MUCH AS we enjoy making governments tremble and share-prices tumble here at Cries & Whispers, we never lose sight of our primary purpose, ie, helping you out with your pub conversation. Bearing that in mind, here are six topics you might want to turn to when your chats about the Oscars start to flag.

1) When Kim Basinger won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, why did Minnie Driver, who was also nominated, explode in incredulous delight, as if she'd just watched a six-year-old breaking the world high-jump record? Had she put a secret bet on Basinger, or was she just happy that the award didn't go to anyone in Titanic?

Reading out the winner of the Best Short Cartoon category, Ben Affleck was similarly astonished and ecstatic. "The winner is ... Jan Pinkava for Geri's Game!" he exclaimed, giving a highly commendable impression of someone who gave a damn.

2) The Ceremony is often criticised for being too drawn out, and there's a simple solution: up to 40 minutes could be saved by snipping all of the redundant adjectives from the script. When Alec Baldwin pronounced LA Confidential to be "both gripping and enticing", even he looked as if he didn't know why he was bothering. And they could have avoided introducing "the exciting and talented Jennifer Lopez", especially as Neve Campbell had previously presented "the exciting Michael Bolton". Can you imagine how full of joy your life would be if you could, in any way, associate the word "exciting" with Michael Bolton?

3) Titanic may have required $200m and a cast and crew of thousands, but in other countries the entire population is involved in making a film, as Sharon Stone pointed out. She read out the nominees for Best Film in a Foreign Language ("judged by a special panel", because God forbid the whole Academy should have to sit through all those boring subtitles), and then announced: "The Oscar goes to ... the Netherlands." I would tell you who the director was, but, unlike the other winners, he didn't get his name onscreen, just his country of origin. The Oscars follow where the Eurovision Song Contest leads, it seems.

4) Actually, Stone interrupted her announcement to say: "Hi Dad, hope you're feeling better." Can't she afford a phone?

5) Aaliyah sang "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia. Its first line was "Heart don't fail me now". Are lyrics about coronary thrombosis really suitable for our children?

6) Did you see the size of Madonna's biceps?

MORE ON New Labour's souring relationship with Britain's pop musicians. Eighteen months ago, Tony Blair picked a song by Ezio as one of his Desert Island Discs, a publicity shove that won the acoustic guitar duo several TV appearances and a five-album deal. But in Tuesday's Guardian, their frontman was able to contain his gratitude. "It's been like an albatross around my neck," moaned Ezio Lunedei. "Being on Desert Island Discs got our name about, but no one has been interested in the music ... It really gets on my nerves now ... It's not a great thing to be known as the ones liked by such an establishment figure. You can't expect the kids to buy our records if they want to shock their mum."

What an evil man that Tony Blair is. On the other hand, Oasis and Simply Red have somehow managed to survive the curse of being the PM's faves, so maybe Lunedei should stop blaming the Government for his limp career and start recording music that a) people might be interested in, and b) might have the slightest chance of shocking anyone's mum. But it's true that Blair got more out of the endorsement than the group did. At a time when his public image was disparaged as the voter-luring confection of the spin-doctors, his choice of a track by an unpopular, untrendy folk group proved that he didn't always do what the Mandelson marketing machine would advise.