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Bad Hair Night

March 26, 2002

The Academy Awards ceremony this year proved one thing beyond any doubt. If there’s anything a Hollywood actress should fear more than a crazed stalker, it’s a fashion designer.

Gwyneth Paltrow is usually a vision of elegance. But Sunday night she turned up in a dress no hippie chick, circa 1969, would have been caught dead wearing. Several of her colleagues also boasted outfits they might have picked up in Haight-Ashbury thrift shops. Honors for bad hair were shared by Cameron Diaz and Russell Crowe.

But none of them could erase the memory of the get-up Cher wore to the ceremony a few years ago. It made her look like one of the critters Sigourney Weaver used to fight in outer space.

And these outfits don’t come cheap. They are the work of some of the most high-priced designers in the business. They remind me of the art collection of a rich man I once knew. The walls of his mansion were adorned with costly paintings that — well, I won’t say they could have been the finger-paintings of a chimpanzee, because I might irritate the animal-rights crowd, and they’d have a point.

I certainly don’t mean to insult our simian friends, but you could easily get the impression that they’ve now taken over the world of high fashion, possibly for the vindictive purpose of making humans look goofy. If indeed chimps design these dresses, we should be seriously asking ourselves if there’s a reason they don’t wear them themselves. Probably they have too much self-respect.

Why do I watch the Oscars? Well, I like to tell myself that I don’t really watch them; [Breaker quote: Beautiful people, ugly fashions]I just have the show on in the background so I can glance at it while I’m doing something intellectually challenging, like a crossword puzzle.

Then there are the acceptance speeches. When Halle Berry accepted her Best Actress Oscar, she broke the record for sheer, uninhibited silliness. Rather impressive, in a way, when you consider that the old record was set by Laurence Olivier in a ramble of pseudo-Shakespearean senility. We shall not look upon his like again, I hope to God. Anyway, Miss Berry’s record should be safe for the foreseeable future, unless they give the Three Stooges a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The awards don’t usually go to the best films or acting performances of the year, but to sentimental favorites. Often the best are nominated, but they lose in the final vote to a movie of liberal uplift, or to an aging actor who is felt to be overdue for some honor, or to members of minority groups.

Case in point: Julia Roberts, last year’s Best Actress for Erin Brokovich. I recently caught up with the movie on video, and she was embarrassingly bad. Like so many American women, she is great-looking but has a raucous voice worthy of the Weird Sisters in Macbeth. And the louder she gets, the more forced and phony she sounds. But she was playing a feisty, foul-mouthed single mom who takes on a corrupt corporation all by herself, so the Academy loved her.

This year I don’t think I saw more than a half-dozen of the movies that were nominated for anything, and some of those I did see were animated films I took my grandchildren to. When I do go, I like to get there in time to see the previews, so I can get a taste of the current fare without having to sit through the stuff. With most movies, a couple of minutes is all you really need to see in order to judge them. If only I’d seen a preview of The Lord of the Rings! I’d have missed a few great special effects, but I’d have been spared three hours of thunderous tedium.

In the same way, the Oscars show gives you film clips of the year’s hot stuff. It’s welcome reassurance that you aren’t missing much by staying home and watching Errol Flynn on cable.

Some good movies are still being made. If it were up to me, the Best Picture award would almost automatically go, every year, to the Coen brothers’ latest. Naturally, when they did get the Best Picture award, it was for one of their lesser achievements, Fargo. But then, their own movies don’t exactly encourage the assumption that life is fair.

Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2002 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
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