Oscar Party Crashers

Host Jon Stewart, Oscar honoree Robert Altman, and Best Supporting Actor George Clooney.Photo: Globe Images

Dear Lynda,
Dateline: New York City (The Spotted Pig), March 6, 2006 at 12:30am

Holy fucking shit.

See, I had written my lead and have just had to consign it to the trash. I wrote something like, “Dewy Defeats Truman.” No, it was more like, “Wow: The best opening half hour of any Oscar ceremony EVER—the funniest monologue, the best clips—and then three hours of SNOOZEVILLE. And God, how right can one be? SNORE. We predicted everything. It was as if it were predestined. How can two people be so right? We rule, Lynda, know what I’m saying? We fucking rule!”

And then… the Best Picture award. And it took that incredible upset to show us how close everything we took for granted was.

And you, Lynda, were correct in that there was a shockeroonie. Maybe it came later than you thought, but you divined it from your parties. Brokeback fell short. In two seconds, James Schamus saw his third house evaporate… and the idiotarian Right said, “Yes! Hollywood rejects homos!” Well, it awarded Ang Lee and Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney and Rachel Weisz as an enemy of Big Pharma… And if Crash targets limousine liberals, it’s only because it understands that limousine reactionaries are beyond redemption.

Speaking of limousines, it was groovy here in New York at the New York party at the Spotted Pig. I didn’t have the guts to introduce myself to Famke Janssen because she was too tall, but I did meet all kinds of cool New York celebs. Well, Malcolm Gladwell turned and walked the other way, but Andy Borowitz agreed with me that Jon Stewart killed. I heard a few people mutter he was too New York Jewish, but this New York Jew thought he was brilliant, and brilliant in an un-Catskills-esque way. Stewart has a straight man’s modesty: He doesn’t act as if he expects you to laugh. (He’s the anti-Dennis Miller.) The only thing that saddened me was that he had so little presence once the monologue ended. He became a bystander.

Robert Altman is, as I said, my favorite director, and he didn’t let me down. In fact, he surprised me by how passionate he was. It just goes to show that you judge a man by his work, not by how he acts when you meet him. (Altman is kind of a jerk in the flesh.)

I was sitting with Brooke Gladstone, the fabulous host of NPR’s “On the Media,” and I said, “You know, anytime a Japanese picture gets nominated for an Oscar in the costume or production-design categories, it wins…” And she said, “It’s like Holocaust movies in the design categories,” and I said, “Can I use that?” and she said, “Please. Take credit for it yourself,” and I said, “Hell, no, I don’t want that mail,” and she said, “Well, you can’t quote me,” and I said, “The big ethical press issues of the day are plagiarism—taking credit for stuff you didn’t think of…” So, sorry, Brooke.

Clooney was a class act. Reese looked like a dingbat, but who cares? Philip Seymour Hoffman shaved.

I would say more, but what I wrote in my notebook looks like Hebrew.

Whose bright idea was it to put music under the acceptance speeches—the president of Otis Elevators?



Next: Lynda Obst with the reaction from L.A.

Best Actress winner Reese Witherspoon and scene from Best Picture Crash.

Dear David,
Dateline: Los Angeles, March 6, 2006 at 1:30am

So I get to do the sociology this time and you the party? Finally!

The whimsy of Oscar was at work again, and just when it seemed like sleepy-time—that all the favorites were going to walk home with their awards—just then Crash stole the statue away from Brokeback, and my jaw fell as the litigious producer and her twice-Oscar-winning writer-director jumped out of their seats and everyone gasped in unison.

What accounts for this? I have no idea, of course, so I will conjecture wildly. Was it the Old Academy? The alter cockers who would never get through the longish beginning on the screeners? The motion-picture home generation backlash? Or some hetero male thing, those guys we all know who just didn’t want to see Brokeback and were finally dragged kicking and screaming? Was it the newer generation? Was it racial politics? (I doubt it.) Or was Crash the better movie, as many people are saying—for the first time—freely tonight, or the bigger issue in their lives, or the bigger issue in L.A. or in America in 2006?

This city is deeply scarred by its racial history, from the Watts riots to Rodney King’s cry of “Can’t we all just get along?” (The truth is, we haven’t.) Only in Los Angeles would Matt Dillon’s portrayal of a psycho racist cop feel utterly credible. The ethnic factions live in isolated islands unique to this geography, and in Crash they converged. People found themselves in it, and it moved them.

I had a conversation this week with a very smart screenwriter and her director husband, about Crash, which they liked a lot, though they were rooting for Brokeback, as they had a family member in it. We were discussing why Angelenos see the larger-than-life Crash differently from our brethren in N.Y. They answered that it’s because both L.A. and the movie have something false—architectural and mythic—about them. I think they nailed it. This movie seized this city from the beginning in a singular almost grassroots way. In the same way, it seems to have beat the extraordinary campaign waged for the exquisite Brokeback and become a movie vox populi.

Crash crashed the Brokeback party tonight by crashing through the very stereotypes the movie portrayed. That was the gift of its actors, I think, who made what could have been didactic come alive, in a city that has been deadened by traffic and despair. I think that is why it is perceived so differently here. I hope now that it has won its beauty contest its message transcends its roots and travels. I hear the French loved it. But, honestly, what do they know?

With love, David, from freezing Southern California, and of course, good night and good luck,

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