Oscar Hails Lord of the Rings

Posted on March 1, 2004

It was over 3 1/2 hours, but for Peter Jackson and the cast of The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, it was well-worth it. The Lord of the Rings swept the Oscars last night, winning 11 awards, including Best Film and Best Director for Peter Jackson, Best Song for Annie Lennox, Fran Walsh and Howard Shore's "Into the West."

After the Superbowl fiasco, network execs cracked down hard and the censorship showed: this was a pretty boring telecast, all things considered. But there were a few funny and worthwhile moments, although there was a marked lack of political blurt-outs, such as Michael Moore's infamous anti-Bush speech from 2003. Here are some highlights and lowlights:

Highlights:

--A cleaned up, well-barbered Johnny Depp who politely sat through the entire thing, only to lose Best Actor gracefully.

--Michael Moore's hilarious cameo in the Billy Crystal opening short film, in which the activist rails against "fictitious hobbits" for waging a "fictitious war" in The Lord of the Rings, before getting crushed by a rampaging oliphant on the battle fields of Middle Earth.

--Peter Jackson's acceptance speech for Best Director in which he dedicated his Oscar to his parents, who he said gave him a Super 8 camera when he was a boy, which he used to make movies in the backyard. Jackson said he wished they were alive to see him win.

--Peter Jackson's acceptance speech for Best Film for The Lord of the Rings, the first fantasy film to be so honored, "Fantasy is one 'f'-word that hopefully the 5-second dealy won't delete."

--Will Ferrell and Jack Black's very funny rendition of the actual words to the song used to hush up wordy winners entitled, "You're Boring."

--Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller's funny and snappy repartee to promote their new film, Starsky and Hutch. Stiller dressed as Starsky, but Wilson showed up in a tux, looking suave. Wilson tells a pouting jeans-clad Stiller, "It's not the 'Ben Stiller I made a mistake and now everyone has to pay awards.'"

--Blake Edwards' slapstick moment when he shot across the stage in a wheelchair to accept his Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, only to crash into the opposite wall, in a gag worthy of Inspector Clouseau. But Jim Carrey's homage to Edwards was just plain weird.

--Billy Crystal's ad-libbed response to Erroll Morris' acceptance speech for Best Documentary film, The Fog of War in which he said: "Forty years ago, this country went down a rabbit hole in Vietnam and millions died. I fear we're going down a rabbit hole again." Crystal's quick response: "I can't wait for his audit."

Lowlights:

--The horrifyingly annoying antics of Billy Bush, who climbed over celebrities and totally humiliated 13 year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes by introducing her to her crush Johnny Depp in front of a billion people. (Earlier she told Billy that's who she most wanted to meet because "he's such a stud," so he dragged her out of her seat to introduce her to Depp, who was very nice about the whole thing.)

--In general, the sad lack of shocking and inappropriate political blurt outs. Sean Penn kept his comments clean and only made one joke about the missing WMDs. Even Tim Robbins kept mum about politics and instead urged victims of abuse to come forward.

--The instant replay of the announcement of the winners of major awards. Hey, we just saw who won. We're not that ADD. A major time waster.

--All the beautiful, but boring dresses. Where is Bjork in her swan outfit when you need her? Where is Cher in a Bob Mackie showgirl extravaganza? Blame Joan Rivers and her scathing commentary for scaring the hell out of the more fashion forward stars. Although Diane Keaton did show up in a totally ridiculous Annie Hall get-up, complete with a man's fedora.

--Renee Zellweger inexplicably thanking Tom Cruise in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, while the camera zooms in on poor Nicole Kidman's face (whom Renee did not thank) to see how she's taking it.

--With the exception of Annie Lennox's haunting rendition of "Into the West" (the only decent song nominated), the absolutely grating musical performances. "My Ain True Love" should have been nominated for a Razzie, not an Oscar. Sting should know better.

--The odd sense of humor of the musical director. When Angelina Jolie came out to present an Oscar, the orchestra broke into "Louie, Louie," bringing to mind the toga party scene from Animal House.