It's no fun handicapping the Academy Awards this year. That darn ship--what was it called again? the Colossal, the Gigantic, something like that--is clearly unsinkable, and the only suspense left trickles down to the lesser awards. I mean, how many statuettes do you think "Kundun" is going to take home? Unless your idea of a good time is guessing whether some Czech animated film that nobody's seen is going to beat out all the other animated films that nobody's seen either, you can't even cobble together a good bet.
So instead of second-guessing Oscar, I'm going to propose an alternative awards ceremony of my own. These awards have nothing to do with the movies. They're based on the idea that everyone who's ever watched the Academy Awards--up to and including cargo cultists--has, stored away in the back of his or her mind, his or her own personal Oscar acceptance speech.
Whether or not your closest brush with the film industry is appearing on the in-store video at your local 7-Eleven, I guarantee you've thought about what you would say if it were your turn at the podium. My awards ceremony gives us all a chance to hear some of those thoughts. There might even be an award for best acceptance speech, kind of like the Irving Thalberg Award, only in honor of Sally Field. (Or perhaps it should be Jack Palance.)
While Oscar recipients have been known to mention "the little people who made it all possible," my awards are actually given to the little people themselves. And I'm not talking about Linda Hunt. I'm talking about your ordinary citizen who's deserving of recognition and has a good acceptance speech at the ready. Since I've been unable to find any broadcast organization willing to carry the ceremony, I'll have to make use of these pages to offer up the following rough transcript.
The Award for Best Supporting Performance in a Marriage goes to Michael Farnsworth of Rome, N.Y., as the only man in America who consistently puts the toilet seat down. Let's hear what Michael has to say: "I'd like to thank my wife, Margie, for her consistent encouragement. Even when things got rough, she never lost sight of what I was trying to accomplish. And my kids, Montana and Duane, who always believed that 'Daddy could do it.' And of course my mom, who raised me right. Oh, I almost forgot, I want to thank my agent--I mean my insurance agent, who pointed out that, as well as being the beneficiary, Margie could be a heck of a lot more dangerous than a slippery sidewalk if I didn't act like she wanted. Thanks!"
The Award for Best Makeup goes to Sharlette Beamish of Marina del Rey as the only woman in Southern California who has never considered plastic surgery. Sharlette: "I'd like to thank God for giving me good bone structure, and my older sister Raylette for teaching me all her makeup tricks. A blade is never going near this face, as I said to my third ex-husband when I took his knife away from him. I'd also like to thank the lowly cucumber for the fine work it's done taking out that apres-party night puffiness of the eyelids with two thin slices, one on each eye for half an hour and then dump 'em in your Bloody Mary."
The Award for Best Sense of Direction goes to Arthur Gabler of Beverly Hills, for being the only man who knows who has the right of way at a five-way stop. Arthur couldn't be here tonight, but we reached him in his car and he'd like to say a few words. Arthur? "I used to study what my parents did at intersections and it was always wrong, so I have to thank them for that, God rest their souls. Otherwise I would never have come to the understanding of how these things work. It's always the car on the right. The right, I tell you, the right! No, you idiot, your other right--" SFX: CAR CRASH, CRUNCHING METAL, PROLONGED BLAST OF CAR HORNS. We've momentarily lost our connection with Arthur, so let's move on to another award.
The Award for Best Special Effects goes to Ethan Parris of Eugene, Ore., for being able to stop the clock from flashing on his VCR. Ethan: "My girlfriend said it was driving her crazy every time she slept over, and at first we just used to hang the TV guide over it, but then I got creative and read the manual and actually set it to the right time. So I guess I'd like to thank my girlfriend, Brittany. Only she isn't my girlfriend these days because we broke up over this stupid toilet seat thing, but maybe now I got this award she'll take me back. So thank you, Brittany, honey, and of course the guys at Sony who drew the pictures in the manual."
The Award for Best Remembering of Song Lyrics goes to Zack Tjader of Port Arthur, Texas, for knowing all the words to all the Doobie Brothers' songs as well as "Good King Wenceslas." Zack confesses, "I've never really understood what 'As he rises to her apology, anybody else would surely know, but what a fool believes, he sees' means. It sounds kinda dirty. But I know I have the words down. As for 'Good King Wenceslas,' most people just sing the first verse over and over, without really going deep. So I'd like to thank my parents for letting me stay in my room with headphones on all through the '70s. And uh, God, I guess."
The Award for Outstanding Achievement goes to Faith Nussbaum of Hither Hills, N.J., for being the only moviegoer in the United States who walked out of "Titanic" before the ship sank. Faith says, "I just couldn't stand the corny dialogue. When Billy Zane was running around shooting at Leonardo DiCaprio, I'd had it. After all, I knew how it was going to end. Besides, I'd finished my popcorn. My mother didn't bring me up to be a time-waster. And I gotta thank her for that. I'd also like to thank my husband, Gary, and our three beautiful children, Jake, Tiffani and Belle--not that they had anything to do with my walking out of the movie, but they'd be hurt if I didn't mention them. And of course, my colorist, and our real estate agent, and the guy at Al's Bagels who always gives me a free schmear, and our dog walker, and . . ." MUSIC UP. GO TO COMMERCIAL.
When we return, the excitement continues with a special award to the only person in the known universe who believes President Clinton has never fooled around on Hillary while in the White House. Stay tuned!
This column has been edited for space reasons, since the original ran more than three hours, not counting the post-ceremony kissy-face by Barbara Walters.