Oscar Wrap 2006
“Crash” Crashes Brokeback Mountain’s Coming-Out Party, While Rude Gangsta Rappers Pimp Out Oscar
By: Kam Williams
The 78th Annual Academy Awards were presented at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood on a fairly uneventful evening which unfolded, in terms of winners, pretty much as expected, at least by this critic who correctly forecast the results in 11 of the 13 major categories. The only major surprise came at the very end of the festivities when Crash ruined Brokeback Mountain’s coming out party by taking the Oscar for Best Picture.
In truth, this triumph was just a mild upset, since Crash was a far more engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking film in the first place. Plus, the gay-themed Brokeback had suffered from a very vocal homophobic backlash in the wake of its early success at the Golden Globes and elsewhere on the awards circuit. Yet, with Crash, Brokeback, King Kong and Memoirs of a Geisha garnering three Academy Awards each, it ’s hard to say whether any movie really walked away as a clear-cut winner. Crash may have been picked as the best flick, but Brokeback’s Ang Lee was chosen as the Best Director.
And neither picture landed any of the coveted acting honors. In fact, the Academy hadn ’t even nominated Terrence Howard, Thandie Newton or Sandra Bullock, despite their delivering career performances in Crash. Instead, it deemed Howard more deserving for his outing as a pimp in “Hustle & Flow,” a film which, quite curiously, ended up earning its only Oscar for Best Song, a misogynistic melody by Three 6 Mafia entitled, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.”
The Memphis-based group made history on stage even before landing the Oscar, because they were the first gangsta’ rappers ever to perform at the Academy Awards. Band members Jordan “Juicy J” Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul “DJ Paul” Beauregard had to be bleeped during the song, despite previously promising not to use any foul language. In case the network censors’ interference prevented you from enjoying the “flow” of the expletive-laced lyrics, some of the lines you might have missed went like this: “A whole lot of [b-word]es talking [s-word],” and “It’s [f-word]ed-up where I live, but that’s just how it is, “ and “[N-words] hating on me cause I got hoes.” Charming, I’ve been wrong before, but I’d guess (and hope) that this offensive ghetto anthem is unlikely to join the ranks of Oscar-winning best songs like “Over the Rainbow,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “When You Wish upon a Star,” “White Christmas,” “Moon River,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “The Way We Were,” “Flashdance,” “My Heart Will Go On,” and so many other memorable classics which made the jump from the screen into the country’s cultural fabric.
Inappropriately attired for the black-tie event, trendsetters Three 6 Mafia still stole the show, sporting sweatsuits, sneakers, sunglasses, t-shirts, baseball caps, diamond-studded teeth plus plenty of bling. They had to be bleeped again during their euphoric acceptance speech which established the trash-talking trio as clearly the most animated and most grateful of the Oscar recipients. After they left the stage, host Jon Stewart remarked, “I think it just got a little easier for a pimp,” before asking, “How come they’re the most excited people here tonight?” But the caustic comedian, himself, undoubtedly deserved a share of the blame for the affair’s absence of energy, since the late-night comic failed to show much evidence of the acerbic, politically-tinged wit everyone expected of him. Instead, the Oscars featured a parade of homosexual humor, starting with an opening featuring former hosts Billy Crystal and Chris Rock sharing a tent, ala Brokeback. That sequence culminated with Stewart in bed dreaming of sleeping with Halle Berry but waking up in the arms of George Clooney, another gay panic joke. Later, presenters Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell came out in heavy make-up and flirted with each other in another gender-bending bit that flopped. Almost as flat was Stewart’s comment that the movie Capote, “showed America that not all gay people are virile cowboys. Some are effete New York intellectuals.”
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Stewart also seemed comfortable with self-deprecating humor, whether poking fun at his own acting career (marked by flops like Death to Smoochy) or at his and others being Jewish. For instance, after Ben Stiller cavorted across the stage in a form-fitting, lime-green leotard in a skit about special effects which bombed, Jon pointed out that this was “proof that he was Jewish,” implying that the outfit was tight enough to tell that genital Ben was circumcised.
Additional Borscht Belt shtick focused on spinning the Hannukah dreidle and on the idea that Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Munich were the first two installments of a presumably-depressing Jewish trilogy. Who knows why the TV special’s scriptwriters decided to avoid controversy, opting for inscrutable ethnic and sexual preference asides over Stewart’s supposed strong suit, namely, hot button political issues?
Other than a convoluted quip about Bjork not being able to attend the Oscars because Dick Cheney had shot her, the material was decidedly tame, and not really left-leaning. To the contrary, Stewart tended to make light of Hollywood’s liberal tendencies.
Personally, I found the most infuriating aspect of this year’s Academy Awards to be the live orchestra’s playing during all the acceptance speeches (except for that of Lifetime Achievement-winner Robert Altman). Not only did this repeated distraction make it hard to hear the honorees, but it appeared to be preventing them from organizing their thoughts as they attempted to speak.
As a result, Three 6 Mafia easily made the most memorable mark of the evening, which means the 78th Annual Academy Awards will undoubtedly go down in history as the night the Oscars were pimped-out by gangsta’ rap.
Complete List of the Winners
Best Picture: "Crash"
Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
Supporting Actor: George Clooney, "Syriana"
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Director: Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Foreign Film: "Tsotsi," South Africa
Adapted Screenplay: Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"
Original Screenplay: Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Animated Feature Film: "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"
Art Direction: "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Cinematography: "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Sound Mixing: "King Kong"
Sound Editing: "King Kong"
Original Score: "Brokeback Mountain," Gustavo Santaolalla.
Original Song: "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle & Flow," Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard
Costume: "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Documentary Feature: "March of the Penguins"
Documentary (short subject): "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin"
Film Editing: "Crash"
Makeup: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
Animated Short Film: "The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation"
Live Action Short Film: "Six Shooter"
Visual Effects: "King Kong"
Honorary Academy Award: Robert Altman
The Gordon E. Sawyer Award for technical achievement: Gary Demos