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Sharon Waxman
Sharon Waxman
(The Post)
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Hollywood & Vine Goes to the Oscars
Hosted by Sharon Waxman
Washington Post Style correspondent

Tuesday, March 26, 2002; 2 p.m. EST

The Oscars are the movie industry's most glamorous night, when millions of people all over the world join in the celebration of cinematic arts. Now more than ever, though, the Academy Awards have become calculated affairs, with advertising, spinmeisters, rumor-mongering and staged PR events all part of the race for the coveted awards. We'll talk about winners and losers, about the campaigns and the also-rans in this special edition of Hollywood & Vine.

Washington Post Style correspondent Sharon Waxman was online Tuesday, March 26, to talk all things Oscars. Bill Booth, The Post's Los Angeles bureau chief and Waxman's partner-in-crime covering the the four-hour-and-20-minute extravaganza, joined her.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Sharon Waxman: Sharon here, welcome to all of you for this sure-to-be fast paced discussion on the Oscars. We have so much to talk about -- the historic win for Halle and Berry, the back-stabbing among the moguls, the Miramax follies with Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Katzenberg dressed as gladiators, the hair dos, the parties and the most blessed aspect of all: It's Over.

Joining me is the man without whom I refuse to attend the Oscars, Mr. William Booth. Thanks for comin', Bill.

Bill Booth: Righto. Let's open the first envelope, please.

Washington, D.C.: You were there. I know that everyone -- everyone -- in show business is shorter in real life than you think they would be. But looking at some of these actresses, I couldn't help but wonder if they're really downright skeletal or just plain tiny and really thin.

Bill Booth: You are correct. Everyone in Hollywood is sized petite. Mel Gibson? You would think Braveheart was tall? He's around 5 foot 4 inches. I am taller than Mel. As for the women, total x-rays, and not always that ... appealing up close and personal.

District of Columbia: Best: Woody Allen's bit on New York and Aretha Franklin talking about Cary Grant

Worst: Jennifer Connelly's dress (second only in horror to Gwyneth Paltrow's whole get-up) and the very saccharin Ron Howard winning best director while giants like David Lynch and Robert Altman look on blandly.

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: Thanks, feel free to weigh in....

Falls Church, Va.: Why didn't any of the actor/actress winners have the courtesy to thank their fellow nominees in their acceptance speeches? Seems like the well mannered thing to do and many before have done so. The speeches in general, accepting Halle Berry's, seemed bland and uninspiring, particularly Jennifer Connelly who just bowed her head and read!

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: OK. Next opinion. We've got oodles today.

The Other Hollywood, Md.: Hi Sharon --

What's with all those winners reading their acceptance thanks at the Oscars? Maybe that's okay for some of the techy folks who aren't use to speaking in front of an audience. But Jennifer Connelly? Brian Ganzer? It just struck me as so rehearsed and programmed. BTW, Sidney Poitier's speech was deeply moving and heartfelt and he didn't refer to any hand-held notes.

Sharon Waxman: That's cause Sidney's the bomb. An expression he is far too classy to use.

Rockville, Md.: Why is it so important that, among minorities, black people need to receive more Academy awards? What about Latinos and Asians who are equally, if not more disenfranchised by Hollywood?

Sharon Waxman: I'm sure plenty of readers will have something to say on this topic. I've been amazed at the number of e-mails and calls -- of protest! -- at the stories about Halle Berry and Denzel Washington winning. Ie complaints that the picture of Halle on the front page was -- too small! Or try this, that how dare we call Halle Berry black, her white mother was sitting in the front row. Guess any time we touch the racial issue we are sure to offend someone.

Yes, Latinos and Asian are certainly more disenfranchised by Hollywood. BUT. African-Americans have been the largest and oldest minority in this country, certainly the most persecuted in our history, and furthermore have been important parts of entertainment and cultural history for a very long time. One could even argue that, despite blacks' having to struggle, they are one of the most important cultural sources and creators of our country. For all those reasons their successes are particularly worthy of note. Feel free to differ, of course.

When their time comes, and it is most assuredly coming, successes by Latinos and Asians will also be worthy of prominent mention.

Pennsylvania: If Mel Gibson is so short, then how short are people known for being short? Is Michael J. Fox then just 4 feet tall?

Bill Booth: Michael J is 3 foot 9.

Washington, D.C.: I was tired yesterday just from staying up watching the awards. What time did the two of you finally get to sleep? I mean, you both had to write your respective stories after the blessed thing, and then, I'm assuming go out and cover more of the post-party scene. I have new-found respect for both of you.

Bill Booth: We love questions like this. Is that you mom? Anyway, what do you mean writing stories AFTER the blessed thing.Sweetheart, we are writing stories DURING the blessed thing, in between REPEATED, increasingly ANXIOUS calls from editors back in style.

Beddy-bye? I think my head hit the pillow around 3:42. I woke up wearing ... sunglasses.

Falls Church, Va., Man: Hi Sharon --

I rented "Training Day" last night to see Denzel's performance and I have to say I was really disappointed. Aside from the fact that the movie itself was terrible, I thought Denzel's performance was good but not deserving of an Oscar. He was so much more deserving of the award for "Malcolm X" where I thought he was amazing. It's just another example of Oscar recognizing a great actor for the wrong performance (i.e., Russell Crowe for "Gladiator" rather than "The Insider" or Al Pacino for "Scent of a Woman" rather than "The Godfather" or "Scarface"). What do you think?

Sharon Waxman: SW: I actually thought Denzel was great in Training Day and I loved the movie, so we'll differ there. I do agree, though, that Oscars are often won for performances that are not the actor's best. I'm with you completely on Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, let's not forget Paul Newman. When the Academy collectively feels they've overlooked someone, say Newman or Pacino, or that an actor has achieved a body of work worthy of recognition, as with Denzel, sometimes they'll give the Oscar even if the performance is not the actor's very best one.

Washington, D.C.: Where did I hear it suggested that Nora Ephron's tribute to New York was her best film to date?

washingtonpost.com: In Tom Shales's review: Oscar's 74th Outing Runs Long on History, Short on Fun (Post, March 25, 2002)

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: See Shales.

Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.: Did Gwyneth look as bad in person as she did on TV?

Sharon Waxman: My personal opinion -- raccoon eyes are not her strong suit. I actually ran into Gwyneth Paltrow -- don't you love when that happens -- a few days before the Oscars. She was sitting having coffee with Todd Field so we just sat and gossiped a bit about the whole season, about Miramax. Anyway, she didn't have one lick of make-up on and was absolutely stunning. She also gave me her Girl Scout cookies (some kids had come by and she gave them autographs in exchange), saying, "I don't eat sugar or flour, so you may as well..." We consumed them promptly.

Washington, D.C.: What happened to Ethan Hawke? Before the awards show he was talking and looked fine -- when Denzel was accepting his award, Ethan suddenly had a huge bruise/scrape on his cheek! Someone must have made a comment about his wife's boobs hanging out of her dress!

Bill Booth: I do know that violence is discouraged. And that Uma is one of most special, err, people.

Annandale, Va.: Thanks for your great writing! I thought Denzel Washington and Halle Barry winning was refreshing -- both gave worthy performances, so it wasn't just a gesture. I wasn't impressed with "Mind" though -- too milquetoast. What surprised you most?

Bill Booth: One thing surprised me is that on Tuesday, my friends and associates said they thought the awards were kinda dull. Covering the Oscars, we actually don't really get to "watch" them, so its always surprising what people/viewers think. Most surprising to me? That Dame Waxman wore my white stetson into the VF party and actually got away with it !!

Sharon Waxman: That hat worked wonders. I actually got hit on. But back to the gruelling experience of the Oscar press room. To give you all a sense of what it's like -- there's about 300 print press people lined up at long tables, and some chairs in the front where the winners come to take questions. There are monitors about 100 feet away from where we were sitting, so if you have excellent vision you could just make out Whoopi on the screen. Of course, during the interviews of winners they turn off the sound, so you wear these little headphones -- but only on one ear -- to hear the awards continuing, while you still listen to the person being interviewed AND take notes AND write through rolling deadlines.

As for this year's nightmare scenario: 12:20 am was the final witching hour, the last final deadline on final edition. And we still hadn't gotten to Best Actor. (Best Picture came at about 12:43.) I think bonuses of a sort are in order. Feel free to write our editors.

Ethan Hawke: Page Six of the New York Post reported that wasn't a bruise, it was lipstick. Denzel's wife apparently laid a big one on his face and no one had the decency to tell him. Probably because they were too stunned by Uma's breasts.

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: Fabulous. Thanks.

Washington, D.C.: Darlings --

I know how HARD you work on Oscar night -- you never stop telling us about it. But don't you do anything just for fun? C'mon Bill, didn't you at least try to dance with Nicole Kidman? And Sharon, surely there are a few stars -- Billy Bob, Robert Redford, someone -- you just flirted/schmoozed/tu-toied with? Tell tell. Mwah!

Bill Booth: Yes, fun. Sharon does dance with people at the VF party. I have seen it with my own eyes. Sometimes, those people (Kevin Spacey, say) might not REALIZE they are dancing with Sharon, but there she is. For fun, I stand next to Graydon Carter and occasionally he pats me on the head and feeds me a cracker.

Sharon Waxman: Sorry I can't let that go unanswered. Bill not only nibbles crackers on Graydon's shoulder -- and he wouldn't dance with me, but Lloyd Grove, bless him, did -- but he pours honey in the ear of Beth Kseniak, the true power behind the Vanity Fair party. It works like crazy.

For the record, The Washington Post Reporters Rulebook says that reporters are allowed to dance at parties they are covering if it is past midnight and they've had a few of those Veuve Cliquots. And out of friendship with Bill I won't even mention what happened between him and Juliette Lewis.

Serious question: I don't want to get you in trouble or anything, SW, but can you please comment on Gwyneth's likely reaction to the universal condemnation of her look on Oscar night? I would be home sobbing if I heard that everyone in the world hated it, and me a gorgeous stylish fashion icon and movie star. Do they all get so used to criticism that they don't hear it anymore?

Sharon Waxman: SW: I'm thinking that at Gwyneth's stage, they don't read all their press. That'd take up half the day.

OOma! OOma!: Please tell me she's just as smart and gorgeous in person as she appears to be. And give her a break about the boobs, please -- the woman just gave BIRTH! We should all be so lucky.

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: SW: Actually I was wondering if she was pregnant, she's got a very round, maternal look to her. If she just gave birth, that makes perfect sense. But she's a healthy Mama.

Washington, D.C.: Hi there,

Great Oscar stories, as per usual. I still remember your story from a few years back, in which you proclaimed Vanessa Williams "positively leathery." You just can't get this stuff from fluffy entertainment pubs.

My question is this: What was with Halle's acceptance speech? It was very, very hard to watch. She was ridiculous and out of control. I understand the larger significance of her winning in terms of crossing a racial barrier, but she was so silly that my husband and I had to mute it until she was done. I thought she did a bit of a disservice to the moment. Thoughts? Have you heard any talk of this?

Bill Booth: Yes. Leathery. We cannot resist. Anyways.. I imagine there is a mix of reactions to Berry's acceptance speech. Good for her, I thought. But you know? Rosa Parks she ain't. I thought Mr Washington very classic. But you know, if a star can't blubber and make a fool of themselves on Oscar night, would anyone tune in?

Kodak Theater: What did you think of the new theater and the surrounding area? Did the logistics work out for everyone to see and be seen?

Any chance you can have a Webcam mounted on top of your head next year so we can have streaming video of you interviewing the stars?

Bill Booth: Sharon is a webcam.

Tired of hollywood hype: How is it that Sharon Stone, who hasn't done anything for years, is still there at the Oscars year after year announcing something or handing out some award? Why is she still considered a big draw?

Bill Booth: I guess the world simply awaits another basic instinct moment. PLUS: she got her husband attacked by a giant iguana at the Los Angeles Zoo, so theres that.

Arlington, Va.: I'm sorry. I know it's an emotional moment, but Halle Berry's speech was embarrassing. If it had only been what we got to see on the news, it would have been better. But the incoherent sobbing -- geez. Yes, it's a pivotal moment with so much history and gravity. Yes, it's an enormous recognition. But for God's sake, pull it together -- or at least bring a handkerchief.

Bill Booth: Yup.

Washington, D.C.: Sharon -- I really enjoy your articles and insight and your article in today's Washington Post was hysterical.

Do you know the rationale behind honoring both Sydney Poitier and Robert Redford at this year's Academy Awards? I don't begrudge either their award, but wonder why they had to be done the same year. It certainly made for a longer program.


Bill Booth: BB: We concur. We though the lifetime achievement award for Poitier would have been enuff. And then do Bob Redford next year.

Washington, D.C.: What is the difference between the two "sound" awards? And why were there only two nominees for one of the categories? I thought three was the minimum.

Sharon Waxman: There's achievement in sound, and then Sound Editing. The nominations are done by all the folks in the sound branch and if there are not enough worthy applicants, they limit the number of nominees. That was obviously the case with Sound Editing, which had only Monsters, Inc and Pearl Harbor up for the Oscar.

Takoma Park, Md.: I watched the "60 Minutes" interview with John and Alicia Nash and discovered that Alicia Nash is a Latina (from South America). When I saw "A Beautiful Mind" Jennifer Connelly had no accent and although she is beautiful, she is not a Latina.

With all the fuss about the inaccuracies in "A Beautiful Mind," I was surprised that no one mentioned how Alicia Nash was Anglicized for the movie. That is a glaring error. I'm sure that Ron Howard could have found a Latina actress, or even an Anglo actress with the correct appearance and accent, to play the part.

Sharon Waxman: SW: That's a very interesting point. I did not know that Alicia Nash was El Salvardoran until I happened to interview her last Friday night (past deadline, only a bit of it made the paper). She had an accent and several minutes in I asked her what country she was from. She paused and said, "You know, I don't like to say." So I'm guessing that she did not want her character to be El Salvadoran. My Latino expert friends says she comes from a generation of upper class Salvadorans to whom saying you come from there automatically associates you with wetback immigrants, or something like that. She was, in fact, a math student.

Also, there was a wonderfully persistent Salvadoran reporter back stage who kept asking every Beautiful Mind winner about that very aspect.

Bill Booth: I did briefly speak with the real John Nash on the red carpet. I tried to get him to take my notebook and do some math, but he looked slightly terrified and said no. He wanted to talk about how nice he thought New Zealand is. So, you know, the movies pretty accurate in that regard, eh?

Reston, Va.: What do the stars think of Joan Rivers and her fashion review? I envision them all watching as they approach in their limos.

Bill Booth: Joan Rivers is a very special item on the buffet table of life.

Washington, D.C.: Another reason why Denzel is the coolest guy on the planet: were you there when somebody asked him when the headline would no longer be "Black actor wins Oscar" and Denzel responded by inquiring if the questioner worked for a newspaper. When the person said yes, Denzel answered along the lines of, then you can start tomorrow with your own headline.

Sharon Waxman: You're absolutely right.

Boston, Mass.: Who was the young guy next to/cuddling up to Ian McKellan in the audience? Where did Will Smith go? When they (finally) got to Best Actor he was gone.

Bill Booth: We didn't even realize he went missing. God, do we suck, or what? Where did he go, anybody know the answer? We think we saw him later on at VF, but our memories could be clouded.

Government Work-A-Holic: It's a pet theory of mine that the actors and actresses (and models) that look the best on the screen all have disproportionately large heads. I figure, for some reason, it helps them look good when filtered through a camera.

Bill Booth: BB: You are so totally correct. But thats my pet theory!

Bill Booth: Also, re: big heads on sticks. Ever take a good look alleged shoplifter Winona? Huge head, like E.T., on teeeeny bod.

Washington, D.C.: Hi all: I noticed in Max Alvarez's chat yesterday some people discussed the In Memoriam segment of the Oscars. Do you think that the segment was too short and they should have mentioned people like David Angell and Berry Berenson who were killed Sept. 11?

washingtonpost.com: Film Historian Max Alvarez's discussion yesterday

Sharon Waxman: Too short? Yes, I definitely think that was the problem at this year's Oscars.

Honestly, it seemed to me that they really handled the Sept. 11 element with taste and proportion. For once.

Stafford, Va.: Big story. Will Smith's daughter had an ear infection, so he booked out with Jada. Way cool and shows his priorities are straight!

Sharon Waxman: Is that so? He's even cooler than we thought.

San Francisco, Calif.: Did you really just use the word "wetback" and not see a problem with that? That is disgraceful.

Sharon Waxman: Sorry. That's the problems with these chats, isn't it....

Fairfax, Va.: Every time Whoopi Goldberg or anyone else uttered the word "black," the cameras would do a quick up-close of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett followed by Denzel Washington. It was unbelievably irritating! Why do they do this kind of thing? Is Hollywood that self-conscious about race? It was one thing to have only black actors interviewed about Sidney Poitier, a man who has transcended race. But they only looked terrifically idiotic with the constant close-ups of the Smiths and Denzel.

Sharon Waxman: A lot of people pointed this out (I was watching my laptop too much to take note) so it must be true. If so, they need to get some more enlightened people in the production room. That's quite stupid.

(Also, loved Whoopi's on-the-mark jokes about having black people salute Robert Redford.... )

Bill Booth: Yes. There is a fine line between honoring and pandering, and sometimes they cross it.

Washington, D.C.: So what's the deal with stars and their dates and the seating arrangements? Nicole Kidman brought her sister as her date, but the sister wasn't sitting next to her. For a while I thought that it was only spouses that got to sit next to their spouse-nominees -- and then I saw Ian McKellan and his boy toy stroking his knee, and he didn't exactly look like Life Partner material.

BTW I cracked myself up thinking about all of the homophobes out their in TV viewing land trying to shield their kids from Ian and his date.

Bill Booth: Mister McKellan and his date was one of those quietly cool things, in my opinion. Truth be told, probably a few more celebrities could have brought their real dates.

Let's trash Julia: I didn't use to practice this particular sport, but after Sunday night I can't think of a more ME, ME, ME character. Even Denzel's Oscar seemed to be more about her right then. Theatre actors know very well what this is: it's called upstaging -- when they're just standing by another actor's moment and keep doing small things to attract attention to themselves -- and it's considered terrible. Just because Julia hasn't set foot on a real stage, it doesn't excuse her.

Bill Booth: Julia may be ready for just a wee bit of reality therapy, yes?

Arlington, Va.: Hi Sharon,

Has Robert Redford had plastic surgery? His eyes looked different to me. I've had the pleasure of seeing him up close (weathered but still a fox), and he looked different. Then again, maybe I drank too much wine at the Oscar party.

Bill Booth: Has Bob had work? I tell you one thing, if he has, his surgeon is a goshdarn master!

Arlington, Va.: What were Glenn Close and Donald Sutherland doing between cutaways? Playing parcheesi?

Bill Booth: Eating a sandwich would be our best guess.

Tom Cruise: Was Penelope with Tom that night? He called Nicole on her cell phone. Hmmmmm.

Bill Booth: Sharon doesn't think so.

Takoma Park, Md.: More "make up" Oscars --

Judi Dench for "Shakespeare in Love" when she should have won for "Her Majesty Mrs. Brown." She WAS really funny in "Shakespeare" but she was only on the screen for eight minutes.

Whoopi Goldberg for "Ghost" when she should have won for "The Color Purple."

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: Good calls.

South Orange, N.J.: Why is there so much emphasis on Denzel Washington and Halle Berry's race? The fact of the matter is that they both gave wonderfully incredible performances that were Oscar worthy. Why are people suggesting that they only received the Oscars because they are black and not because they deserved it? I can understand if two mediocre black actors received the awards, but two undeniably fantastic actors? That is not playing the race card -- it is rewarding the best of 2001. Note that several critics groups already picked them before any controversy over this year's Oscar ceremony. Thank you.

Sharon Waxman and Bill Booth: Thanks for saying this. I think, though, that this is exactly why this moment is so sweet. They did get the awards because they were the best, not because of their race, and it was great that the Academy did so.

Denzel, I think, almost resents having that aspect of himself singled out all the time, because he wants to be judged on an even playing field. And I think he was.

You're so right!: It was clear that you used "wetback" from the perspective of the snobby upper-class Salvadorans who think that way, not yourself. People need to learn to read.

Sharon Waxman: Thank God, you've saved my career. And again, apologies, I meant it as you've noted.

Washington, D.C.: "Blacks Hope Actors' Awards Signal a Hollywood Shift” was the headline of your story. But a true Hollywood shift by the “slow -to-adapt, predominantly white entertainment industry” would include more people of color, as well as non-Jewish white persons occupying the upper echelons of the industry. Do you see any signs of that?

washingtonpost.com: Note: That headline was the one that fit in the slot on the home page. Headline on the story (and in the newspaper): The Warmth of Oscar's Open Arms (Post, March 26, 2002)

Sharon Waxman: To be honest, no, the upper echelons of the industry are unremittingly white, and almost to a man (or woman), Jewish. That's for lots of reasons, mostly historic and I guess somewhat by default, since it's the family business for a lot of people who are in it now.

Minorities or any people with no automatic connections to Hollywood have to fight, kick, scream, bite and back stab their way to the top. No one's inviting them to the party, regardless of color or creed.

Broomes Island: An Early Post: Sharon: After all the mudslinging, it looks like uncle Oscar was generous to everyone. "LOTR" and "Beautiful Mind" didn't run away with everything. "Moulin Rouge" and "Black Hawk Down" took two. And "Training Day," "Iris," "Shrek," "Gosford Park," and EVEN "PEARL HARBOR" took home Uncle Oscar. (Reminds me of when "Speed" won the Oscar. For a week I called it "Oscar Winner Speed.") Seems strangely egalitarian for such a nasty Oscar Season?!

Bill Booth: When Pearl Harbor takes home a golden man, you know the suits at the academy were trying to spread around the love.

Lusby: Speaking of Tom Cruise: Did he get up late and forget to bathe? Or did he run in?

Bill Booth: We don't know. But we do have to say goodbye.

Sharon Waxman: Thanks all for coming, thanks for the observations and incisive comments, you are the smartest readers around. Sorry for those we couldn't get to, we'll see you next week!!



That wraps up today's show. Thanks to everyone who joined the discussion.

© Copyright 2002 The Washington Post Company