Yesterday Leah and I went to the opening day of Tim Burton’s new version of “Alice in Wonderland” at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. The El Capitan is directly across the street from the Kodak Theatre, site of tomorrow’s Oscars presentation, and it was just insane getting into and out of this gridlocked area. All of Hollywood Boulevard was closed to traffic and hundreds of workers were in the throes of preparation for the big day. As always, it was interesting to see the gigantic Oscars in their plastic shrouds, extra thick this year because of the rain that is predicted all weekend.
As the Oscars are being wheeled into place, the Kodak always takes on the air of an Emergency Room triage. The Teamsters shlepping the behemoth awards start looking like EMT workers, especially in this shot I snapped of a man seemingly giving CPR to the golden statue. It’s always strange seeing seedy Hollywood transformed for public consumption and this year even more of Hollywood Boulevard was blocked off from the prying eyes of pedestrians. But I did manage to see several behind-the-scenes moments such as the parade of burly men wearing signs around their neck stating which Supporting Actress nominee they were standing in for during tech rehearsals. I think the Vera Farmiga guy was giving me the eye.
Leah and I walked the plastic-covered red carpet that the A-list stars will traverse tomorrow afternoon. I fantasized aloud to Leah how it would feel if one day she was nominated for an Oscar. Then I wondered if Charlie might take a similar interest in performing. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they were both nominated for an Oscar one day? Leah gave the proper response—that she loves to act but doesn’t care about awards. But that got me thinking about siblings who have been nominated for Academy Awards. The most famous sibling rivalry on Oscar night had to be sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine competing for the Best Actress prize in 1941. Joan won that night (for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion”) and was famously snubbed by her sister but competitive Olivia had the last laugh by winning the Oscars in 1946 and 1949. Amazingly, both sisters are still with us, among the very last movie stars from the 1930s. I’m convinced their decades-long rivalry is keeping them alive—each sister refuses to be the first one to die.
This year Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the short list of sibling nominees since brother Jake was nominated several years ago. Lionel and Ethel Barrymore both won Oscars (surprisingly brother John was never nominated but his granddaughter Drew may well be one day). Jane and Peter Fonda were both nominated several times but only Jane has won. Joaquin and River Phoenix are the only brothers to get acting nominations. Besides Olivia and Joan, sisters Meg and Jennifer Tilly have been nominated along with multiple nominees Lynn and Vanessa Redgrave. In 1966, the Redgrave sisters were up against each other for Best Actress but both lost out to Liz Taylor. Rounding out the brother-sister nominees are Julia and Eric Roberts and, of course, Shirley MacLaine and Warren Beatty. Can Leah and Charlie Miller be far behind?
We fought our way through the Oscar chaos and finally made it inside the beautiful El Capitan. That theatre has such special memories for me. Leah’s mom was downing castor oil in the El Capitan’s bathroom just hours before Leah was born. My daughter and I have probably seen over a hundred movies at this Hollywood showplace. When Leah was a little girl, Disney showed a different classic movie every Saturday morning at 10 am and we went to see nearly every film, from “The Parent Trap” to “Song of the South.” I hope they start up such showings in time to educate Charlie on Hayley Mills' oeuvre and other important artistic achievements.
The new version of “Alice in Wonderland” has been getting mixed reviews but we enjoyed it. The always interesting Johnny Depp was surprisingly restrained as the Mad Hatter but Burton spouse Helena Bonham Carter chomped down every square inch of scenery as the crazy and deformed Red Queen. She was great. Anne Hathaway played her sister, the White Queen. Burton said that he based this characterization on British cooking goddess Nigella Lawson. Kendall and I are both obsessed with Nigella, in part for her delicious meals (I’ve made a fair amount of them) but mostly because of her haunting beauty and wonderful if slightly batty joie de vivre. As Burton said, “She's really beautiful and she does all this cooking, but then there's this glint in her eye and when you see it you go, ‘Oh, whoa, she's like really ... nuts.’ I mean in a good way. Well, maybe. I don't know.”
Now that we’ve clawed our way out of Hollywood, stay tuned for my annual Oscars post-mortem. I’m a little scared about tomorrow’s telecast since I heard the producers saying how they were hoping to attract a younger audience. Yuck—that usually means an endless parade of vapid young TV stars as presenters. I stand by all my predictions of last month although I still think Gabourey Sidibe’s win is wishful thinking on my part.
Charlie has already picked out his outfit for his very first Oscar telecast—a formal onesie. He thought that Mo'Nique was excellent in "Precious" but he’s hoping that Penelope Cruz will win for “Nine.” Poor thing—I had to tell him his favorite actress doesn’t stand a chance.