If you were dreading certain aspects of the 70th Annual Academy Awards -- the big dance number, the Billy Crystal jokes, the "Titanic" acceptance speeches -- here's the good news:
All of those things came to pass and, well, they weren’t so bad after all. Here’s a quick rundown of the highlights, and a list of the winners:
Best Use of Old Schtick: In a hilarious opening number, Crystal spliced clips of himself into the nominated movies, posing naked for Leo aboard the Titanic and even donning Kim Basinger’s hooded velvet cape from “L.A. Confidential.” For the rest of the evening, he performed an even greater feat: He made a huge theater full of celebrities seem like a small party of intimate friends. Of course, in Hollywood, 10,000 celebrities is a small party of intimate friends.
Worst Safety Hazard: Does anyone else agree that Celine Dion should stop hitting herself on the chest every time she sings “My Heart Will Go On”? A girl could get seriously damaged, particularly when her pinky gets caught — as it did — in the chain of that “Titanic”-inspired bauble around her neck.
Best Show-Biz Lingo: Announcer Norman Rose never held back on adjectives when introducing “the exciting and talented Jennifer Lopez,” “the versatile and charming Antonio Banderas,” and other exciting, talented presenters. We plan to institute a similar introduction system in our office tomorrow: “Why look! It’s the exciting and talented movie critic Lisa Schwarzbaum!”
Biggest Yawn: Okay, we all knew that Crystal would tell a slew of wink-wink sex jokes about Washington. But why did he and everyone else tell so many jokes about how young Matt Damon is? By the sound of it, you’d think Damon was still in diapers. Ha! Ha! Ha!
Biggest Snub: They made a special film to honor animals in movies, and they failed to include the adorable pooch from “As Good As It Gets.” Instead, they put a giant bear onstage. That’s Hollywood for ya. Always some big bully pushing the little guy out of the spotlight.
Worst News For Film Directors: Everybody had those tiny slips of paper with their speeches on them. Apparently, no one in Hollywood can remember their lines.
Best Dance Number: Wow! That foreign-film director from the Netherlands should switch to choreography. Excellent jumping during his acceptance speech.
Best Surprise: Perhaps because The Lord of the Dance was not available this year, the big dance number wasn’t annoying at all. In fact, the last part — a love duet with one of the dancers flying through the air like Peter Pan — was rather entertaining.
Sourpuss Award: Though she used to put all the fun in the MTV Awards, Madonna couldn’t muster up a smile — let alone any enthusiasm — as a presenter at the Oscars. Giving the Best Original Song Award to “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic,” she pronounced with deadpan sarcasm, “What a shocker!” A person might conclude that Madonna prefers to be a nominee instead of a presenter. What a shocker.
Biggest Comfort: “Titanic” wins 11 awards. There are still things we can count on in this world.
Best Thank You: Jack Nicholson, of course, had the line that summed up the import of the entire event: “I’d like to thank everybody here tonight for lookin’ so good.”
And now here’s the list of the good-lookin’ winners:
Jack Nicholson, “As Good As It Gets”
Helen Hunt, “As Good As It Gets”
Best Supporting Actor
Robin Williams, “Good Will Hunting”
Best Supporting Actress
Kim Basinger, “L.A. Confidential”
James Cameron, “Titanic”
Best Foreign Film
“Character” (“Karakter” — The Netherlands)
Best Original Screenplay
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, “Good Will Hunting”
Best Adapted Screenplay
Curtis Hanson and Brian Helgeland, “L.A. Confidential”
Best Art Direction
Peter Lamont and Michael Ford, “Titanic”
Russell Carpenter, “Titanic”
Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, and Mark Ulano, “Titanic”
Best Sound Effects Editing
Tom Bellfort and Christopher Boyes, “Titanic”
Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
Anne Dudley, “The Full Monty”
Best Original Dramatic Score
James Horner, “Titanic”
Best Original Song
James Horner and Will Jennings, “My Heart Will Go On” (“Titanic”)
Deborah Lynn Scott, “Titanic”
Best Documentary Feature
Marvin Hier and Richard Trank, “The Long Way Home”
Best Documentary (short subject)
Donna Dewey and Carol Pasternak, “A Story of Healing”
Best Film Editing
Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron, and Richard A. Harris, “Titanic”
Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson, “Men in Black”
Best Animated Short Film
Jan Pinkava, “Geri’s Game”
Best Live Action Short Film
Chris Tashima and Chris Donahue, “Visas And Virtue”
Best Visual Effects
Robert Legato, Mark A. Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, and Michael Kanfer, “Titanic”