Post-Oscars, we ask:
'Is That All There Is'?

Mar 7, 2006 5:09 AM

Along with a selective group of some 41 million other Americans Sunday night, I watched — what else? — the Oscars.

I was particularly interested to see how Jon Stewart made out in his much-ballyhooed role as MC, one of the most highly visible jobs on the tube. As the fancy hairdos and dresses and svelte figures were unveiled and paraded one by one, and Jon faded more and more into the background, I couldn’t help thinking of Peggy Lee’s long ago Grammy winning hit "Is That All There Is?"

For those of you who do not remember Peggy Lee, my apologies and condolences. You missed one of the sexiest voices in the history of womanhood.

As for Stewart, he was very, very careful in this role. The Motion Picture Academy apparently was gun shy of previous politically incorrect — but accurate — past emcees, and Jon tread as in a minefield with his material. Much had been written in advance about Stewart’s boldness and spontaneity on his own show, and how he was going to tie into some of the better — known figures of the industry, but he appeared in a straightjacket all night long, understandably uncomfortable.

As for the show itself, I agree with a press comment that appeared before the show. It called the Oscars "nothing but an orgy of self-love."

I didn’t write that — a reviewer named Manohla Dargis did — but in checking over the notes I did write while watching the show I came across one that said, "The industry is still in love with itself." I wrote the comment after one of the black and white retrospectives showing some of the great films Hollywood has produced.

One of them dwelt on how Hollywood has, in the past, boldly addressed such social issues as racism, war, violence and killing, and it produced the best Stewart line of the night. As the film ended, Stewart said, "And none of those issues were ever a problem again." The audience didn’t seem to fully catch it, but Jack Nicholson did, and the camera caught him chortling his approval and applauding the line.

There were other highlights that either appealed or repulsed, having nothing to do with the motion picture industry. They were the commercials.

One, for J. C. Penney, made me want to write a letter of congratulations, or stop in one of their emporiums and buy something. It showed models doing the usual model walk, but these beauties actually were chatting, smiling, laughing. They were, in short, human beings, not the automatons of the runways who seem wound up like toys and turned loose, either unable or strictly forbidden from expressing any human emotions. Seeing models expressing joy was a delight.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was the inanely poor taste of a commercial for the most inane automobile on the road: Hummer. These tanks in disguise now have a junior model, and to publicize it some idiot copywriter wrote — and some idiot executive bought — hogwash about two monsters meeting, mating, and producing”¦a baby monster, what else. Hummer should be ashamed, and so should the people who strut their wealth buying them.

There were, of course, beautiful women by the score, superbly coiffed and clothed, a staple of the Oscars. Some were blonde, but an amazing number were not, which leads to a frightening story in the London Times. The newspaper reported how blue-eyed blondes came into being — in the ice age, according to researchers — by evolution that led them to stand out over their dark-haired rivals for the men who were left after fatal food hunting trips foraging for reindeer, mammoths, bison and horses. Until these northern beauties evolved, the scientists now believe, everyone was dark-haired and dark-eyed.

So be it. But the story also said the World Health Organization predicts that natural blondes are likely to be extinct within 200 years because of a shortage of people now carrying the blonde gene. The WHO says the last natural blonde is likely to be born in Finland sometime in 2202.

I was shooting for that date, but if there will be no natural blondes around, to hell with it. I’m ready to go now.