Presenters: Anne Bancroft, Kathy Bates, Geena Davis, Glenn Close, Catherine Deneuve, Robert Downey Jr., Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Gene Hackman, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Hopkins, Lena Horne, Anjelica Huston, Quincy Jones, Raul Julia, Diane Keaton, Angela Lansbury, Sophia Loren, Jon Lovitz, Andie MacDowell, Marcello Mastroianni, Jack Nicholson, Jack Palance, Gregory Peck, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Joe Pesci, Tim Robbins, Mercedes Ruehl, Susan Sarandon, Sharon Stone, Barbra Streisand, Marisa Tomei, Jack Valenti, Denzel Washington, Alfre Woodard.
Performers: Nell Carter, Natalie Cole, Placido Domingo, Brad Kane, Liza Minnelli, Lea Solanga.
Host Billy Crystal, tugged onstage on a giant Oscar by a growling Jack Palance, returned for the fourth time to solo host the 65th Academy Awards and proceeded to offer a lengthy monologue that was crisp, timely and witty. However , telecast, reaching an estimated 1 billion people around the world, held few surprises and, where the hour was late-late-late, undoubtedly lost viewers.
Telecast, aimed at saluting women in film, offered samples of femme film editing and screenwriters. Lynne Littman’s film tribute to women in film was necessarily selective but remindful, and Liza Minnelli sang-danced through a theme-loaded John Kander-Fred Ebb tune, “Ladies Day at Last,” as a reminder of the telecast’s thrust: Promoting women’s roles in life. The program’s host, of course, was male Crystal.
Gregory Peck graciously intro’d Chuck Workman’s montage about the late Audrey Hepburn. Her son, Sean Ferrer, accepted the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her and dedicated it to the children of the world.
The four recipients for the visual effects award for “Death Becomes Her” set a record of sorts by zipping through a raft of names and dashing off. It was a pleasure.
Presenters Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, reunited 25 years after “The Graduate” and piped in from a N.Y. Oscar fest at the Russian Tea Room, were a delight.
The dry telecast got some much-needed glamour from Sophia Loren and sincerity from Marcello Mastroianni as they brought on Richard Schickel’s film tribute to Federico Fellini before the filmmaker himself appeared (“Please sit down! Be comfortable …”), who charmingly thanked everybody for making him feel at home.
Catherine Deneuve graciously introduced Victoria Hochberg’s film clips of Edith Head designs before the actress announced the costume design winner. Angela Lansbury served up a lovely appreciation of Elizabeth Taylor, recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for Service as an active worker against AIDS.
An eloquent Taylor spoke feelingly of the “highest possible accolade I could receive from my peers” and promised she’d continue her work against the disease. Her appeal to humaneness was enormously moving.
Host Crystal gave a nod to former awards emcee Bob Hope, who stood up and brought the house to its feet.
Presenters were generally on the mark. The overproduced musical numbers again were variations on the original film versions that caught the Acad’s attention: A replay of film clips as originally performed would be, if possible, a logical demonstration of why they’re on the bill.
That aside, Nell Carter’s dynamic version of “A Friend Like Me,” choreo’d by Debbie Allen, was a knockout. Besides Carter, Natalie Cole, Placido Domingo, Brad Kane and Lea Solanga demo’d the competing songs.
Director Jeff Margolis, despite several camera and sound glitches, handled the traffic with aplomb. Bob Keene’s production design was functional and classic, mindful of the need for making way for production numbers, which were performed against some imaginative settings.
Writers Hal Kanter, Buz Kohan and Sheila Benson wrote a serviceable script, but there were no breakthrough concepts, little that sizzled.
Bill Conti’s music direction was terrif.
Presenter Sarah Jessica Parker commented on how films seem to be getting longer, TV shows shorter. This year’s Oscar race, 33 minutes over the mark, didn’t feel that way.