It was labeled "Harry Dean's Anti-Oscar Bash," but the event Monday evening at the West L.A. blues bar the Mint featured little in the way of Hollywood bashing and had no small amount of glamour in and of itself.
The crowd was largely in elegant attire and was respectful and enthusiastic as the cavalcade of Academy Award winners paraded across the club's big-screen TV. Later, actor Harry Dean Stanton--who might have been an Oscar nominee for his '80s film "Paris, Texas" had the academy embraced independent films then the way it does now--took the stage for some distinctly unglitzy lonesome country crooning.
On screen, Oscar host Billy Crystal inspired several bursts of spontaneous applause. "Billy Crystal deserves an Oscar for his job so far tonight," said Lauren Schmalle, an actor. Schmalle said he had been pulling for Jack Nicholson to win the best actor Oscar, until he saw Matt Damon in "Good Will Hunting" over the weekend. "I'd still like to see Jack win, but I can't wait to see Matt in a movie he didn't write," Schmalle said. (Nicholson, in fact, did win.)
Few in the crowd seemed surprised or upset by any of the winners. "I knew Helen Hunt would probably win--she's the only American," said So Yung Kim, an event planner at UCLA. Diane Arrata confessed that she had barely seen any of the films in contention, though she, along with seemingly nearly every other woman in America, did think Leonardo DiCaprio deserved a nomination for "Titanic." For her, the awards show "will help me pick movies to rent on video."
Stanley Donen's tap routine while accepting his lifetime achievement award brought down the house. "That's the most captivating moment so far," Arrata said.
Lisa Luboff, a nonprofit fundraiser, said the montage of Donen's work, as well as the clips from other past films "makes me want to watch old movies."
The first big cheer went up when Robin Williams won best supporting actor for "Good Will Hunting"--many in the audience were boisterous calling out his name before presenter Mira Sorvino announced his victory. The "L.A. Confidential" clip inspired more impassioned applause than "Titanic's" montage.
There were a few less respectful moments. When Madonna took the stage with her flowing mane of curling tresses, one attendee loudly announced, "She looks like Boy George!" Arrata demanded, "What's with her hair?"
And the crowd reacted with equal amounts of enthusiasm and dread at the promise of Celine Dion's performance of the Oscar-winning song "My Heart Will Go On."