Unkind cut

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am

An anonymous reader identified only as The Movie Fan Club of Hong Kong has insisted I take TVB to task for last Tuesday's unfortunate curtailment of live coverage of the Oscars ceremony. As MFCHK said, it was almost unbearable for the Best Actor and Best Film announcements to be replaced by educational television.

TVB has had problems in past years with this, and the answer then, as now, is that both English language channels have a contractual obligation to run ETV. TVB didn't want to cut the Oscars, but it had to.

If the Academy Awards ceremony had not run over time, thanks to the wittering of rather too many astonished luvvies, we would have seen James Cameron go and get his 123rd award of the evening, and Jack Nicholson stealing the show when he got his.

But they didn't, so we didn't. Annoying, but it is only fair to put the blame on the people who deserve it: those airheads in LA, not TV City.

Why anyone would get so excited over the dullest Oscars ceremony in years is beyond me anyway. The only slight surprise of the whole evening was that Kim Basinger quite rightly got hers. The rest of it was all part of the propaganda offensive launched by the big studios this year as a reaction to last year's humiliating sweep by The English Patient, the film that proved even Hollywood agreed it couldn't make the best films anymore.

A couple of years ago, Independence Day made the same kind of splash (excuse the pun) at the box office as Titanic, although in smaller way. Also a Fox production that cost loads in special effects, this one was rightly dismissed by the Academy as lightweight but fun. It didn't win anything. Except the 1996 election for President Clinton, according to tonight's curious BBC documentary Aliens From Mars (Pearl, 8.30pm).

While American movie-goers were going to watch a movie about nasty aliens taking over the world, and being fought off by a handsome, young president, a handsome, young president was fighting for re-election.

Then a group of NASA scientists discovered the fossilised remains of what looked like worms in Meteorite ALH84001 - controversially claimed as evidence supporting the existence of life on Mars.

And, if there was life on Mars, who did the American public - with Independence Day prominent on their minds, runs the documentary's theory - want in the White House? Crusty old war veteran Bob Dole? Hell, no, Bill Clinton: a dead ringer for actor Bill Pullman, who played the role of the president in Independence Day.

The meteorite discovery was so well-timed I am surprised Special Investigator Kenneth Starr isn't spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' money to investigate it. The link is tenuous, but when did that ever stop Starr? Tonight's programme investigates.