brucekluger.com

    The Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2001

    Commentary
    Now, a Preview of Coming Attractions

    By Bruce Kluger


    Each year, the Academy Awards ceremony is
    remembered not so much for those who walk away
    with Oscars during the three-hours-plus telecast
    but instead for the unexpected gaffes,
    controversies and spectacles that inevitably arise
    when thousands of show business types gather in
    one place. Why should this year be any different?

    8:45 p.m.: Outside the Los Angeles Shrine
    Auditorium, the crowd is stunned by the unexpected
    arrival of Native American Sacheen Littlefeather,
    marking her first return to the ceremony since
    1973, when she turned down the Best Actor Oscar
    on behalf of Marlon Brando, who objected to the
    way American Indians are depicted by Hollywood
    filmmakers. At the entrance to the Shrine, reporters
    for the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com and
    American Film magazine are elbowed aside by
    E! Entertainment Television correspondent Joan Rivers, who asks Ms. Littlefeather:
    "Who designed your moccasins?"

    9:01 p.m.: Host Steve Martin commences his opening monologue. Backstage,
    producer Gil Cates announces that the program is already running long and
    decides to cut Debbie Allen's planned choreographed tribute to the films of the late
    Werner Klemperer.

    9:17 p.m.: The first Oscar is awarded to Benicio Del Toro for his supporting role in
    Steven Soderbergh's Traffic. Del Toro thanks the audience, returns to his dressing
    room and, not much of an awards enthusiast, puts the statuette up for sale on
    eBay. Within seconds, a winning bid is placed by actress Marisa Tomei, who
    triumphantly tells the gathered media, "See, I told you I could get another one...."

    9:31 p.m.: After presenting the Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing, 1999 Best
    Actor-winner Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful) leaves the stage by pole-vaulting
    over the audience into the mezzanine, inadvertently leaving unsightly scuff marks
    on the white-maned head of Motion Picture Association of America President Jack
    Valenti. The Italian Embassy immediately issues an apology.

    9:44 p.m.: Members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals begin picketing
    outside the Shrine to protest the "recklessly inaccurate number of black spots"
    adorning the canines in Disney's 102 Dalmatians. Also objectionable to PETA: the
    photographing of real dolphins for the Oscar-nominated documentary Dolphins and
    the "deliberate use" of two animal namesone real, one mythicalin the film title
    Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

    10:00 p.m.: Precisely one hour into the program, comedian Billy Crystal gallops
    onto the Shrine stage atop a white horse. Informed that he is not, in fact, hosting
    this year's ceremony, Crystal returns home in a huff to resume work on his
    screenplay for City Slickers, Part III. He is joined there by pal Robin Williams, who
    continues to boycott the Academy for its snub of his performance in the 1998
    cancer-ward comedy Patch Adams.

    10:28 p.m.: Oscar-nominee Steve Kloves, who wrote the screenplay for the $35-
    million sleeper Wonder Boys, is arrested for vagrancy outside the Shrine, where he
    is attempting to scalp his complimentary ticket for the price of a hot meal.

    11:04 p.m.: The presentation of the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award to producer
    Dino De Laurentiis is momentarily interrupted by a female streaker, hoping to re-
    create the infamous nude dash by a 33- year-old Californian at the 1974 ceremony.
    The young woman, however, goes largely unnoticed by audience members, who
    assume she is actress Jennifer Lopez wearing her latest Versace number.

    11:46 p.m.: To the surprise of many, dashing Australian screen star Russell Crowe
    wins the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. In
    keeping with recent Oscar tradition, Crowe is in the ladies powder room when his
    name is called.

    11:55 p.m.: In a stunning upset, the Best Picture Oscar is presented to Lasse
    Hallstrom's romantic comedy Chocolat. Accepting the award, Miramax Films founder
    Harvey Weinstein borrows from Oscar acceptance speeches of the past, embracing
    his statuette and tearfully announcing to the crowd, "You like me! You really like
    me!" Without pause, the audience responds, en masse: "No, Harvey, we really
    don't."