×

The 71st Annual Academy Awards

The scenario that many feared inevitable did not materialize Sunday night at the 71st Annual Academy Awards: To the relief of many -- and for the first time in recent memory -- Celine Dion did not sing "My Heart Will Go On." Oh, yes, there was that other potential controversy, the one that someone dubbed, "Saving Pariah Kazan." But they need not have worried. In a record-setting marathon night that featured many costume changes, the film industry wound up doing a fairly convincing impersonation of a class act.

With:
Host: Whoopi Goldberg Presenters: Val Kilmer, Andy Garcia, Liam Neeson, John Travolta, Sophia Loren, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liv Tyler, Nicolas Cage, Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, Kevin Costner, Uma Thurman, Robert DeNiro, Annette Bening, Anne Heche, Jennifer Lopez, Goldie Hawn, Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Kim Basinger, Denzel Washington, Helen Hunt, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams. Performers: Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Peter Gabriel, Randy Newman. Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Allison Moorer.

The scenario that many feared inevitable did not materialize Sunday night at the 71st Annual Academy Awards: To the relief of many — and for the first time in recent memory — Celine Dion did not sing “My Heart Will Go On.” Oh, yes, there was that other potential controversy, the one that someone dubbed, “Saving Pariah Kazan.” But they need not have worried. In a record-setting marathon night that featured many costume changes, the film industry wound up doing a fairly convincing impersonation of a class act.

The unrepentant Elia Kazan gave a brief, heartfelt acceptance speech, complete with embraces of presenters Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro that concluded with, “I think I can just slip away. (Then turning away from the microphone, he added, “Do I need to say any more?”)

It was, perhaps, foolish to believe that Kazan was going to get booed off the stage by those protesting his naming of names before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.

On TV anyway, the reaction of the crowd at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion seemed downright genteel. Roughly half the audience seemed to give Kazan a standing ovation, and only a few, notably Nick Nolte, Ed Harris and Amy Madigan, stared stoically ahead, arms folded, disgusted for all they were worth. (Many, including Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw, applauded from their seats.)

So much for upstaging the Oscars.

At worst, the presentation was awkward; at best, muted and anticlimactic. The Kazan segment took up only about five minutes during a typically ponderous telecast that at times threatened to honor every film industry legend who has ever fallen ill. Frank Sinatra, Stanley Kubrick, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers all got tribute montages. It all grew pretty wearisome as things moved into hour four. And who needed to see John Glenn introducing a segment devoted to film biographies?

For a change, though, let’s not blame Whoopi Goldberg. In her fourth Oscar hosting gig, she trotted out — and tried on — enough glittering rags to turn the broadcast into her own “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”-inspired fashion show. She would make nine fullscale outfit changes, appearing onstage in everything from ornate queenly gowns to bird-feathered frocks.

That Whoopi’s outfits grew increasingly annoying as the hour grew long is almost irrelevant. At least she gave it a good try. Indeed, even as Goldberg’s jokes fell flat (“Live from Hollywood — the town that invented lying about sex” … snore), she nonetheless proved a spunky, lively hostess, with a smooth, sparring style and charming way with an ad-lib.

Roberto Benigni also did his best to keep everybody awake after his “Life Is Beautiful” won Oscars for foreign-language film and best actor. Whatever this man is looped on, let’s all get some. He was so pumped and so ebullient — dancing on chairs and hopping up stairs — that he made Robin Williams look like Gloria Stuart. But his enthusiasm was such that it had to send most hearts soaring into space.

Yet there’s clearly some excess baggage to unload when the show rolls past 240 minutes — which is exactly what it would take to sit through a double bill of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Life Is Beautiful.” And the surfeit had nothing to do with reigning in acceptance speeches. Gwyneth Paltrow is still thanking her butcher and her accountant, but it’s such a heartfelt utterance that it deserves to roll as long as it must.

On the other hand, what was with that wacky interpretive dance thing honoring the dramatic score nominees? A “Saving Private Ryan” tap dance? It brings fresh new meaning to the term “War is hell.” And what exactly was Val Kilmer doing leading a horse around the stage? You don’t see us driving a car on the horse trails, do you?

Next year, Gilbert Cates and company might just bag some of the earnest-but-leaden tributes and leave the focus where it belongs — on the winners.

Popular on Variety

The 71st Annual Academy Awards

ABC; Sun. March 21, 5:30-9:32 p.m.

Production: Broadcast live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Producer, Gilbert Cates; associate producer, Michael B. Seligman; director, Louis J. Horvitz; writers, Rita Cash, Hal Kanter, Buzz Kohan, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Macks, Billy Martin, Bruce Vilanch

Cast: Host: Whoopi Goldberg Presenters: Val Kilmer, Andy Garcia, Liam Neeson, John Travolta, Sophia Loren, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liv Tyler, Nicolas Cage, Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, Kevin Costner, Uma Thurman, Robert DeNiro, Annette Bening, Anne Heche, Jennifer Lopez, Goldie Hawn, Jack Nicholson, Steve Martin, Chris Rock, Kim Basinger, Denzel Washington, Helen Hunt, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams. Performers: Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, Peter Gabriel, Randy Newman. Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Allison Moorer.Production designer, Roy Christopher; music director, Bill Conti; choreographer, Debbie Allen; costume designer, Ray Aghayan ; lighting, Robert Dickinson; fashion coordinator, Fred Hayman. Running time: 4 HOURS, 2 MIN.

More TV

  • Screen writer Beau WillimonMary Queen of

    Beau Willimon Re-Elected as President of Writers Guild of America East

    Beau Willimon, the playwright and showrunner who launched Netflix’s “House of Cards,” has been re-elected without opposition to a two-year term as president of the Writers Guild of America East. Willimon also ran unopposed in 2017 to succeed Michael Winship. Kathy McGee was elected to the vice president slot over Phil Pilato. Secretary-treasurer Bob Schneider [...]

  • Dickinson First Look Teaser

    TV News: Apple Drops New 'Dickinson' Trailer With Hailee Steinfeld (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Apple TV Plus’ “Dickinson” series released a new trailer and Netflix released the trailer for the fifth season of “Peaky Blinders.” DATES The “Cash Cab” revival will come to Bravo on Oct. 7. The game show takes place inside a New York cab, where unsuspecting passengers become contestants in a game of [...]

  • Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team

    Jennie Snyder Urman, Katie Wech Team for Medical Drama in Development at CBS

    CBS is developing a medical drama that hails from writer Katie Wech, Variety has learned. Currently titled “Good Sam,” the series follows a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma. When he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Will Gluck

    Will Gluck Sets TV Overall Deal at eOne (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Gluck has signed a two-year overall television deal with Entertainment One (eOne), Variety has learned exclusively. Under the deal, Richard Schwartz will continue to oversee all television projects for Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment, with eOne set to serve as studio on all projects under the partnership. “The choice for us was clear given their impeccable [...]

  • Katie Hockmeyer

    NBC Entertainment Names Katie Hockmeyer Exec VP of Late Night Programming

    Katie Hockmeyer has been named executive vice president of late night programming at NBC Entertainment She will report to NBC Entertainment co-chairmen George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy, where she will work on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” “Saturday Night Live” and newly launched late-night addition, “A Little Late with [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content