I'm not sure when, exactly, I started to loathe Oscar night.
I'm positive it was somewhere in the ‘90s when Billy Crystal or Whoopi Goldberg would host.
They, along with Robin Williams, form an unholy trinity of “comedy” that, sometime starting in the late ‘80s during their creative nadir, made lame-o's like Andrew “Dice” Clay and Emo Phillips seem edgy and relevant.
Oh, the idea of the Oscars is fine: Those in the biz vote for great achievements in acting, cinematography, direction, animation, etc.
Humans are a competitive species, and we love the idea of there being a winner – no matter how arbitrary the criteria.
But, man oh man, couldn't we do without the Ellen DeGeneres song-and-dance routine and get right to the Best Supporting Actor category in under a half-hour?
Even with Best Song performances, there's no excuse why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can't get this deal clocked in at less than two hours.
The reason, of course, is that Oscar night isn't really about recognizing film achievement. It's about whose dress Cate Blanchett is wearing.
My wife is one of those people who tunes in to E! at 3 in the afternoon to see the stars arrive on the red carpet.
She's on the phone with her mother, gasping at Helen Mirren's gown and wondering, just what in the hell is Cameron Diaz doing there anyway?
And, my God, her hair!
She questions why I don't share her love for all that is Oscar.
“You love movies,” she says. “You have a subscription to Entertainment Weekly. Why don't you want to watch?”
I didn't even have to answer: She knew the reason at approximately 8:15 p.m., as the show neared the three-hour mark.
“This sucks!” my lovely, always-even-tempered bride bellowed from the couch. “Why don't they get on with it?
Sound editing? Who freaking cares?! LET'S GO!”
And with that, she stormed off to bed.
You would think, remote now liberated from my wife's death grip, I would have shut the TV off or at least changed the channel to something more mentally challenging – like, say, “Orange County Choppers.”
But I hung in there.
The reason is this: I do love films. And I desperately wanted to see Martin Scorsese stand on that stage, holding that little gold statue, and be recognized as Best Director.
Or, dare to dream, his “The Departed” – admittedly the only Best Picture-nominated film I've seen this year – win.
The odds were against it, naturally.
As Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers so aptly put it, the collective mind of the Academy is a lot like your great-aunt Edna and her idea of good movies: “Don't make them too loud, too bloody, too brainy, too sexy or too provocative.”
And that, friends, isn't Scorsese.
Even though he'd been nominated five times and never won, his tough guys and gangster-themed flicks were always trounced on Oscar night. “Dances With Wolves” beat “GoodFellas.” “Rocky” beat “Taxi Driver.”
And “Ordinary People” – the unworthiest of all Best Pictures, with the exception of maybe “Shakespeare in Love” – beat “Raging Bull.”
So, I have to admit, I got a little jazzed when George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola stepped on stage to present the Best Director Award.
And when Marty's name was called – and when Scorsese asked them to check the envelope again – every movie buff over the age of 35 had to get a little misty-eyed.
So, a few minutes later, when “The Departed” – which now occupies the third slot in my multi-disc DVD player (the extras disc rests in the fourth) – took Best Picture over the much-beloved “Little Miss Sunshine,”
I just about choked on my Bunny Tracks ice cream.
Aunt Edna? Is that really you?
Maybe the 5,830-member voting body of the Academy simply got tired of the Monday-morning quarterbacking by movie critics.
Or maybe – despite instances where the lame “Driving Miss Daisy” wins Best Picture while Spike Lee's “Do the Right Thing” isn't even nominated – even the Academy can have a moment of clarity.
Who knows? Maybe it's a trend. Certainly “Crash” – last year's surprise winner – was a more challenging film than the overhyped “Brokeback Mountain,” the popular choice for 2006.
But if Oscar the award is getting its act together, too bad Oscar the show is still the same-old, same-old.
Perhaps Melissa Etheridge sang it best with this year's winner for Best Original Song: “I Need to Wake Up.”