|Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences photo|
|The Oscar nominees at the annual awards lunch. (Click on the image above to enlarge the photo.)|
I’ve been staring at the official class photo for this year’s Oscar nominees, looking for clues, signs and loopholes. Okay, I’m really just gawking.
It’s the photo from the annual lunch hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to instruct nominees in how to conduct themselves on Oscar night. To sum up: be brief, and don’t thank every member of your family and the guy who does your dry cleaning.
The lunch Monday at The Beverly Hilton attracted a record 140 Oscar aspirants, not all of whom sat for the photo, which may indicate just how competitive the race is this year. Few people want to pass up a chance to put their faces in front of Academy voters, who have their final ballots in hand.
Especially not Paul Haggis of London, Ont., nominated for Best Original Screenplay for Letters From Iwo Jima, who plunked himself on a chair practically dead centre for the shot, right in front of the giant Oscar statue and right next to Best Actress nominee Penelope Cruz (Volver). How very un-Canadian of Haggis to exalt himself like this, especially since Letters director Clint Eastwood modestly takes a fourth-row standing off to the side.
And Eastwood looks like a glory hog when compared to the humble Steven Spielberg, who stands way in the back row.
But you could argue that as the director of Crash, last year’s Best Picture winner, Haggis deserves pride of place.
He’s enjoying himself almost as much as Best Actor nominee Peter O’Toole (Venus), who has his arms around Cruz and Sherry Lansing, the former head of Paramount Studios and this year’s recipient of the Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
And both Haggis and O’Toole are obviously having a better time than Best Supporting Actor nominee Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls), third row, who looks annoyed, guilty, bored or frightened. Perhaps all of the above.
There’s Best Actress nominee Helen Mirren (The Queen), looking regally sexy in the front row. But where are her chief rivals, Meryl Streep and Judi Dench? Are they filming? Too busy to eat lunch?
Finally, I can’t believe how many men wore jeans to this event, including the guy in the third row, extreme right, who is also rocking a brand new pair of white running shoes. Was he planning to sprint after lunch to work off the calories?
This is Hollywood, guys! Would it kill you to dress up?
OSCAR THE GROUCH: I wish I could summon up the ghost of John Wayne to storm over to Academy headquarters on behalf of Sasha Stone, the webmaster of the popular site Oscarwatch.com.
I would have Wayne’s spirit march up to Sid Ganis, the president of the Academy, look him in the eye and say, “The next person to bother this little lady is gonna answer to me!” (Read aloud with your best John Wayne impersonation.)
After seven years of allowing Stone to generate free publicity and much good will for the Oscars, the Academy has suddenly decided she’s competition for its official www.oscar.com site.
It has sent Stone one of those cease-and-desist letters demanding she change the name of Oscarwatch.com, since Oscar is a registered trademark. (I wonder what Oscar Mayer, Oscar de la Renta and Oscar the Grouch have to say about this.)
It claims she has no right to use the name Oscar and her site “is likely to confuse visitors searching the Academy’s site.” Yeah, right.
Stone is not sure what she’s going to do. She’s just the mom of a young daughter, who runs Oscarwatch.com out of her home. She earns a measly $20,000 per year for the few ads she runs on her site. She doesn’t has the deep pockets it would require to take on the Academy and its lawyers, who obviously have far too much time on their hands.
It seems to me that the Academy has bigger worries than a website that maintains year-round interest in its most important event. Shouldn’t it be figuring out how to keep movie fans from switching off the Oscars, rather than having the Oscars switch off movie fans?