Elliott Smith Gives Surreal Oscar Performance

Elliott Smith's 'Miss Misery' was nominated for Original Song, but the Celine Dion-warbled 'My Heart Will Go On' won it.

Fragile indie pop-folk singer Elliott Smith's moment in the spotlight must have felt

like an eternity.

Alone on the stage at the 70th Annual Academy Awards on Monday night, the

shy Northwest musician looked about as out of place as a homeless person in the White House. Yet in a strange way, he held his own in the valley of the divas, performing a hypnotic version of "Miss Misery" from the Good Will

Hunting soundtrack.

Faced with the unenviable task of following country-crooner Trisha Yearwood and giving way to elfin megawatt diva Celine Dion, a

clearly uncomfortable Smith -- who is used to playing to a few hundred people in funky clubs and has recorded for the Kill Rock Stars label -- soared above the hackneyed awards ceremony for a few memorable, if improbable minutes. One can only imagine how Smith must have felt, performing before a TV audience that was expected to number 1 billion.

Dressed in a white suit and anxiously tapping his right foot, Smith whispered

the lyrics to "Miss Misery" -- one of the songs he composed for the Good Will

Hunting soundtrack -- accompanied by the swelling broadcast orchestra and a lone spotlight.

It was

when the orchestra retreated, leaving Smith alone with his fingerprint-smudged

acoustic guitar, that the tender, crinkled charm of his voice rose, filling the hall. It must have been one of the most surreal moments of Smith's life. At least

until he found himself standing between Dion and Yearwood a few moments later, taking an awkward bow.

It didn't even seem to matter that the Oscar for Original Song went to the bombastic Dion-warbled, James Horner- and Will Jennings-written "Titanic" tune, "My Heart Will

Go On."

It was all downhill from there.

The chart-topping "My Heart Will Go On" appears on both the Titanic soundtrack and on Dion's Let's Talk

About Love, currently nestled at #1 and #3, respectively, on the

Billboard 200 albums chart. The super-schmaltzy tearjerker beat

out "How Do I Live" from "Con Air" (performed at Monday night's ceremony by

country artist Trisha Yearwood), "Journey To The Past" from "Anastasia" (performed by R&B singer Aaliyah), "Go The Distance" from "Hercules" (performed by Michael Bolton) and "Miss Misery."

"Titanic" also walked away with the trophy for Original

Dramatic Score. The members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts &

Sciences selected composer Horner ("Aliens", "Braveheart" and "Apollo 13") , as this year's winner, bringing "Titanic"'s total winnings to a

record-tying 11 trophies. Jerry Goldsmith, who picked up an award in 1978 for

the score to "The Omen" and has composed the music for many of the

"Star Trek" films, walked away empty-handed, as did fellow

film-soundtrack composing legend John Williams, who didn't win for his

score to "Amistad" but has in the past for his

"Schindler's List", "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial", "Star

Wars", "Jaws" and "Fiddler on the Roof" scores.

Also not enjoying any time in the winner's circle was avant-garde composer

Philip Glass, who was nominated for the first time this year but has also

composed the scores to such films as "Powaqqatsi" and "The Thin Blue

Line". "Good Will Hunting" score composer Danny Elfman, the former

frontman for the new-wave band Oingo Boingo and the composer of

scores for such films as "Batman" and "Edward Scissorhands," also

lost out to Horner's "Titanic" score, his first of two losses.

Elfman's second loss came in the Original Musical or Comedy

Score category. His score to the sci-fi comedy "Men In Black" didn't

move as many Academy voters as did Anne Dudley's score to the down-sized,

stripper comedy "The Full Monty." Also cursing the quirky British

comedy this morning are James Newton Howard, composer of the score to "My

Best Friend's Wedding," Stephen Flaherty, Lynn Ahrens and David Newman,

creators of the score to "Anastasia," and Hans Zimmer, who

composed the score to "As Good As It Gets."

Madonna, who performed last year's Original Song winner "You Must Love

Me" on the soundtrack to the film "Evita," presented the award this

year. Before announcing that "My Heart Will Go On" was the winner, she

said what everyone in the audience, who had already witnessed

"Titanic" pick up six of its 11 awards, was thinking: "What a

shocker."