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'Year of the Woman' isn't just hype it's a slogan, too


Emma Thompson did what she had to do. She did it tastefully, of course, being British. In Hollywood, they depend on the British for taste.

After hauling down the expected Oscar for her role in "Howards End" and thanking the usual suspects, Thompson said she wished to "dedicate this Oscar to the heroism and courage of women. And to hope that it inspires the creation of more true screen heroines to represent them."

Eventually, she made her way backstage to the press area to take questions. Thompson, besides being a fine actor, is smart, urbane, witty, thoughtful. She can even answer questions in French.

And the first words she heard?

"How much credit does your husband deserve for you winning this Oscar?"

I swear to you. Thompson's husband is Kenneth Branagh, the genius. He had nothing, however, to do with this movie.

What was Thompson to say? Should she diminish her husband or herself? (By the way, the person who asked the question was of the male persuasion.)

It was really too, too much -- even in too, too Hollywood. In the land of make-believe, they used the Oscar broadcast to make believe that women count for something in this town other than looking good in a low-cut dress.

Meaning, somebody got the bright idea to make the theme of the Oscar show "The Year of the Woman." Imagine. It would be like Washington calling this the year of the Republican. Can we get a reality check here?

Once again, they had to pad just to get five nominees for best actress, or maybe you thought Michelle Pfeiffer was overpowering in "Love Field." What about her role as Cat Woman?

They kept saying it -- year of the woman, year of the woman. They said it with straight faces, too. Well, they're actors.

It's as if saying it made it so. Or maybe more to the point, they

said it in place of making it so.

Women had their year, and now on to other things.

Maybe next time it will be the year of good taste. Or the year of no more gratuitous sex and violence. The mind boggles.

"This was one of the worst years for women's roles," Thompson said. "I guess that made the year of the woman a bit ironic."

In Hollywood, they don't do irony. Not intentionally, anyway. And yet, there was plenty of irony at the Oscar show. How about Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" winning best picture?

This was meant as a valedictory for Eastwood, one of Hollywood's great stars and money makers. But the movie was a violent statement on anti-violence and could easily be interpreted as a repudiation of virtually every movie Eastwood made. Maybe that's the way he meant it.

And when he got his Oscar, he said, while noting it was the year of the woman, that his mother, there in the seats, was the finest woman he'd known.


Being the mother of a great star is much of what women actually do in Hollywood.

In the movies, they play a slightly different role. Wife. Girlfriend. Slashee. Etc.

If the woman is an attorney, she has to sleep with her slasher client. If she comes to town to investigate police corruption, she has to sleep with a corrupt cop. And she'd better look like Ellen Barkin, too.

Do a story about a woman's baseball team and the star of the movie is the male manager. Every time.

"We need more and better roles for women," said Marisa Tomei, who won for best supporting actress in "My Cousin Vinny."

"Usually, it's only the one story -- the girlfriend, the wife," Tomei said. "Hopefully, there will be different, more complex stories to tell."

Interestingly, the most complex story told of a woman on screen last year was that of a male cross-dresser who looked like a woman. There's another unintended irony for you.

A recent incident in Hollywood makes the case about a woman's place here. There was a hot script about a woman public defender. It was offered to Jodie Foster, who was busy, and to Susan Sarandon, who wasn't available either.

And so, Steven Segal bought the rights. He couldn't do the movie himself, but he had his own vision for it. The script is being rewritten for a male public defender.

Hooray for Hollywood?

Here's a Hollywood touch: As the Oscar show went off the air late Monday, the music finale was, yes, "Thank Heaven for Little Girls." Really.

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