I’m jet lagged. I spent the night in L.A. yesterday and the body’s schedule is not yet in synch with the clock ticking on my bedside table.
Every year come mid winter, hordes of movie buffs, cinephiles and fans gather in séance-like covens to worship the Academy of Motion Picture’s viril statuette and its artist, thespian and author recipients. Here in the Old World - 9 hours ahead of Hollywood - we like to party hard and late to watch the Oscars through dawn. Buffet style snacks, loads of chocolate, pretzels & chips, espresso and gallons of booze accompany us through the wee hours and the overly long acceptance speeches of the less interesting categories. Bets and prognostications, theme dress-up (it is Carnevale after all) and convivial merry make the 6 hour-long Notte degli Oscar an annual must.
My virtual flight of fantasy landed early on the Kodak Theater’s red carpet, as ushers were still buffing the brass velvet rope holders, cameramen tweaking their equipment and florists busily assembling the last colorful arrangements. As the celebs and their limos began spilling onto Hollywood Boulevard, I dwelled – my stiletto heels burrowing into the soles of my feet – brushing gowns with Nathalie Portman, Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. I winked at Robert Downey Jr and socked Mickey Rourke in his granite shoulder. I tried hard to chase after Sean Penn, but that slender wife of his kept bouncing me off. Once I finally filed into the Oscar shrine, I managed to get front row seats and followed the event’s succession of surprise presenters and acceptance speeches through the night.
The first celebrity to grasp Uncle O’s statuette was the sexy guapa Penelope Cruz who claimed she just might faint. The documentary winner "Man on Wire" was the first Oscar acceptance speech to include magic tricks, its star Philippe Petit furthermore showed his gratitude by balancing the Oscar on his chin. The Best Animated Feature Film? The award in this category was picked up by Wall-E and his beloved Eee-vah (yippee!). Dustin Lance Black tried hard to hold it together while accepting his original screenplay award. That’s when I started sniffling. I tend to get quite get emotional at the Oscars.
The most powerful and touching Oscar moment pinnacled as the Hollywood crowd rose to its feet, with several nominees getting teary-eyed, as Heath Ledger’s family stepped up to accept his best supporting trophy for "The Dark Knight." Ledger's father, Kim Ledger, said the award "would have humbly validated Heath's quiet determination to be truly accepted by all you here tonight, his peers within an industry he so loved." Sister Kate Ledger told the audience the honor will go to "your beautiful Matilda," which drenched quite a number of tissues for me. I also was moved by the inspiring "All my life I've had a choice between love and hate. I chose love… and I'm here." A.R. Rahman’s speech, the shy and quiet man who won both best score and best original song for Slumdog Millionaire and clumsily sang on stage between awards.
Sean Penn won for his portrayal as Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's excellent Milk, his speech reflected the recent Proposition 8 issues in California and featured quite a bit of good light-hearted comedy.
Kate Winslet’s out of breath gratitude opened with a humble "I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t made a version of this speech when I was 8 years old staring in the bathroom mirror and this was a shampoo bottle," as The Reader actress told the audience. "Well, it’s not a shampoo bottle now. I feel very fortunate to have made it all the way from there to here."
In one of yesterday's sweetest moments, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle jumped up and down like Tigger the hyper tiger from Winnie the Pooh after winning for best director. Explaining his eccentric behavior, the British filmmaker said he'd told his children that "if this miracle ever happened, I would receive it in the spirit of Tigger." It was a Slumdog Millionaire sweep, the rags to riches story infact held the last smile with the Best Picture win. Steven Spielberg took the stage to announce the winner of the Academy Award for best picture. This was the 8th and the final win for Slumdog in the 81st Oscar Night. The entire cast and crew climbed on the podium to receive the award. And it indeed made me smile as I coasted down from the clouds and landed face down on my bed where E snored quietly.
The early morning school day alarm buzzed me awake at 7:40 am, shattering the coma-like nap I had slipped into just moments before, and erasing all Hollywood glitz. Until next year, that is.