28 February 2007

Even at four hours plus, Raleighwood still starred

I have to give my heartfelt kudos to the gang over at Raleighwood Cinema Grill. Despite some rainy weather and an up and down slate of candidates for Hollywood's top prizes, the gang at the RCG pulled off their Academy Awards® celebration this past Sunday with a good measure of food, laughs, door prizes, and excellent customer service. They really took the time and put in the effort to make the show something enjoyable for all. While it may have been my first foray there for the Awards, it will definitely not be my last. (They also do huge programs for the Super Bowl® and other televised events I also have discovered.)

Truly, most of us in attendance had a lot of fun...and while alcohol was an option, no one seriously imbibed. We ate, drank, laughed, voted (we had small Olympics®-style numerical cards we held up for the dresses), and generally carried on with great merriment. Not to mention we had some seriously wonderful balloons everywhere...some that were even the same size and design as the Oscars® themselves.

All of the wonderful balloon decorations...including the towering 15 foot Oscar®-inspired wonder at stagefront (above right)...were made by the wonderfully talented owners of Blooming Balloons and Baskets, Judy Geiger and Lisa Swiger. I cannot recommend them enough...their level to detail and scale are top notch. Check out their 'Decor' page at the link above to get a glimpse of what they can do.

It was well until Monday afternoon before I seriously could even consider that maybe Ellen DeGeneres didn't blow other viewers away. For once, the Oscars® didn't seem to take themselves that seriously and the show 'worked' more often than it failed. So it was four hours plus...everyone who watches these things know they don't stay on schedule so I guess I just never take those complaints that seriously. Ellen seemed carefree and also took the high road a bit...not good for a comedy club, mind you, but just about what you want for one of these shindigs. Despite the critics elsewhere, we at the RCG, anyway, thought she did really well. And her bit with Clint Eastwood, giving direction to uber filmmaker Steven Spielberg??? Classic Ellen... You can see the actual 'finished' photo collaboration here at Hollywood Grind. I kept waiting for her to go up to Jack Nicholson and rub her hands on his new Daddy Warbucks-like bald head (and maybe even kiss it for good measure), but sadly it was not to be. Not this year, anyway.

Although, for the life of us, we did not...and I still do not...'get', let alone like, the appearance of Celine Dion's singing of a song that technically didn't even have words when originally composed by honoree Ennio Morricone. Dear God, stop her before she realizes his "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" theme song is one of Morricone's most recognized works. No wonder that dear man spoke Italian afterwards (although a bit surreal as translated by Dirty Harry himself). If it had been my song she had so saccarinely overdone, I would have been talking in a foreign language, too...if for no other reason than to politely cuss her out to no more than 20 million or so (give a half million here or there introductory Italian language students).

Some highlights:

  • Dame Helen Mirren winning for "The Queen" (and while I could care less if she was wearing underwear or not, she looked stunning compared to most of the women half her age in attendance)
  • Forest Whitaker for "The Last King of Scotland" (I have adored this man's talents ever since "Bird" and "The Crying Game", if not before...a quiet and graceful professional)
  • Jennifer Hudson for "Dreamgirls" (although I'm not sure Ms Hudson won it for 'acting' per se, but more for the whole 'underdog singer with great pipes and even better bustline' story)
  • The whole production of "Pan’s Labyrinth" (while I normally am not a science fiction/fantasy film lover, I've been moved to check this one out)
  • Ari Sandel winning for his film "West Bank Story" for the Best Live Action Short Film category (any man who can make a musical comedy of "West Side Story" featuring Palestinians and Christians gets my vote...but can I actually see it anywhere?)

    Some lowlights:

  • Watching Peter O'Toole lose for Best Actor...again (in all fairness, though, with the exception of Whitaker, I thought this was one of the weaker competitions)
  • Paul Greengrass' wonderful directing never having a chance in the Best Director category for "United 93"...when the nominees went out, everyone knew it was Scorsese's year, even if "The Departed" is not his best...Greengrass' excellent work couldn't even get an 'also ran' plug)
  • Whoever from the whole "Dreamgirls" assembly that pissed off the voters so much that they lost on all nominated songs to Melissa Etheridge's song for a documentary...they had 3 out of a possible 5 nominations, for Pete's sake...and they were a musical (I smell a rat somewhere, folks, this reeks of some Tinseltown politics at play)
  • Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio lecturing us all about 'going green' (when everyone starts wearing recyclable clothes, loses the umpteen layers of hair spray and shows up on tandem bikes for these awards shows, then and only then will I start taking the 'green movement' in Hollywood with a smidgen of seriousness)

    Also at Raleighwood...

    The Jamie Lee Curtis and Larry the Time Warner Cable Guy lookalikes were a very personable duo (and are married in real life, to boot). 'Jamie Lee' not only looks like a body double to the real actress, but she's also gifted with the superb and quick wit of the original, too.

    A well-deserved shout out also goes to the lovely group of SunCoast Video employees who were kind enough to let me crash their 'dining and viewing' booth. Pictured here are the super-friendly Alan and Leah...God bless 'em, a duo so devoted to watching the proceedings, they came straight from work so as not to be late. Super knowledgeable, super nice, and super funny people.
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