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Oscars actually got it right for a change

Please allow me to pick my jaw up off the floor. You mean to tell me that Oscar actually got it right for a change?

And I'm not just talking about Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki's entrancing cartoon fantasy "Spirited Away" winning the best animated feature Academy Award, which was the first to be given out last Sunday. (Though, admittedly, that did get things off on the right foot.)

Here's my list of all the things that were right with this year's Academy Awards:

Steve Martin as host. Though his second stint has again received mixed notices from some critics, funnyman Martin was well-received by the crowd and most fans. Aside from some of his sexist shtick, which got sort of tiresome, his dry wit and no-frills delivery were appropriate to the more subdued tone of the show. He also managed to recover quite nicely after director Michael Moore's grandstanding.

Adrien Brody's best-actor acceptance speech. No matter how you felt about his performance or the movie he was in ("The Pianist"), Brody's excitement was both genuine and contagious. Also, you've got to love a star who brings his mother as his date for the Oscar bash.

The show getting over by 10 p.m., Mountain Time. It still wasn't what you would consider a fast-paced show. And the Oscar telecast did get bogged down — in particular by the tribute to previous Oscar winners. But at least it wasn't four hours long.

No red carpet. Security concerns all but eliminated the glitzy Oscar pre-show and forced ABC's annoying team of celebrity interviewers to talk about other things besides what the arriving stars were wearing.

Peter O'Toole. Talk about your class acts. The 70-year-old O'Toole positively oozed class Sunday night. Not only did he keep his speech short and sweet — despite promises to the contrary — he showed up to accept his award.

Hollywood keeping mum. Aside from Moore — whose outburst can hardly be considered a surprise — it was refreshing to see Oscar presenters and winners (including such outspoken activists as Susan Sarandon and Barbra Streisand) keep their pontificating to a minimum. Besides, it's not like they can't find a forum and speak out any old time they feel like it.

THEY REALLY DON'T LIKE YOU. The same weekend the Oscars were going on, the country's two most prominent bad-movie awards groups were giving out their respective booby prizes. The big "winner" — if that's the term — in both was "Swept Away," the disastrous shipwreck drama starring Madonna. The film picked up a total of three Stinkers (including for worst picture and worst actress) and five Razzies (for worst picture, worst remake and worst director).

Adding insult to injury, the Hastings Bad Cinema Society also gave the former Material Girl a Stinker for worst supporting actress, for her painfully wooden role in "Die Another Day."

It should be noted that both awards are voted on by hundreds of members of the Hastings Bad Cinema Society and the Golden Raspberry Foundation. Complete lists of Stinkers and Razzies winners can be found at their respective Web sites, www.thestinkers.com and www.razzies.com.

OSCAR QUOTE OF THE WEEK:"I don't think the Oscars are a forum for political posturing. One should confine one's statements to cinema excellence. (He) crossed the line by bringing in his own political statements, which were more about him, his own self-aggrandizement, than anything else." — Actor Cliff Robertson, talking about filmmaker Michael Moore's outburst during the 75th Academy Awards ceremony.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com