The other day a friend asked me if I planned on watching the Oscars. If my mouth had been full I would have done a spit-take. “Am I going to watch the Oscars? What? Are you a moron? Have we just met?” I thought, but instead responded with “Of course!” You see the question is insane if you know me at all. I have been watching the Oscars devotedly ever since Rocky K.O'd Taxi Driver, Network, All the President's Men and Bound for Glory to win Best Picture. (Wow, that is amazing when you think about it.) I go to the movies weekly and am a fully committed awards show junkie—from the lowest of the brow (People’s Choice? Daytime Emmys?) to the highest, (BAFTA? Tonys?) I don’t miss an opportunity to cheer or jeer.
For years I insisted on watching alone because I hate it when people talk. Or worse, when people who haven’t seen any of the movies talk. Then I moved on to watching with Rich, my movie going partner, ordering in whatever to eat and usually making some chocolate chip cookies. Meanwhile, my friend Janet was hosting her version of the Vanity Fair party—very exclusive and a much sought-after invite. So, when I finally went from medium-friend to good-friend and scored an invitation I abandoned several key principles in order to hang with the cool kids. First, I traveled to a neighborhood that requires a mode of transportation other than my feet, adding ½ hour to get-home-and-get-in-my-bed time. Also, I watched while wearing a costume. I was never big on playing dress-up and I hate the pressure of costume parties but I loosened up and joined the group for a few years by dressing as one of the characters in a film nominated that particular Oscar year. And then, the biggest compromise of all, I viewed the awards among a large group of fun, smart but very chatty people.
For a few years I managed to play nicely. I actually got into the costume thing (paying homage to Million Dollar Baby and The Girl with the Pearl Earring) and Janet is an amazing hostess so the food and drink were always great. But I hit the wall with the chatty factor and found myself acting like a wet-blanket librarian—shushing my friends, rolling my eyes when people asked basic questions about movies they should have seen, and just being an unpleasant guest.
So, for the last few years I've politely declined the chance to be a party-pooper and it’s been back to watching with Rich, usually chez moi. This year, however, he acquired a large, flat screen TV and watching anything on it in HD is a completely different (and better) experience than staring at what now seems like the antiquated resolution of my circa 2001 27” Sony Trinitron. So, to Rich’s it was. (I’m not stupid though. I DVR’d the E! arrivals, Barbara Walters and the awards in case I missed anything.)
How excited was I when they announced Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were hosting?! Both so funny and charming, how could they go wrong? And the commitment by the new producers to keep it running fast and sleek. Great news. And now all I can say is, "Oh dear."
Allow me to rant. What. A. Mess. I’m sorry, was there no one in the control room minding the store? I’m not even going to talk about Neil Patrick Harris’ opening, it was simply too mortifying. They drag out the Brat Pack to pay tribute to John Hughes. Good idea. But, instead of showing us at home which Pack-ers are actually standing on the stage they first do an aerial shot of the Kodak Theater for 30 seconds just in case we're curious to see what the theater looks like and wonder how many people are in the audience. “Oh, wait. We’d better show the actors now!” You can imagine them scrambling. Frankly, I almost wish they hadn’t. Oh my goodness what happened to everyone? Judd Nelson looks like the leader of a cult, I thought Ally Sheedy was going to do that creepy thing with her hair and the dandruff she did in The Breakfast Club, and was that Molly Ringwald or a blow-up doll? I wouldn’t want to run into Anthony Michael Hall in a dark alley. How about the irony that Jon Cryer, whose charm as “Duckie” in Pretty in Pink was lost on me in 1986, is the one laughing all the way to the bank as he stars with Mr. Stability (and brother of Breakfast Club-er Emilio Estevez) Charlie Sheen in America’s #1 sitcom? But wait, there’s more. What about the "In Memoriam"? Not to be insensitive but why are we acting like Patrick Swayze was Laurence Olivier? I’m sorry he died “too soon” but will “film” ever recover? (Not to mention, he was doing a cable TV show when he died.) Did we really need that “Unchained Melody” Ghost song and Demi looking like she’d just come from his funeral? But that was the least of it. We have James Taylor droning, I’m sorry, I mean singing, a Beatles song best left to the Beatles while they shot the montage from so far away that the first two people they were memorializing were unrecognizable and then they forgot about Bea Arthur and Farrah Fawcett all together. I don’t even know what to say.
Except I do. How about poor Tyler Perry presenting the award for Best Editing? He does a cute little shtick about close-ups and then no one thinks to actually shoot him, I don’t know, CLOSE UP even after he says, “close-up guys.”
I need to move on to happier things because I am getting re-frustrated. For the first time in years I didn’t sit seething that someone I loved was over-looked. Really, everyone deserved his/her Oscar and how great did Sandra Bullock look and how touching was her speech about her mother and her husband? I teared up.Oh, but back to negative for one sec. I have had it with Jeff Bridges and his “hey man” business. Enough with “man” and why is he channeling Colonel Sanders? Dude (to use the name of his iconic role) you’re more Beverly Hills than Beverly Hillbilly, what’s with the accent?But of course the night belonged to Kathryn Bigelow. The Hurt Locker was great and I would have screamed if James Cameron/Avatar had won Best Director/Best Picture and not because he’s a man or an arrogant “king of the world” or her ex-husband. Her movie was just better. It stays with you for days and takes you inside a much more meaningful place than “Pandora.” And if I look half as good as she does at 58 I will be more than a little grateful.
But the night would not have been complete without a spread to rival Janet’s. Okay, maybe not that fabulous but pretty close. Rich put out two kinds of salsa, guacamole, olives and hummus and I made pizza, crust and all, for the first time. Really good! Oscar worthy I’d say. Not hard at all and if you’re scared to make your own crust, most supermarkets sell frozen pizza dough. Next time I think I’ll do a 50/50 white and whole wheat flour mix just to make it a little healthier but even as is, yum. And I’ll be back at the movies this weekend…only a year to get ready for the 83rd Academy Awards!
And the Winner is Oscar Night Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza
From Everyday Food, March 2010
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2 Packets (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl and brushing
2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for work surface
Pour 1 1/2 cups of warm (110 degree) water into a large bowl, sprinkle with yeast and let stand until slightly foamy about 5 minutes.Whisk sugar, oil and salt into yeast mixture.Add flour and stir until sticky dough forms.Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and brush top with oil.Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead 1-2 times before using.Yield: 2 pounds of pizza dough. Use 1/2 for below recipe.
Pizza Topping and Baking
From Giada De Laurentiis, The Food Network
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1 (1- pound) acorn squash
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 pound pizza dough (store bought or see above recipe and use 1/2)
1 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola
1 cup arugula
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Slice the squash into 1/2 to 3/4-inch wide half moons and place in a medium bowl. Toss the squash with the syrup, olive oil, red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Place the squash on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the squash until tender and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Keep the temperature on the oven at 375 degrees F. Roll out (my dough was sticky so I floured my fingers and pressed it out) the pizza dough on a flour dusted piece of parchment paper to a 13-inch diameter (or whatever rough estimate of a shape you can get it to be). Place the pizza and the parchment paper on a baking sheet.
Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese and the Gorgonzola on the pizza dough. Bake in the oven until golden and cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Peel the skins off the squash. Top the cooked pizza with the cooked squash.
Top with arugula and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Slice and serve.