Beatty will forever be remembered for this phrase on all counts professional and personal, “I’ll try to do better.” The political issues were avoided by Beatty, but they were picked up and applauded by the audiences when winner John Irving added his cheers for Planned Parenthood and the obvious approval from the audience for winner Hilary Swank’s statement “I pray for the day when we celebrate our diversity.” Of course, it was also noted that Jane Fonda’s welcomed returned to the Oscars was to introduce Andrzej Wajda, for Fonda certainly follows in the tradition of Wajda’s films. Noted earlier during the night on my red carpet Angelina Jolie told me that her father, Jon Voight, and mother were watching the show at home; it was an emotional moment later when she gave her thanks to them. Phil Collins also told me earlier on the red carpet that he is writing another movie for Disney. All in all it was a credit to producer Lili and Richard Zanuck and the only problem is what is left for next year.

WOULD RICHARD AND LILI FINI ZANUCK produce the Oscar show again? I asked them while they were in their producers’ trailer outside the artists’ entrance to the Shrine as they monitored all that was going on onstage. While they wouldn’t actually commit to a return, Lili exuberantly said, “It has been fun.” But not all fun, I reminded Richard Z. On Friday night, during rehearsals for the musical number, musical director Burt Bacharach (with Don Was) decided not to go with Whitney Houston and she was taken off the show! What to do? Lili came up with the suggestion of Faith Hill — with whom she had done a video; and will do another music video with her in Paris next month. Hill was SOS’d — and replaced Houston … As for other musical moments on this 72nd Oscars, Dick Zanuck told me they were able to get an OK (from the network) for Robin Williams to mouth, but not sing one of the four-letter words (you know which one) on Oscar nominated “Blame Canada.” However, Zanuck said they did get an OK for Williams to sing another four-letter word, “fart.” … There were more missing items for this year’s Oscars, associate producer Mike Seligman told me. Fifty tuxedos Fed-exed from N.Y. by Donna Karan for the show didn’t show, he said. That was as of Saturday afternoon! And the threat of rain caused the Academy to put up giant plastic coverings along the red carpet to the entrances to the auditorium. It wasn’t until 3 p.m. Saturday that an all clear was sounded and coverings were removed, taking two hours to accomplish and costing tens of thousands. Bruce Davis told me there was no insurance on his score … The stage for this year’s Oscars had to be the most glamorous ever. Art director Bob Keene told me it was the biggest set ever on the Shrine’s stage, 100 feet wide, 45 feet high and 60 feet deep. More than 6,000 light bulbs lit the clear glass stage. “Lili wanted all the ladies to look like movie stars,” he said. Of course, the lights put out an enormous amount of heat and three air conditioning trucks were brought in and 60 tons of A/C were supplied to keep everyone — and the stage — cool. It was a real cool stage, Bob! … As always Mike Shapiro produced the “In Memorium” film seg for the Oscar show. When he turned it in last week, Richard Zanuck called him and said that when he, Lili and staff looked at it , “there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

DRAMA PRECEDED THE OSCARS Saturday night at Ed Li-mato’s magnificent party to celebrate the Oscars at his estate in Beverly Hills. Alan Ladd Jr. collapsed and was rushed to Cedars-Sinai by paramedics. I talked with Ladd’s wife Cindra Sunday and she reported he was back home but would take tests this week to ascertain the cause. One thing for sure, she said, it was not his heart. He had a similar incident, however, last year — during angioplasty. The arrival of paramedics with flashing lights cast considerable concern at the celeb-jammed Limato party as everyone there knows and likes Laddie … ICM’s Limato was, as ever, a gracious host welcoming all at the door of his home and greeting all and their mates/dates by first name. The party called for “casual chic” and Ed was his party-casual self, as always, barefoot. Among his guests, which included his mother and father, was Elton John, fresh from “Aida’s” bow in N.Y. He told me he was more than pleased with the play at its opening. Elton wound the week with his birthday party Saturday and his own Oscar party Sunday night. Among Limato’s guests: the Marvin Davises, Martin Bregmans, Bernie Brillsteins, Jeff Katzenbergs, Anjelica Huston and husband Robert Graham, Diana Ross, the Jim Coburns, Mel Gibson, Mace Neufeld, Frank Mancusos, Jim Woods, Michael Caines, Shirley MacLaine, Sidney Poitiers, Michael Clarke Duncan, Bud Yorkins, Gareth Wigan and Pat Newcomb, Barry Diller and Diane Von Furstenberg, Norman Jewisons (still upset about the brickbats tossed at his “Hurricane.” “I wasn’t making a documentary,” he reminded). David Geffen, Steve Martin, Freddie Fields, Len Goldbergs, Carrie Fisher, Victor Drai, Marcy and Ed Gross, Leslie and Peter Bart, Dominick Dunne, Lynn Wiatt, Ron Meyer, Lucy Liu, Wendy Stark and John Morissey, Brian Grazer and the Irwin Winklers (He recalled when he didn’t win the Oscar, the family went to Fatburger. Of course, when he won for “Rocky,” he really celebrated). “American Beauty” Oscar-nominated scripter Alan Ball said he’s writing a series for HBO — “The only place to go on TV.” He’s also penning a spec feature script. Also there, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck, Courtney Love, Jay Lenos, Denzel Washingtons, Kevin Spacey, Matt Damon, Harvey Weinstein, Bobby Zarem, Alan Hamilton. Limato’s party was perfection with Along Came Mary’s regal menu and Chuck Pick’s parking maneuvering cars in/out of the hills of Beverly.

“I WILL TAKE IT GRACIOUSLY,” Harvey Weinstein told me–Saturday night–if his (Miramax) pix don’t win. “I’ve won enough,” he said. I challenged that statement, but he said, “No, I mean it.” Of course, it was a fun night of Miramax’s “Maxie Awards” at the BevWilshire. He and Mark Gill m.c.’d the annual put-on of their Oscar-nominated pix with “alternate,” opposite sex players in the lead roles of “Music of the Heart,” “Cider House Rules” and “The Talented Mr. Ripley.” Harvey said he is feeling well, wears a giant patch to keep him from smoking and is on a diet. He got a round of welcome applause. As did brother Bob and his fiancee Annie Clayton. (Bob’s daughters Nicole and Sarah were also on hand). For the takeoff of “Cider House Rules,” Kevin Spacey in blonde wig was hysterical as Charlize Theron, Lasse Halstrom as Tobey Maguire. Afterwards, Spacey exclaimed, “Don’t think everyone works for Miramax for nothing!” Equally hysterical were Michael Caine as Matt Damon, Judi Dench as Jude Law and Lasse Halstrom as Gwyneth Paltrow in “Mr. Ripley.” … The casting continued with the takeoff of “Weinstein House Rules” including John Irving, Harvey Weinstein, Bobby Cohen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Gladstein, Ben Affleck and a singing finale of “Americano” with Damon and Law leading and singing all the lyrics.

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