Actors have never been more annoying. The James Lipton*ization of their overpaid, cheesy profession has unleashed hitherto unimaginable levels of self-importance. Every time I turn on Entertainment Tonight , I am confronted by a thespian blathering on about his or her “instrument” or “body of work” while soaking up compliments on their “interesting choices.” Even the fluffy Golden Globes have been infected with embarrassing faux-gravitas. “Courage” was the buzzword at the Hilton back in January. Puh-leeeeze ! I’m sure it takes oodles of courage to drive in from Malibu to the set every day and say the lines that somebody else has struggled to write. At one particularly cringe-making juncture, Rachel Griffiths from Six Feet Under actually thanked her director for “having the courage to let the river run through me.” Girls! We want to know about your shoplifting techniques and about the time you trashed your hotel room. We don’t want to study your oeuvre .
Interestingly, Aussie Rachel, with her freaky shredded frock and jellyfish hairdo, didn’t really look so hot. Could there, I mused, be a correlation between bad style and the nouveau actorish self-importance? The only way to test this theory was to watch the 74th Academy Awards, see how the actors had elected to enrobe their “instruments,” and cross-reference it with their acceptance-speech drivel.
As the actors accumulated on the red carpet, a theme quickly emerged-or should I say a pair of themes? Yes! BOOBIES ARE BACK! But not in a crude way: This season’s Oscar rack is a statuesque dŽcolletŽ. And why not? A classically pushed-up bosom is a tried and true way to flaunt yourself, get your picture taken and still look like a classy broad. Uma Thurman brimmed over her Gaultier like a 19th-century opera singer; a suspiciously trim Sharon Stone showed off her assets in a black, backless Versace. Helen Hunt-who wisely elected to come as Cameron Diaz instead of her less charismatic self-wore a flirty nipple-proffering black lace-up number by Gucci. The fashion Tit-anic of the evening? Gwyneth Paltrow sank in a nipple-scrunching frock by the normally great Christian Lacroix. It looked as if her boobs had been removed, allowed to dry and then ruched back onto the front of her body.
The other big theme of the night? The dirt-bag coiffure. Lazy, overpaid hairdressers have propagated this trend, and why wouldn’t they? They get paid the same whopping fees, and they’re done in half the time. Clients are embracing these beachy, dŽgagŽ styles on the grounds that they are younger and less prissy than the upswept tunnel curls and chignons of yore. This is true … but only if you are young (e.g., Kirsten Dunst). If you’re no longer in the first flush of youth (Julia, sorry!), your funky dreads will become a vicious reminder of temps perdu .
Now, the men. Manhattanites who inhabit “the dance belt” (that magical neighborhood favored by theatrical folk in the West 40′s) know that, left to their own devices, actors favor a bad jean, a hideous promotional blouson and a tragic sneaker/topsider worn with a white sock. Thank God they all have stylists! A simple, pleasing, Prada-ish neatness was favored by most male Oscar attendees (e.g., Toby Maguire, Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller). Baz Luhrmann wore a silver satin tie to match his hair; it’s an old trick, but it totally works. The only discernible trend was the knee-length tux: Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson were big-pimpin’ in Ozwald Boateng and Armani, respectively. Russell Crowe also wore a knee-length jacket (Armani), but with his grumpy carb face-why does everyone think he’s so cute?-he looked more Charles Laughton than Superfly.”
The awards began and, right off the bat, it looked as if my style/self-importance hypothesis would be a slam dunk. “By some beautiful twist of fate I’ve landed in this vocation that demands that I feel,” bleated a humor-impaired Jennifer Connelly as she clutched her Oscar for best supporting actress. Yes, the beautiful Ms. Connelly, drearily attired in an unflattering Balenciaga beige burlap bustier dress, was living proof that pomposity and problematic personal style might well go hand-in-hand. She also proved that ultra-groovy high fashion is utterly irrelevant on Oscar night. Interestingly, Armani, who has long since lost favor with the fashion cognoscenti, scored a bumper number of celeb hits: e.g., Jodie, Helen (Mirren), Julia.
Then it all started to go wrong. First, sincere and blokey Brit Jim Broadbent won for best supporting actor. His endearingly unpretentious acceptance speech began with the antiquated working-class phrase “stone the crows,” which, F.Y.I., translates to “you could have knocked me down with a feather.” He didn’t mention his instrument-not once! My hypothesis was unraveling quicker than Thoth’s deranged twirling. (Didn’t you love Thoth? I thought he was jutht thmashing.)
Then the African-American landslide happened-Sidney, Halle and then Denzel-and my snarky survey went right out the window. Strange, when Sidney Poitier used the word “courage,” it seemed to have just a tidgy bit more meaning than when the undertaker’s girlfriend was tossing it around back at the Golden Globes.
A tidal wave of genuine sincerity engulfed the new Kodak Theatre and filled my living room, warming my heart, but also making me glad that I had packed in a few chuckles with Joan Rivers earlier in the evening. Ms. Rivers, whose anarchic sense of humor reached an all-time anti-Lipton high during her E! red-carpet coverage, managed to bust through several celeb taboos, including incontinence. “Liza and David Gest are planning to adopt,” shrieked Joan from behind a chic little pair of pink sunglasses. “They’re adopting Ann Miller and Esther Williams-both of whom are back in diapers.” On the subject of Rosie’s gay declaration, Ms. Rivers had this to say: “Her girlfriend left her last week after she came out of the closet. She had no idea she was gay-she thought she just liked to cuddle upside-down.”
Re Rosie: Gorgeous Halle gets major props as the first black chick to win the best-actress Oscar, but it takes major guts to announce to the world, as Rosie recently did, that you’re a big dyke-albeit of the more palatable caring-mother-who-happens-to-be-gay variety. The good news for Rosie is that nobody really seems unduly freaked-out or remotely surprised. On the Richter scale of public reaction, Rosie’s proclivities are registering a big fat “Whatever!” Rosie, I think it’s quite possible that everyone already knew. I mean, if you weren’t a lesbian, who was? It’s sort of like when Liberace came out. No offense!
Courageous gals like Rosie make me very suspicious of obviously gay Oscar attendees-we all know who you are-who remain in the closet. What sordidness can they possibly be hiding? I suppose it’s really rather quaint: They’re protecting us from their torrid inclinations.
Thanks for nothing-and good luck, Rosie!