Cries & Whispers

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MY INVITATION to Swifty Lazar's Oscar bash having gone astray, I swapped tux for duvet and set the alarm for 3am to watch with a pasty-faced trio of Sky presenters. The overall audience was a billion, but not many of those can have been in Britain, where you needed both a dish and an extra subscription. Compared to the Baftas this was Broadway after amateur dramatics - the clips and tears arrived on cue. But there wasn't much suspense. The seating plan was a giveaway. If it had been a wedding, Clint Eastwood would have been mother of the bride - front row, aisle seat. But you could tell it wasn't a wedding because there were more sermons. Susan Sarandon on Haiti, Richard Gere on China and Liz Taylor on heaven. Their hearts would have been in the right place if they could have moved them from their sleeves. Everyone had a good word to say about women - this year's 'theme' - but one of the few women to win an award outside the female categories (Luciana Arrighi, the art director of Howards End), was cut off in mid-speech by the brutal, if useful, 90-second rule. Still, there were some pleasant surprises. Marisa Tomei took a deserved best supporting actress award, and collected it with dizzy charm, bucking the ladies' fashion of the night (funereal black and hen-party cleavage) with an old-fashioned white frock. And Jon Lovitz, IoS screen actor of 1992, stole the show with an inspired ham actor skit. But there wasn't much to steal, least of all presenter Billy Crystal's script which witlessly pounded at sore spots, from Salman Rushdie to the Waco siege. Who, in the end, could begrudge Clint his victory? He made the most gracious speech, even thanking the critics, and brought along his mother, grey-haired, dewy-eyed and proud. The man with no name won't seem quite the same.

TALKING of violence in films, which I wasn't but everybody else seems to be, there is the problem of Bad Lieutenant. Not whether to see it, or whether to denounce it if you do, but how to pronounce it. To say Bad Loo Tenant is to sound as if you're trying too hard to be American, like those sad disc-jockeys. However, to say Bad Leftenant sounds too English and prissy, and may be socially irresponsible. Imagine: what if a retired colonel heard you, assumed it was a film about a fella who wasn't up to scratch in the Guards, and set off to see it, only to be confronted with the sight of Harvey Keitel masturbating?

IF THE MPs sitting on the Select Committee for National Heritage inquiry into CD prices should stroll down their constituency high streets this weekend, they may notice that Our Price is currently selling CDs at pounds 9.99. Or rather, that Our Price has reduced a small number of discs (Simply Red and Enya are prominent) to pounds 9.99 for a limited run. Still, any reduction from the usual pounds 12- pounds 14 is a step in the right direction. The chairman of W H Smith, which owns Our Price, recently blamed high CD prices as one cause of disappointing company results - much to the annoyance of record company executives, who felt he was letting the side down. But if the shops are getting the message, the record companies still have their heads in the sand. This week, before the committee, the industry will have argued that it cannot afford to lower CD prices. Strange, then, that last year EMI and PolyGram announced best-ever profits, and others increased dealer prices, putting about 50 pence on the retail price. I trust the people's representatives will not be taking the protestations of the industry at face value.