''You need to stay alert in the first part of the evening or you'll be lost forever,'' said Scarlett Johansson as she waded through a swamp of technical jargon. ''The words are coming out of my mouth but I'm just not processing them.'' Nonetheless, Reuters reports, the actress earned praise from the honorees at the annual Sci-Tech Oscar banquet Saturday night in Pasadena, where she handed out trophies to the inventors of some of the state-of-the-art tools used by Hollywood filmmakers.The techies applauded her after she successfully made her way through a complicated description of the motion-capture technology used to copy actors' movements for the digitized characters in The Polar Express and I, Robot. ''Wow. It's a real crowd pleaser,'' Johansson said.
Johansson is the latest in a line of starlets hired to glam up the otherwise geeky proceedings as hostess; last year, it was spy-tech gal Jennifer Garner, and the year before, it was Kate Hudson, who delighted the techies by fumbling with a blouse that kept threatening to pop open. Johansson, dressed more demurely, with a black jacket over her gown, handed out awards to Steven Boze, who invented a device for removing unwanted noise from soundtracks; camera-crane developers Jean-Marie Lavalou, Alain Masseron, David Samuelson, and Horst Burbulla; Kodak engineer Arthur Widmer, whose inventions include the blue-screen process that allows filmmakers to splice in footage of a set behind actors working on a bare soundstage; and camera-lens innovator Takuo Miyagishima, who won the Academy's top sci-tech prize, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award. Johansson will deliver a brief recap of the evening during the main Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.