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Backstage Oscars Scoop!

After the ceremony, I received a call from a source who attended the show and had lots of scoop to share. Here’s our conversation: [She also took the photo below]

PCN: Spill! Tell me your favorite moments.

A: I’m so overwhelmed that the Slumdog kids won, and by the grand symbolism of the acting awards, just the way the new winners were welcomed into the club by previous winners, some who are legends. That feeling must have been like, Wow.

PCN: That was really cool how they had 5 winners come out for each acting award. I gasped when Eva Marie Saint came out to present Best Supporting Actress.

A: Me, too! I actually walked up to her and told her how starstruck I was by her. She won an Oscar for On the Waterfront

PCN: Who else were you starstruck by?

A: Sophia Loren. They just don’t make ’em like her anymore.  And Daniel Craig. He usually looks kinda weathered on screen but he walked by me a couple times and was very debonair, the epitome of a British gentleman. 

PCN: I need to shove you down the stairs, I’m so envious. I loooove him. Did you ask him if you could take a photo of him holding up a sign saying he loved me back?

A: Yeah, right.

PCN:  OK, let’s go back to the way the acting awards were presented. When the first group of five came out, that was a nice surprise. But then I caught on. I’d seen Kevin Kline walk the red carpet so I thought, “A ha! I’ll bet he’s one of the five presenting Best Supporting Actor!” They also kept cutting to reaction shots of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sir Ben Kingsley so I figured those were two Best Actor presenters right there.

A: That makes me mad! Did they really show them on TV before they presented?

PCN:  Yes. In closeups. 

A: That makes me mad, because the coordinators worked so hard to keep everyone a secret by having them not walk the red carpet, going in through the back entrance, seated far away from the front row. Joel Grey was practically in the mezzanine so that you couldn’t see him. That’s really sh*tty that you could see them from home before we could reveal them.

PCN:  Well, I never saw Christopher Walken or Robert DeNiro so those were nice surprises for me. Speaking of being seated far from the front row, where were all those adorable little Slumdog babies placed?

A: In the mezzanine. But that’s standard for non-nominated cast members who are in nominated films.

PCN:  What were they like?

A: I don’t even know how to describe them. It’s very touching because it’s been such a long road for them to be at the show. The Oscars, for me, were heightened by the joy they exuded. I’ve never been as excited for a bunch of people I don’t know to win an award as I was for these children. They were glowing, on top of the world, overjoyed. It was pure. And the littlest Salim [Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail] was asked to carry the Oscar all night. It was so cute.

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PCN:  All right, I have to ask because people want to know. Was someone assigned to keep Brad & Angelina and Jennifer Aniston apart?

A: Not that I know of, but there was a close call. Brad and Angelina had left during a commercial break. They went out to the lobby, they were just hanging out, having wine when Jennifer came walking towards them from the other direction. People gasped and freaked out, “Oh no! What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen?!” But then Jennifer just turned and went backstage before she got to them. I don’t know if she saw them or someone warned her but she was only a few feet away from them.

PCN:  It probably would’ve been okay. I think the whole Jen vs. Angie thing is stupid. They probably all moved on years ago.

A: Jennifer was a social butterfly. She was very cute. At one point, when she was coming out of the bathroom, she saw Sophia Loren and was like, “Hi!” but then her dress got caught in the bathroom door. She was, like, “This is not a good time for my dress to be caught in the door.” It was a very Rachel moment. 

At another moment, my jaw just dropped because in this one small room, Jennifer, Reese Witherspoon, Sophia Loren, Halle Berry, Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman were all getting their makeup done. I just could not handle it. 

PCN: That’s really something. Now, I know things look different on TV so who was best dressed in person? 

A: Miley Cyrus. 

PCN:  What?! Ugh.

A: You don’t like her?

PCN: She kept telling everyone on the red carpet she hopes to be back at the Oscars next year and get something for The Hannah Montana Movie. I mean, Dream on, honey. 

A: That is gross.

PCN: So, who else looked good?

A: Marion Cotillard looked really good. Diane Lane—I love her. Nicole Kidman and Penelope were very “them,” wearing what we normally expect of them so there were no fashion risks. Robert Downey Jr. looked like he did in The Pick-Up Artist [his 1987 comedy with Molly Ringwald].

PCN:  He did look like he aged backwards! How about worst dressed?

A: Shirley MacLaine. What was that?! For males, Mickey Rourke and Adrien Brody. 

PCN:  Adrien Brody could’ve done the Joaquin impersonation with that beard instead of Ben Stiller. 

A: Really.

PCN:  Overall, did everything go as planned?

A: I would say so. I thought it went really well. 

 

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2009 Oscars Fashion Round-Up

There were a lot of beautiful dresses tonight so it’s hard to pick a best. Even the “bad” ones weren’t horrible. But Nerdies need to be given out so here goes:

Best Dressed—Female: (Tie) Anne Hathaway and Marisa Tomei. I usually don’t like “no-color” dresses like beige or silver but these two dresses were magnificent.

Hathaway’s Armani Prive’ looked like a fluid, light-emitting column of tiny mirrors, making Hathaway the fairest of them all.

Actress Anne Hathaway arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

I’d never seen such intricate pleating like on the skirt and train of Tomei’s Versace gown.

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Best Color: Natalie Portman’s pink dress. The color was so soft yet striking in a theater full of neutral colors. Alicia Keys’ dress was of a similar color and style but I liked Portman’s just a little more because it had more interesting tucking and details in the bodice.

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Best Dressed Male: Daniel Craig. He ain’t just Bond on screen. He looked lethal-weapon sharp on the red carpet, too.

Actor Daniel Craig (R) and Satsuki Mitchell arrives at the 81st

Most Improved from Previous Award Shows This Year: Robert Downey Jr. He looked like a bum at the SAG Awards, chewing gum, sporting sneakers and dirty hair. Look at him here. Damn! Somebody got a facial and full makeover.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. and guest arrive at the 81st Annual Acad

Oldest Gown: Penelope Cruz. Her 60-year-old vintage Balmain was older than most people there. It’s held up remarkably well, though, and makes Cruz look like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.

Actress Penelope Cruz arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Best Jewelry: Angelina Jolie. I couldn’t take my eyes off her green dangling earrings and ginormous cocktail ring. I don’t know why she looks so pissed here, though.

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Most Resembling a Bridesmaid Dress: Amanda Seyfried. C’mon, doesn’t this look like it escaped from 27 Dresses?

Actress Amanda Seyfried arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Award

Most Unfortunate Bow Placement: Tilda Swinton. The top half’s draping is pretty, but look where the giant ruffle is on her skirt. Unless you’re Cher circa 1987, you should never wear a gown that calls attention to your crotch to the Oscars.

Actress Tilda Swinton arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards

Most Age-Inappropriate Dress: Sophia Loren. She’s still hot but what’s with all the ruffles? Twenty-four-year-old Freida Pinto may have been able to pull it off but it’s all wrong for Ms. Loren. She should take style lessons from Helen Mirren on how to look sophisticated and hot.

Actress Sophia Loren arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Baggiest Mess: Jessica Biel. She looks like someone draped a towel down the front of her dress. She could hide a couple of the Slumdog kids under there.Actress Jessica Biel arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards h

Who were your favorites? Who looked like they made their own clothes? Discuss!

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81st Academy Awards — "Nerdies" for Best & Worst

Overall, a fun show. I was psyched I got all except two of my predictions right (missed on Best Sound Editing and Best Foreign Film). If you want just a list of winners, click here. Otherwise, read on for my awarding of the Nerdies for the show’s highlights:

hjackman_090222_kwinter_84979541Tackiest Self Promotion: I love Hugh Jackman and he did a fun, energetic job of hosting. I was smiling along as he performed his opening musical medley about nominated films. Sticking his head through the different Benjamin Button holes was game. But then he put on wrestling arm pads and inexplicably ended the number with the declaration: “I am Wolverine!” Huh? What does that have to do with anything? I know his movie is coming out May 1 but this was about last year’s nominated films and the mention was out of place. Wolverine is a Fox movie and ABC is owned by Disney so Jackman can’t even claim corporate pressure for the plug.

Most Blatant Lie: Jackman said to Mickey Rourke in the audience, “You look great.” Rourke had greasy hair and a silver tooth and looked like he hadn’t bathed in a week.

Luckiest First-Time Nominees: Viola Davis and Anne Hathaway. This year, producers had five previous winners from each acting category come out to crown the newest members of their club. Viola Davis had Eva Marie Saint pay tribute to her and Anne Hathaway had Shirley MacLaine gush about her talents. I would’ve soiled my dress if I were them. Hathaway looked as if she could barely contain herself, like a princess living out a fairy tale at Hollywood’s biggest ball.

pcruz-w-oscarBest Use for My High School Spanish: Many years ago, I took Espanol in school, thinking it would come in handy at some point in life. Finally, that moment arrived. When Penelope Cruz won Best Supporting Actress, the last part of her speech was in Spanish. My translating skills are a bit rusty but she said something like: “All the faithful people of Spain are sharing this moment with me right now and feel that this is also theirs, so I dedicate it to them. To all the actors from my country, thank you very much.”

smartin_tfey_090222_kwinter_84979513Funniest Presenting Duo: Steve Martin and Tina Fey, reading from a script as they made their entrance to present Best Original and Adapted Screenplay. Their comedic timing was perfect and they complimented each other well. Fey looked really pretty for a change (from her usual dull brown or black dresses), wearing a glittering silver gown showing off her curves.

Unfunniest Presenters Who Were Supposed to be Funny: Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black. Seriously, did you laugh even once? Angelina Jolie seemed to enjoy Black’s antics, though I suspect there was a different reason they  kept cutting to her and Brad while Black and Aniston were on stage.  

dlblackFirst Tearjerking Speech: Let me preface by saying these award shows never make me cry. I’m usually entertained and excited when my favorites win but cry? Never! Well, Dustin Lance Black changed that when he won for Best Original Screenplay. That adorable boy stood up there (he looked 19!), opened his heart to a billion watchers and spoke with such emotion and sincerity about the obstacles he’s encountered as a gay person that my eyes got wet. When he thanked his mom for loving him “even when there was pressure not to,” I thought, “How can anyone not love this boy?!” The amazing feat is he invoked religion and politics in his speech but managed to avoid grandstanding because he came from such a painful, personal place. Even if you haven’t seen Milk, that speech alone should give you an idea why he won a writing Oscar.

Most Irrelevant Thank You: When the Japanese Kunio Kato won Best Animated Short for La Maison en Petits Cubes, he started out succinctly thanking a bunch of people. It was a laundry list that wasn’t too exciting (granted, his English was limited). But then he ended his speech with, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.” Hilarious. Who knew a cheesy Styx song would be referenced at the Oscars?

dc-sjpBest Advertisement for Makeup Artists: Daniel Craig. The dapper Bond star, who made a rare appearance at an awards show, presented Best Makeup (as well as Art Direction and Costume) with Sarah Jessica Parker. After she said, “We don’t have to tell you what a makeup artist does,” Craig quipped, “Just look at us.” Oh, yes, baby, I was looking at you all right. And drooling.

b-stiller-portmanParody That Came Too Late: Ben Stiller doing Joaquin Phoenix. When Stiller came out with Natalie Portman to present the Best Cinematography award, he sported the Unabomber beard Phoenix wore when he made his puzzling Letterman appearance recently. Stiller proceeded to act confused and incoherent, wandering around the stage. Unfortunately, this would’ve been a lot of funnier if he hadn’t been beaten to the punch by Frank Coraci presenting at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before. Click here to see the much funnier indie version.

phillip-petitBiggest Attention Whore: Phillip Petit, the subject of Best Documentary winner, Man on Wire. In the film, he was already desperate for attention (part of the reason why he walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers in 1974). Tonight, he did a magic trick, making a coin disappear, and balanced the Oscar on his chin, all within seconds at the podium. He did everything he could to keep the camera on him, like Tatiana on American Idol singing everything she could think of during Hollywood week so she wouldn’t be kicked off. 

Best Multi-Tasker: A.R. Rahman. Dude, he came out to sing “O Saya” and “Jai Ho” from Slumdog after he’d just won the Best Score award. That’s like having John Williams come out to sing along to his Star Wars theme. (“Star wars…Nothing but star wars…”)

Second Tearjerking Speech: Wrapping up his Best Song acceptance speech for “Jai Ho,” Rahman said, “All my life I’ve had a choice of hate and love. I chose love and I’m here.” For some reason, that kicked me right in the gut and tears came up. It’s so simple yet profound. Why can’t the rest of the world figure that out?

So, what were the highlights for you? Do you want Hugh back next year? How’d you do in the Oscar pool? Post in the comments!

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Video of Hugh Jackman Rehearsing for Oscars!

Check this out. Someone took footage of Hugh Jackman rehearsing for the Oscars in New York and Hollywood. Entertainment journalist Nikki Finke confirmed its authenticity. Hugh narrates it, shows off his ripped arms (those guns are huge!) and makes fun of David Letterman’s Oscar-hosting stint. It’s like watching a clip from Fame.

Can’t wait for the big show!

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My Oscar Predictions!

jackman_tuxThe Oscars are finally here! I’m looking forward to seeing Hugh Jackman in a tux and hopefully shaking his money maker a little. There’s a rumor that Anne Hathaway will be doing the opening musical number with him (click here to see him rehearsing, sans Anne). Hathaway can definitely sing (have you seen Ella Enchanted or her hosting stint on SNL?) and we have plenty evidence of Jackman’s musical prowess so it should be entertaining if it does happen.

Now, I know everyone and his best friend’s second cousin’s lip waxer have already done predictions so I wasn’t gonna do any more than the ones I already made back in December and January. But then I thought, Why not? Maybe I can help someone win fifty bucks in an Oscar pool to put towards next week’s groceries. I’ve seen all the nominated movies, except for the shorts and foreign films (you’re on your own there!) so I’m not making wild guesses based on hype. These are my (hopefully) informed opinions based on the actual quality of the films. I know—the Oscars are sometimes more about PR but I can hope, right?

Here goes:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: Sean Penn — Milk

Best Actor: Kate Winslet — The Reader

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger — The Dark Knight

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz — Vicky Christina Barcelona

Best Director: Danny Boyle — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Animated Feature: WALL*E

Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black — Milk

Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt (Art Direction); Victor J. Zolfo (Set Decoration) — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle — Slumdog Millionaire 

Best Costume Design: Michael O’ Connor — The Duchess (no contest—Keira’s dresses were eye-popping)

Best Editing: Chris Dickens — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Makeup: Greg Cannom — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Score: A.R. Rahman — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Song: “Jai Ho” — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Mixing: Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Visual Effects: Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir 

Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Do you agree with my choices? Who are you rooting for? Post a comment then check back Monday for scoopy stuff from inside the Oscars from my sources who will be there!

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AMERICAN IDOL Reveals First 3 of Top 12 for Season 8

WTH?!! Anoop is gone? Argggghhh! Most shocking and upsetting result of the night! Man, I thought he was a sure thing. I voted for him about 30 times and he’s still going home. What happened?! This is such a bummer. What a huge loss to the show. They’ve got to bring him back for the wild card round.

Tonight’s elimination show was a bloodbath compared to results shows of years past. Nine people were sent home instead of the usual two at this stage in the competition. (Bolded names are the ones who made it.)

The first person asked to face the music was Casey Carlson. No suspense there; her campy act was a disaster. She’s gone. Stephen Fowler was next with his “soaking wet hands” and was sent home, too. Then it was Alexis Grace’s turn and I knew she was safe. That girl killed last night and was by far the most impressive female. America agrees—yay! She’s the first one in.

Ryan asked her to reprise her performance, which was better than asking eliminated people to sing like they’ve done in the past. I mean, if someone’s getting kicked off for sucking, why would I want to listen to them repeat their sucky performance? Conversely, Alexis, with a shot of confidence from being the first one named to the top twelve, upped her game in her encore of “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” She burned it up! This Kristin Bell-lookalike is definitely one to watch. She keeps getting better and better.

Next up were Jackie Tohn and Ricky Braddy. Jackie said she disagreed with Simon 100% that her performance was cheesy. Loved Simon’s response: “We’ll see.” Yup, she’s gone and so’s Braddy. No surprises here.

Then the shocker. Anoop was asked to step forward with Michael Sarver. I was just thinking, “It’s a no brainer. Sorry, Michael” when Ryan dropped the bomb that Sarver was the one who’s safe and Anoop was eliminated. I had to rewind the DVR to make sure I heard Ryan correctly. America let Anoopy down!

At this point, there were five people left vying for the last seat available tonight. Ryan took a break from dishing out results by bringing on Michael Johns and Carly Smithson to do a duet to the Box Tops’ “The Letter.” Johns looked spiffy and Smithson went on about some emergency weave-shopping incident. Then they started singing and oof, it was not good for me. Johns was all right (I loved his Michael Hutchence-ness last year) but Smithson was shrieky. They went for volume instead of emotion regarding that letter. It’s a good thing they couldn’t be voted off for this performance.

Back to the eliminations. Ann Marie Boskovich, Brent Keith and Stevie Wright were asked to stand up. Since they weren’t even asked to come down to center stage, it wasn’t hard to predict they were all goners.

And then there were two—Danny Gokey and Tatiana Del Toro. It was so obvious Danny would be the victor but Tatiana took it hard. I must say, I wasn’t rooting for her but I got no joy from seeing her dreams crushed like that. At the end of the day, she’s still human and I felt kinda bad seeing how devastated she was.

So, 2 out of the 3 people I voted for made it; I’m just disappointed about Anoop. If the producers have any common sense at all, they’ll bring him back. This kid will boost their ratings.

Next week, the second group of 12 will perform: Megan Corkrey, Kris Allen, Mishavonna Henson, Matt Breitzke, Allison Iraheta, Matt Giraud, Jasmine Murray, Kai Kalama, Jesse Langseth, Adam Lambert, Jeanine Vailes and Norman Gentle. (Dude, I’m begging you—buy a new shirt.) Based on their past performances, I’m rooting for Jesse Langseth, Megan Corkrey and Matt Giraud.

What did you think of the eliminations? Were they too harsh or fair? Do you like this year’s new voting system? Post me some comments!

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Top 10 Performances Robbed of Oscars

Oscar Sunday is coming up this weekend and, though I’m really looking forward to it, I have a feeling at least one of my faves won’t win. I think my predictions are pretty solid but there’s always an upset. Last year, I thought Amy Ryan’s fierce performance in Gone Baby Gone was the obvious choice for best supporting actress but no, Tilda Swinton inexplicably won for her one-note work in Michael Clayton (I like Swinton but didn’t think she deserved to win for this).

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that’s happened. Over the years, many actors have been robbed of Oscars. I’ve narrowed this very subjective list down to the ten most egregious snubs (besides Ryan’s) in the last twenty-five years, starting with the most recent.

  1. jackie-earle-haleyJackie Earle Haley for Little Children. Seriously, did voters watch this performance? He was both creepy and impossibly sympathetic as the pedophile who loved his mama, but Alan Arkin won for his performance as a grandfather who taught his granddaughter how to dance. Whatev. Haley is bouncing back as Rorschach in the sure-to-be-blockbuster Watchmen so I guess the Academy can suck it.
  2. denchjudi_notesJudi Dench for Notes on a Scandal. Oh my gosh, she creeped me out in this. Like Haley, Dench pulled off a character that’s both disturbing and sympathetic. Her schoolmarm with repressed desires for Cate Blanchett’s character was incredibly manipulative but Dench also made her desperate loneliness palpable. I adore Helen Mirren and thought she was good as The Queen but her performance wasn’t as complex as Dench’s.
  3. pm_ledger_wideweb__470x3210Heath Ledger for Brokeback Mountain. I recently read an article in Entertainment Weekly that claimed Ledger was relieved he didn’t win. So maybe he didn’t care but he made me care. His performance as Ennis Del Mar was simply devastating. Philip Seymour Hoffman always turns in good work but Capote felt like a very good impression whereas Ledger created an indelible character from just words on a page.
  4. eternal2Kate Winslet for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. This isn’t taking away from Hilary Swank’s gutsy performance in Million Dollar Baby, which deserved to win. I just wish there could have been a tie that year (hey, it happened when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for 1968’s Best Actress). Winslet’s Clementine was a freewheeling, damaged soul but the actress also showed us her pluck and heart and never allowed us to feel sorry for her. Clementine might have been trying to clear her head of memories but, years later, I still can’t erase Winslet’s performance from my mind.
  5. j-mooreJulianne Moore for The Hours. Yeah, yeah, Catherine Zeta-Jones sang and danced very well in Chicago and looked great doing it. But this is an acting award and her acting was nowhere near as affecting as Moore’s as the depressed 1950s housewife Laura Brown. Moore’s dutiful smile hid her inner anguish from everyone but the viewer. Watching her, I just wanted to reach through the screen, take the poor woman away on a tropical vacation and give her some happy pills.
  6. Russell Crowe for A Beautiful Mind. This movie won Best Picture, Best Director, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress. Well, it wouldn’t have won any of those categories if it hadn’t been for Crowe, who carried this movie. Crowe’s performance as John Nash elevated the work of everyone around him so it’s rude the Academy gave them Oscars but sent Crowe home empty-handed (at least for this movie).
  7. tn2_sixth_sense_2Haley Joel Osment for The Sixth Sense. C’mon, that little kid was so memorable, you can probably still quote some of his lines. His performance was subtle and poignant, which is doubly impressive considering his age at the time (what life experience did he tap into?!). But noooo, Michael Caine won for The Cider House Rules. Do you even remember what that movie was about or why Caine won? Exactly.
  8. Leonardo DiCaprio for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with mentally handicapped people and can tell when an actor’s portrayal of a challenged person is realistic or just wrong. When I saw this movie, I thought DiCaprio was really handicapped, not an actor doing a great job. He didn’t employ some broad, cliche mannerisms; he went inside Arnie Grape’s head and skin. Though his work was a true transformation, the Academy gave the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Tommy Lee Jones for barking out orders in The Fugitive.
  9. pfeiffer-baker-boysMichelle Pfeiffer for The Fabulous Baker Boys. Oh, I’m not hatin’ on the late, great Jessica Tandy, who took home the Best Actress award that year. But that was more a lifetime achievement award because surely Pfeiffer’s performance as Susie Diamond was more spectacular than Tandy’s Miss Daisy. Pfeiffer’s Susie was a gorgeous, tough chick whose looks didn’t take her as far in life as she’d hoped, a diamond whose sparkle was becoming duller by the day. And who can forget her writhing on the piano in that red dress, purring her way through “Making Whoopee”? All I remember about Miss Daisy is she was a cranky old woman.
  10. h-hunterHolly Hunter for Broadcast News. As neurotic news producer Jane Craig, Hunter ran the gamut of being in charge to completely falling apart, sometimes within seconds. Jane was flawed, funny, frustrating—a full-bodied character. But Cher won that year for Moonstruck as a consolation prize for Silkwood.

So, do you think the Academy mostly gets it right or does it seem like they sometimes vote while high on crack? Which performances do you think were wrongly denied an Oscar? Comment away!

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AMERICAN IDOL Season 8 — First Batch of 12

Oh wow, so many people crashed and burned tonight. I went in thinking, “How can we pick only 3 for the next round?” By the end of the evening, I could barely find three to vote for.

First up was Jackie Tohn, singing Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation.” I like her raspy vocals a lot and she sure looked like she was having fun working the stage, but those tight “trousers” were just wrong and the song was bad for her. I wouldn’t mind seeing her again in the wild card round but for now, I think there’s gonna be a “little less” Jackie around.

Next was Ricky Braddy‘s turn. He seemed like a really nice country boy but man, I fell asleep during his cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” He can sing but, like Simon said, he has no charisma or star quality. After a few bars, I decided it’d be more fun to watch my fingernails grow. I think it ends here for Braddy, too.

Third was Alexis Grace performing Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.” Wow, this girl has completely transformed herself. During her original audition in Louisville, she was a nice, Brooke White-type and Kara and Paula told her to dirty herself up. She took their advice to heart and became a soulful grrrl. The vixen makeup and pink-streaked hair definitely gave her an edge but, thankfully, her talent remained unchanged. I just love how this little blonde girl would open her mouth and a big black woman’s voice would come out. It’s like she was dubbed by Patti LaBelle. She was my favorite female of the night.

Brent Keith came up next and the crew just didn’t seem to like him. His turn started out with a tech snafu that played Stevie Wright’s instead of his video. Then, after he sang, they played him off the stage with the Idol theme song when he tried to respond to the judges’ comments. This guy is awfully cute with his left dimple and good ol’ boy charm but he lost me with the country song “Hick Town.” I applaud Keith for being true to himself but I don’t have to buy what he’s selling.

Then it was Stevie Wright‘s turn and this girl really disappointed me. Her smoky rendition of  “At Last” during her original Phoenix audition was as memorable as this performance of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” was forgettable. The song just didn’t do anything to showcase her voice. I had such high hopes but won’t vote for her after this debacle. Girl, you do not belong with Idol.

When I heard Anoop was next, I hollered, “Finally! Let’s get this show started!” Man, I love this kid. He’s just so cool. Every time I see that clip of him singing “My Prerogative,” I keep wishing they’d show that whole rousing performance. But then he announced he was gonna sing Monica’s “Angel of Mine.” Wait, what?! I wanted him to funk it UP, show us his personality, not sing some unfamiliar slow song. Well, it wasn’t a great choice but his voice was as smoof as ever and he’d better move on to the next round. He also gets extra points for giving credit to Ricky Minor and the band for making him sound good. I don’t hear a lot of contestants acknowledging the band.

Next, Casey Carlson was at the bat and boy, did she strike out. As a singer, she’s a very pretty girl. She chose The Police’s “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” but everything Casey did was definitely NOT. She vamped her way through the song, touching her neck and winking like she’s Sarah Palin at the VP debate. Her voice was too thin and small to sustain most of the notes and she attempted a misguided run at the very end that couldn’t save this trainwreck. I don’t know what happened because I liked her a lot when she sang “A Thousand Miles” in Kansas City. Sorry, Casey, I’m pretty sure it’s over for you.

Michael Sarver was the eighth singer, rocking out Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want To Be.” This song needs some ‘tude because it’s like saying “I ain’t changing for nobody” but Sarver just kind of bounced happily through it. It wasn’t a bad performance but not good enough to move on. Paula pointed out that Elliott Yamin, Bo Bice and Chris Richardson also sang it and I thought, “Yeah, and none of them won.”

After Sarver, Ann Marie Boskovich sang “Natural Woman.” When Kelly Clarkson sang this in season one, she slapped America across the face, woke us up and made us pay attention. I was hoping for the same kind of revelation for Boskovich because I thought she had a crystal clear, Carrie-Underwood-crossed-with-a-young-Dolly-Parton voice during her audition. Unfortunately, she couldn’t make this song soar. It needed soul and passion but she gave it a country feel which didn’t work for me. It was frustrating because I really wanted her to move on.

Then it was Stephen Fowler‘s turn and he chose “Rock With You.” I thought, Oooh, this could be good. Wrong. I like the tone of his voice but he slowed it down and bored it up. He was occasionally flat and by the time he got to the line, “When the groove is dead and gone,” I agreed.

Side note: I hate how the judges tell contestants they don’t take enough risks but when they do, they’re told they shouldn’t touch Michael Jackson or Police or Whitney or Mariah songs because those are too hard. These kids have to sing somebody‘s songs because they don’t have their own catalogs. Maybe they should only choose from Paula’s songbook since they’d be more likely to improve on the original versions?

OK, on to the final two. Tatiana surprised me with Whitney’s “Saving All My Love For You” when she did way better than I expected. She impressively hit some high notes and afterwards, was demure and kept her mouth shut during the judges’ comments. Simon and the gang were confused and tried to goad her into doing her wacky laugh and exhibiting her over-the-top behavior and I was screaming, “No! Why are you inciting the crazy?!” Thankfully, she didn’t go there. I think she’s been studying her tapes from the past weeks, thought, “Wow, I’m a freak” and tried to redeem herself. But her ladylike behavior came too late and I’d be surprised if she makes the top three.

Danny Gokey brought up the rear as the last contestant tonight. I groaned when he said he’d sing Mariah’s “Hero.” That song is overwrought and overused. But Gokey just stood there, Archuleta-style, and sang it beautifully. He didn’t need to prance around the stage to keep us entertained. I wondered why I was compelled to watch him while I was bored during Rick Braddy’s performance and then realized the difference was Gokey has stage presence.

When the phone lines opened, I voted for Gokey, Anoop and Alexis Grace. Who did you vote for? Who was awesome for you and who disappointed?

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