Speaking of movies, the Academy Awards last Sunday night (actually shorter and, in the dead-on barbs of Steve Martin, funnier than in recent memory) distributed phallic statuettes to, for once, a whole lot of richly deserving talent. The tone was set by Martin’s terse, kooky wit and the early award to (surprise) Marcia Gay Harden (pictured) as best supporting actress for her dynamite portrayal of painter Lee Krasner, abstract innovator Jackson’s long-suffering wife in Pollock. Another indicator of the satisfying evening to come was Benicio Del Toro (hooray) taking the best supporting actor award for his multidimensional role as a Mexican drug cop in Traffic. By the time Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (one of the best films of the decade) had cleaned up in the top foreign film, cinematography, musical score and art direction categories, it felt like a sweep on the way for the forces of enlightenment. Of course, such things couldn’t last, but even Julia Roberts haters (I’m not one) had to give her props for a career performance (best actress) in Erin Brockovich. And if Russell Crowe (Gladiator) didn’t really surpass Javier Bardem (Before Night Falls) or Ed Harris (Pollock) as best actor, at least he’s always nothing less than compelling on-screen. You could apply the same kind of balancing act to the best picture (Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott) and best director (Steven Soderbergh for Traffic) slots, with Traffic clearly the more important, innovative work (and this from yours truly, a big Ridley Scott fan). Choosing Bob Dylan over Björk for best song was a toss-up, but boomer Academy members were probably going for what they had known all those years of toking joints and kicking back to Blonde On Blonde.The Hot & the Bothered is edited by MT arts editor George Tysh. E-mail him at email@example.com.