Half the fun of Oscar night has always been getting exercised over the comedic opinions of the beautiful people. But last night was strangely different. The Other Charlotte properly saw this year’s Oscar night’including the sweep for “Return of the King”‘as the return of civilization.

Oscar’s gala last night was almost as subdued as a PTA meeting in the suburbs. As Charlotte noted, everybody kept their clothes on. The weirdest fashion ensemble was Diane Keaton’s Charlie Chaplinesque outfit with tiny glasses, floppy hat and baggy trousers that somehow evoked Keaton’s Annie Hall of yore. (Grow up, Diane.)

The gorgeous Charlize Theron–the most dazzling blonde since Marilyn Monroe–accepting the Oscar for her role as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in ‘Monster,’ couldn’t have behaved more differently from, say, Hillary Swank, an erstwhile winner (for playing either a boy or girl in Boys Don’t Cry), who took advantage of the spotlight to speak out in behalf of  ‘the transgender community.’

I  had half expected Theron to thank Wuornos, portrayed in the movie as more a victim than a monster, for making her Oscar possible. But she was content to thank the people of her native South Africa and her mother.

It just wasn’t the usual Oscar night. There were only a few, very fleeting references to the awful Republican-dominated, war-mongering world in which we live. They were very, very subdued. Sean Penn (‘Mystic River’) had a bad boy twinkle when me couldn’t resist noting almost in passing that the U.S. has not found WMDs in Iraq, a Penn stomping ground of late.

Errol Morris, who made the documentary ‘The Fog of War’ about Robert McNamara and Vietnam, said that forty years ago American had ‘gone down a rabbit hole’ and was in danger of doing so again. (Oddly enough, Morris thanked McNamara’hey, he may be a war criminal, but he lives in Georgetown and squired around Kay Graham’he’s one of us!)

But that was about it for politics.

Whom do we have to thank for the return to civilization? Is it Janet Jackson whose exposed, forty-something breast on Super Bowl Sunday led the networks to impose a delay on the Oscar broadcast? The stars were certainly aware of this; host Billy Crystal even called comedian Robin Williams the reason for the delay. Did political firebrand Tim Robbins (‘Mystic River’) wimp out merely opining, on his acceptance, that ‘It isn’t a sign of weakness to seek help’ (his character needed a shrink) because of the delay mechanism?

Leave it to me to see something more sinister behind the return of civilization.

I think Hollywood was willing to go easy on the culture and political wars last night for another reason. Which candidate would have benefited if the Oscars had turned into, say, an all-out festival of support for the recent events in San Fran? Hollywood knows that keeping a lid on the culture wars right now is important for John Kerry.

Oh, yes, and one more thing: box office. With the Dixie Chicks having been punished for anti-Bush remarks and ‘The Passion of the Christ’ raking in record dollars with a 2,000 year old plot featuring an ending we all pretty much know in advance, maybe the stars figure that the gulf between them and ordinary Americans who like to go to movies could turn into an unbridgeable chasm. 

As dear as their silly opinions might be, filthy lucre is even dearer to our socially concerned movie stars.