Who won at the 1991 Oscars? The short answer is, all those people carrying little gold statues. The long answer is more complex, and it’s wrapped in Hollywood’s flip-flopping sense of who’s hot and who’s not. Some may benefit because they didn’t win; some winners may find Oscar has turned into a one-way ticket to Palookaville. It was all there in the telecast — if you knew where to look.
W I N N E R S
Best Performance by an Outcast:
Barbra Streisand. All evening, the overlooked director of Best Picture nominee The Prince of Tides was the object of respectful outrage. Throughout, she gloated graciously. And why not? Streisand was being set up for the Big Win next time.
Fastest Escalation to Goddess:
Jodie Foster. Her second Best Actress award in three years consolidated her status as perhaps the most powerful woman in Hollywood today. Clearly, she’ll be wielding as much influence behind the camera in the future as she now has in front of it.
Best Perceptual Adjustment by a Major Studio:
Disney. So what if Beauty and the Beast didn’t win Best Picture? By cleaning up in the music awards, providing the best production numbers in recent Oscar memory, and giving us two charming (and glitch-free) animated presenters, Beauty showed class — and positioned animated features to be taken much more seriously from here on.
Best Supported Cause:
Gay Awareness. The threat of disruptions threw a spotlight on a subject that needed it, even though the protests stayed outside. What made it onto the show was an ocean of red ribbons, Richard Gere’s plea for AIDS research money, and Bill Lauch’s moving acceptance of the award to his late companion, lyricist Howard Ashman.
L O S E R S
The Bernardo Bertolucci “Big Nipple” Award for Oddest Acceptance Speech:
Jack Palance. That blue joke about push-ups was politically incorrect; more damaging, it was just plain weird, and it provided Billy Crystal with a running joke that he almost ran into the ground. Palance’s reported bitterness backstage just added to the dotty aura.
This Could Be The Last Honorary Plaque:
Warren Beatty. Bugsy won only those coffee-table Oscars — Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design — that always feel a bit like consolation. As it became clear that the most-nominated film was also one of the least-awarded, there was an unsettling sense that Beatty’s moment might be passing.
George C. Scott Award for Surliness:
Spike Lee. Give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was nervous. Even so, Spike Lee could have read his cue cards as if he’d cared about what they said. Instead, he muffed his presentation of the Best Documentaries with a blasé attitude and verbal slips (Spike, that country isn’t pronounced ”Thigh-land”). He may have upheld his Angry Young Filmmaker image, but he didn’t win any new friends.
Scene: Swifty Lazar’s elite party at Spago.
Guest List: Billy Crystal, Madonna, Tom and Roseanne Arnold, Brad Pitt, John Singleton, Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg, Demi Moore, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Annette Bening, and Warren Beatty.
Crashability: If you made it past the 15 L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies, you had to face the dozen Israeli security guards.
Edible Complex: Wolfgang Puck’s new potatoes with two caviars, smoked salmon pizzas, and Chinese duck sandwiches. ”We came here to eat,” said Tom Arnold.
Preferred Topic of Conversation: Gay protesters handing out fliers outside.
Best Distraction: Going across the street to Tower Records to buy the new Springsteen albums, which went on sale at midnight.
Best Line: Unidentified woman in black backless gown: ”It’s just like being at any other party where I don’t know anyone.”
Closing Comment: Fred de Cordova, Tonight Show executive producer: ”It’s the last watering hole, or vodka hole, of what Hollywood once was.”
Scene: The annual benefit for El Rescate, a nonprofit organization for Central American refugees, at Maple Drive restaurant in Beverly Hills.
Guest List: Mike Meyers, Mercedes Ruehl, Demi Moore, Ed Begley Jr., Michael Bolton, Sally Kirkland, Rob Lowe, Esai Morales, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Juliette Lewis, and Oliver Stone.
Crashability: All attempts to keep media crashers out ended when the Oscars did and attendance surged. A free-for- all reigned the rest of the evening.
Best Visuals: Five TV monitors in the bar, six screens in the dining room, four booths with private monitors, and six TVs in the reception area. Audio from the telecast was even piped into the bathrooms.
Die-Hard Partiers: At 3 a.m., Moore, Lowe, and Myers were still at their table.
Closing Comment: Morales on Hollywood’s glitz and this socially concerned benefit: ”What a juxtaposition!”
Scene: Benefit for New York theater group La Mama thrown by columnist Billy Norwich and hotelier Ian Schrager at the Paramount Hotel in Manhattan.
Guest List: Donna Karan, Jellybean Benitez, Robert and Blaine Trump, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Martha Stewart, drag queens, and celebrity look-alikes.
Crashability: Despite 11 security guards, four doormen, and two publicists stationed at the door, getting in without an invitation was no problem.
Who Watched: Nobody.
Best Line: A miniskirted model: ”I think they just gave an Oscar to some guy on the moon.”
Closing Comment: Heard from about a quarter of those present: ”Don’t worry. I’m taping it.” — Reported by Bill Higgins, Frank Spotnitz, and Giselle Benatar