Backstage at the Oscars

02/26/2007 08:21 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I was in the press interview room during the Oscars show. After the winners finished their photo ops and their TV appearances, they moved on to our room to answer questions from the representatives of the print media, web sites and radio. Here are a few notes from the evening.

Alan Arkin, although pleased to be honored, said that he thought competition among artists was "insane" and that the criteria used to determine winners are "shadowy." "If 100 people voted for one film," he added, "and only 50 for another, does that mean that the first film was better? What if the 50 understood their film more deeply?" When asked to compare the atmosphere at the Oscars this year with that of the last time he was nominated--38 years ago--he replied, "I'm 72. I don't remember anything anymore and I'm proud of it."

During his acceptance speech, Forrest Whittaker thanked his ancestors. Asked if he could elaborate on this intriguing statement, he said that before the winner was announced, "I could feel breathe on my neck and a tingling in my body and I knew it was my ancestors."

For some reason, Helen Mirren was asked twice what she was drinking (vodka gimlet). Before leaving the podium, she said that she considered Queen Elizabeth "a noble person. I don't mean noble in class, but in spirit."

Melissa Etheridge called Oscars night "a gay holiday" and referred to her Oscar as "the only naked man who will ever be in my bedroom."

Among the press corps, the biggest applause were for Martin Scorsese, of course, but also for 78-year-old composer Ennio Morricone, who, according to IMDb, has scored 500 films and television shows. When asked to name the film score of which he was most proud, he replied that he has always refused to answer that question. However this time he would say that there was one film that was his favorite..."but I can't remember the name of it."