Gems fit for a queen dangled from necklines, yards of taffeta bustled from bottoms and wisps of chiffon fluttered in the breeze. As the sun began to set, the stars were ready to shine, making their pilgrimage to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the 71st Annual Academy Awards. The limos lined up while a breathless battalion of entertainment crews got ready to fawn and gush over red carpet arrivals.
Here at home, those who couldn’t make it to the Super Bowl of movie making held their own Oscar bash at Granita. They started early Sunday evening watching the spectacle from big screen TVs while sipping champagne and savoring Wolfgang Puck pizzas.
Jannis Swerman, a Swifty Lazar veteran from Spago, presided over the party, the third annual at this location. “It’s become a real neighborhood event,” she said. “It’s just a fun evening for everyone.”
Between bites of smoked salmon galette and observations like “What’s up with that hairdo?” they marked their ballots and argued for their favorites. Deirdre Higgins made a case for “Elizabeth” while casting her votes. “I thought it was so romantic, and the cinematography was incredible,” she said. “Saving Private Ryan” was the top choice for Bob Christiansen. “It affected me more than any other movie,” he explained. “It was like being there.”
The room burst into applause at the mention of local nominees like Ed Harris, who was up for best supporting actor in the “Truman Show.” Harris went home empty handed, with the Oscar going to James Coburn for “Affliction.”
Nick Nolte lost out to Roberto Benigni. Nolte did not get the gold for best actor but described a win by co-star Coburn as “the next best thing.”
Unlike last year when James Cameron’s “Titanic” sailed off with just about everything in sight, this year’s tally turned out to be a real grab bag. For the first time in a decade, the film that won best director (Steven Spielberg) failed to win best picture (“Shakespeare in Love”).
Oscar watchers laughed and cheered during the program’s most memorable moments — notably, when actor Benigni stole the show. After winning best foreign film, he bounced over chairs and hopped to the stage like an adorable, over-animated bunny. His film, “Life is Beautiful,” snagged three awards including best actor and best dramatic score. Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” won five statues, but “Shakespeare in Love” conquered all with seven little gold men.
The greatest fashion show on earth yielded few flops with not much in the way of tennis-shoe-and-tuxedo or Barbie-does-burlesque combinations. The stars disappointed critics by showing up in tasteful, high-glamour gowns and elegant up-dos.
All except host Whoopi Goldberg, who pranced out in comic interpretations of best costume design.
She kicked off with Queen Elizabeth, vowing to return her gown to Elton John and huffing that she “hadn’t taken her dress off this many times” since her first audition.
After the four-hour show and parties featuring everyone from Monica Lewinsky to Jesse “the body” Ventura, the stars went to their cars and got ready to hang up their Halstons for another year.
Even though the night honored few hometown heroes, the guests at Granita enjoyed a jolly good time. Most have been around long enough to know that Oscar can be unpredictable. Every year, one man’s disappointment is another man’s triumph. Or, as Benigni would say, “It’s tragedy, it’s joy, it’s a lot like life.”