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When most people think about the Academy Awards’ best moments, the onstage lightning bolts stand out.

Like Halle Berry’s ecstatic combination of disbelief and thrill as she became the first black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar in 2002 for “Monster’s Ball.”

But for those of us who cover the Oscars, there are those priceless “insider” moments that make the event memorable.

I’ll never forget being backstage at the Kodak Theatre when George Clooney met the press after his 2006 “Syriana” win. As I asked a question, Clooney replied, “Nice tux, Steve.”

Through the years, I’ve gotten to see Hollywood couples at the Oscars who weren’t long for each other: Geena Davis and director Renny Harlin, Antonio Banderas and his Spanish first wife, before Melanie Griffith.

When the Oscars were held at the Shrine Auditorium, tents were set up in the parking lot for the press. To go to the restroom meant I had to walk past several tents, and as I turned a corner in the evening light, there stood a most glamorous Uma Thurman in a violet dress, having a cigarette before she went on stage. It was a little moment that defined what Oscar, movie star, fashion and fabulous really are.

In 1997, I met British writer/director Anthony Minghella backstage. It was an astounding night for him — “The English Patient” had won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and, for Minghella, Best Director.

“Anthony,” I asked, “don’t you feel bad you didn’t win for Best Adapted Screenplay as well? After all, you were known first as a writer.”

Billy Bob Thornton took that Oscar for “Sling Blade.”

A few years later, Minghella told me that was a moment he would always remember; it was a lesson that there was always going to be someone in your life who would remind you there were other things to look forward to than your present triumphs.

At the Kodak Theatre, the print press contingent is the last stop on the red carpet, and it’s easy for the celebs to waltz on by after an hour of TV and photos. But not Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman or Helen Mirren.

These three Oscar winners always stop by to say hello as if greeting old friends. And it always seemed a bit surreal to be “talking” on this big night with three of the most down-to-earth people you’d want to meet.

One Oscar tradition has passed. Once, every studio, even if they didn’t have films in competition, hosted a lovely Oscar party with an open bar and plentiful buffet.

It was at Columbia Pictures’ low-key Oscar party where I found myself at the buffet with Anna Nicole Smith. Her lipstick smeared, her eyes blurry, Smith stumbled around, smiling as she looked at me and speaking unintelligibly.

Photographers were taking pictures (of course!) and yet no one could quite believe what they were seeing. I just wished someone would come and take her home and look out for her.

Though critics and movie fans alike thrashed the Academy Awards ceremony saying it was both too long and too tedious, ratings went up this year by 14 percent, totaling nearly 41 million viewers for the entire event, as Variety informs. The surge in ratings is mostly due to the fact that, this year, nominees for Best Picture were double in number, including “Avatar,” officially the biggest selling film in the history of cinema.

This year marked the expansion of the Best Picture category to include no less than 10 nominees, which, obviously, means more exposure for more films. The nominees for the 2010 edition was an eclectic mix, including James Cameron’s blockbuster and cinematographic milestone “Avatar,” the low-budged war drama (and winner) “The Hurt Locker,” low-budget faux-documentary alien story “District 9,” the animation “Up” and the Nazi-filled “Inglourious Basterds.” Having so many critically and commercially appreciated films nominated translated in higher ratings for the broadcast.

“It actually may not be quite that simple, but the expansion of best-picture hopefuls from five to 10 is likely accountable for this year’s surge to a five-year ratings high. The Oscars telecast on Sunday moved back above the 40 million-viewer mark for just the second time in five years, growing for a second straight year following the show’s ratings valley in 2008. Other factors may have been at work, too, including an economy that has contributed to more moviegoing. Auds also seem to be gathering around the television set more these days for big events,” Variety further explains of the surge in ratings.

“The improved Oscar ratings continue a strong season for event television. Not only did last month’s Super Bowl deliver the largest audience for any program on record (106.5 million), but the Grammy Awards hit a six-year high (25.9 million), the American Music Awards drew its largest aud in seven years (14.2 million), and the CMAs and Golden Globes were up as well. Many believe the inclusion of some popular pics such as ‘Avatar’ – the all-time leader in North America box office receipts – and some that that might not have otherwise been nommed, including ‘District 9’ and ‘Up,’ were part of the Oscar conversation,” the movie publication says.

With all this, it’s worthy to note that the awards ceremony itself was not even half as good. Dragging on for over three hours, it featured lame jokes, awkward moments and predictable segments in what can only be described as the worst Oscars ceremony in history, some reviewers say.

    Posted in : Movies and Music

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One Response to “Backstage at the Oscars:The best celeb moments often happen when the cameras are off”
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