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As usual, Oscars were the most

Superlatives reigned at the Academy Awards as the beautiful, the bummed out and the feathered strutted, sulked and molted their way through the evening.

[AP photos]
During the Governor's Ball after the Oscar presentations, best actress Julia Roberts snuggles with her beau, Benjamin Bratt, while Oscar stands stolidly on their table.

By ED. CASSIDY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 27, 2001


HOLLYWOOD -- Sorry, but you can't trash the Oscars this year. The gowns were stunning (well, most of them). The men were dashing (except for surprise presenter Tom Cruise -- hey, pal, it's the Oscars, put on a shirt that fits -- and a tie).

photo
Hey, Tom, where's the tie? It's the Academy Awards! An extremely casual, slightly rumpled Tom Cruise presents the Oscar for best director.
Steve Martin could not have been a better host. The surprises were plentiful (Marcia Gay Harden and director Steven Soderbergh top the list of jaw-droppers). The disappointments were few as Oscar gold was spread out among nine motion pictures.

And the awards actually ran five minutes short. Who could ask for more -- other than skipping those dreadful performances by Randy Newman and the waterfowl-bedecked Bjork.

But wait, there is more -- my own awards from the red carpet perspective.

TIGHTEST SECURITY CHECK: I had to wait in line next to Russell Crowe while Julia Roberts opened her purse for inspection before being allowed to pass through metal detectors to the red carpet.

BEST REASON FOR SECURITY: It was estimated that more than $120-million of jewelry was out on loan at the Oscars, including Ellen Burstyn's million-dollar Dior necklace and Catherine Zeta-Jones' $2.5-million Orgell necklace.

BEST ACCESSORY: Julia Roberts' beau, Benjamin Bratt, who had all the women and half the men at the awards swooning.

ODDEST COUPLE: Jennifer Lopez, in very sheer Chanel, arrived
photo
[AP photo]
Jennifer Lopez and a date, appropriately perhaps not pictured.
on the arm of one of her backup dancers, whom she would not allow to speak to reporters. Runner-up: Russell Crowe's "date" turned out to be three bodyguards.

NOISIEST PROTESTERS: Not the environmentalists, not the right-wingers, but a bunch of wackos demanding more full-frontal male nudity in movies.

BIGGEST GOOSE EGG: Bjork carried -- actually, she kept dropping -- a purse in the shape of an oversize papier-mache egg to complement her goofy swan get-up.

WORST DRESSED: It's too easy to hand this honor over to Bjork, or to Juliette Binoche for her pearls-in-bondage Gaultier flapper outfit with black leather boots. So it goes to attention-starved Courtney Love in a hideous Cavalli shredded silver gown, which revealed way too much underwear, made only of Swarovski crystals.

BEST DRESSED: The women of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Michelle Yeoh was a knockout in Barney Cheng's tiger-striped cheongsam. And Zhang Ziyi was equally stunning in a sequin-flowered Escada design. Runner-up: Samuel L. Jackson in an awesome trench tuxedo by Armani.

GET ME OUTTA HERE: Spanish superstar Javier Bardem was up and out of the Shrine Auditorium before fellow Best Actor nominee
photo
[AP photo]
Juliette Binoche
Crowe had finished his acceptance speech.

BEST DECISION: Steve Martin declined the producers' suggestion that he grab his banjo and make it a trio with Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman.

BEST RECYCLING: Sunday's statuettes were actually from the batch that was stolen before last year's ceremonies, with their 24-karat gold plating refinished.

BIGGEST WASTE OF MONEY: Universal spent more than $500,000 in trade ads pushing for a Julia Roberts' Best Actress win on Sunday night. Was there ever any doubt?

SECOND BIGGEST WASTE: More than a million bucks was spent on the traditional Governors Ball dinner, which most celebs skipped for trendier post-Oscar fanny bumpers presented by Elton John, Martin Scorsese and Vanity Fair magazine.

MOST GHOULISH PARTY SNACK: Thin butter cookies bearing faces of the nominees created by scanning photos onto edible paper with edible dyes, served at the preceremony reception at the Shrine Auditorium.

BIGGEST GROCERY LIST: Also at the reception, 14,000 hors d'oeuvres, as well as the cookies, were washed down with close to 3,000 bottles of wine and champagne.

PARTY POOPER: Best Actor loser Ed Harris, looking surprisingly gaunt, opted to sulk in the alley next to the Shrine and chain-smoke with wife Amy Madigan.

BIGGEST MYSTERY: How they'll complete the Academy's new $455-million Kodak Theatre, still just a shell, in time for next year's Oscars. Academy president Robert Rheme has given the Shrine Auditorium a deposit, just in case.

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