NY Mirror

8:46: RENÉE ZELLWEGER is awkwardly strutting onstage as if there's something up her ass. Last year's Oscar?

9:30: The new shtick of having some winners accept in the aisle adds an intimate and electric touch. Kidding. 9:40: Another Aviator win. SCORSESE is sobbing. The man who made Taxi Driver and Goodfellas is a big, old vanilla Mister Softee. 9:46: A shot of Paul Giamatti. At least he got an invite. 10:12: "This is the dog's bollocks!" exclams a thrilled winner. Wrong body part. 10:30: ANTONIO BANDERAS and CARLOS SANTANA perform that Motorcycle Diaries song and suddenly it's like being in one of those lobster restaurants on 23rd Street. Someone please come out in a swan dress.

10:40: I'm so bored I'm thinking crazy thoughts. If yo' mama married YO-YO MA, she'd be Yo' Mama Yo Ma. 11:10: My resin board was right. Get used to "two-time Oscar winner HILARY SWANK." But her "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream" speech is so borderline cornball it feels lifted from Million Dollar Baby.

11:12: By now, Renée has clearly pulled two statuettes out of her butt and inserted them up SEAN PENN and OPRAH WINFREY. 11:28: JAMIE FOXX incorporates a SIDNEY POITIER impression into his speech. Is there no end to his magic? 11:35: CLINT wins. But it's Marty who did the best boxing movie ever made. The poor old marshmallow will no doubt get the Sidney Lumet thing next year. BEYONCÉ can sing the tribute.

By the way, If evildoers were to ever unplug the pope, at least we wouldn't have to hear that gay marriage is "the new ideology of evil." (I am so kidding! We still would!)

But hold your rosaries, honey. I just figured out how they can fix the Oscars: Either beg BILLY CRYSTAL back or do a Golden Globes and completely forgo the host, just jump headlong into the festivities. And make them festivities, for God's sake. Take another tip from the Globes and have the crowd seated informally at tables where endless amounts of booze are served. Mind you, I don't normally promote alcohol abuse, but if it'll make a three-and-a-half-hour awards show a little less tortuous, I say guzzle up, people.

Also, get rid of all those obscure short subject categories. Clearly, the shorts are made solely so they can be shown somewhere for a week and become eligible for an Oscar. All right, I'm willing to compromise and have them awarded offscreen, but please don't put them center stage. Oh, all right, put them center stage. Let them have their moment. I give up.

But bring back bad taste! You know, ROB LOWE songs, DEBBIE ALLEN-choreographed production numbers, and saggy breasts. Even with Chris Rock hosting, the whole thing was a restrained snoozefest. Never gag ROBIN WILLIAMS. Even if he bombs out, it'll be good television. Bring MICHAEL MOORE back to scream again. And get some old-time stars into the mix. The academy should never be ashamed of its past, even if it's incontinent.

And maybe the voters should actually see some of the movies. That would probably elevate some of the choices. (The Sea Inside? Please! Por favor!)

Or maybe just leave it all exactly as is. After all, the ratings were only down by two million this year.


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Eric McCormack
photo: James White
LITTER BOX
Ghastly Gossip for the Spotty Mind

My spies claim MARY-KATE OLSEN is prone to leaving trash in the lobby of her new building, and the other tenants are a New York minute away from screaming about it. At least there are used-food cartons among the discardables (though of course they might be from guests) . . . Feed on this: New Line may be behind a proposed reality show about celebrity photographer PATRICK MCMULLAN. Yay—cameras on top of cameras!

As for past TV triumphs, Starstruck, MICHAEL JOSEPH GROSS's absorbing upcoming book investigating fandom, has a section about MADONNA's Will & Grace guest spot. Producer MAX MUTCHNICK told Gross that Madonna "does this thing where she pretends like she doesn't remember anybody's name, and I guess it makes her feel good about herself." That Madge, I mean Esther! She couldn't even seem to summon co-star ERIC MCCORMACK's monicker (let alone his color coding) for a while, and he was apparently offended, but told Gross that she was otherwise a pro and ended up sending him roses by any name. To avoid a happy ending, I'll close with a skanky observation: Remember those silly rumors about MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY? Well, he can't be gay. He's dating PENELOPE CRUZ!


musto@villagevoice.com

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