Mar 242003
Authors: Eric Todd Patton

With the explosions and the turmoil in the Middle East, Hollywood continued on with their Diamond Anniversary for a night that Jon Stewart says is where “Hollywood lays down on the red carpet and makes love to itself.” And so, with the setting sun and glimmering statues, the red carpet was kept to brief coverage of those stars that are humble enough to know they are not targets in this war. So, as the self-absorbed stars that felt they might have been targets entered through the back door of the magnificent Kodak Theater, tension rose as we all waited to see if our Oscar predictions would in fact come true.

Chris Cooper, of course, received the best actor in a supporting role Oscar for his role in “Adaptation.” His role as John Laroche, the eccentric botanist, brought him his first award and first nomination. He gave a brief and touching speech that honored his wife for being his only strength and ended with a request for peace (as did most winners).

Against my predictions and my hopes for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Catherine Zeta-Jones won for “Chicago.” This was the most competitive category. Anybody could have been a winner and this proves it. This was her first award and first nomination. This win just remains consistent with this year’s theme of “first (or second) time nominees must win.”

I thought and predicted the Oscar for best actor to be a lock with Daniel Day-Lewis. And though I still believe he was the man deserving of the award, the winner, Adrien Brody, is an incredible man and an even more extraordinary actor. He won for his role as an oppressed Polish Jew during Hitler’s reign of terror in “The Pianist.” His acceptance speech was by far the longest and still, the most poetic. The emotion that radiated off this young actor poured through the television in one of the biggest surprises of the night, not because he does not deserve it, but because his competition was fierce. This was his first nomination and win.

Best Actress went to shoo-in Nicole Kidman, for her role as Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.” She was very deserving of the award. She is currently in a league of brilliant actresses, in an era where women dominate as leads, so emerging from this category with a statue is a monumental accomplishment. The film was not my favorite, but Kidman is amazing.

Best Original Song was given to the man I predicted, Eminem, for his song “Lose Yourself” from his movie “8 Mile.” Although the movie got a D from me, the song was more than worthy of the award. And of course, this was his first nomination and win.

I was wrong on three of the top categories. I can actually say that I was surprised on all three. Best Adapted Screenplay, which I thought would go to “The Hours,” went to the World War II drama “The Pianist.” The Best Original Screenplay, which I thought would go to “Far From Heaven” by Todd Haynes, marks a rare event as the Academy gave the award to the foreign film by Pedro Almodovar, “Talk To Her.”

The Best Director award this year redeems a legendary director who fled the country after a dramatic court battle over felony charges. Roman Polanski, the director of “The Pianist,” received a standing ovation when his name was read despite the fact he was absent from the awards due to the threats of arrests if he returned to the U.S. I still believe that Rob Marshall earned the award and Martin Scorsese had better receive an Oscar before he’s out of the game, but it is good to see that the one-time nominee Polanski (for “Chinatown”) has been received by the Academy with open arms.

Going against the traditions, or at least the consistency, of the Academy giving Best Picture to the film given Best Director, this year “Chicago” was named Best Picture. After “The Pianist” received the screenplay, actor and director awards, best picture seemed to be in their sights. I am glad to see that there is a newfound love for the musical and that “Chicago” is the first musical since “Oliver” to be the best of the year. This was without a doubt the best film of the year and probably the most entertaining film in decades.

Michael Moore won, like I predicted he would, for one of the most important documentaries of this decade, “Bowling For Columbine.” My opinion of him dropped considerably when he took a beautiful moment in victory and made it into a piece of inappropriate political jargon. The crowd booed him as he tried desperately to state his opposition to the war in Iraq. The continual pleads and protests against the war currently being fought was the low point of the award show. The constant political statements soured the entire night.

Adrien Brody, during his acceptance speech, also took a moment to acknowledge the war in Iraq, but he did so in such a fair and poignant manner his words got across where Moore’s could not. Brody said simply, “Through making this film (“The Pianist”) I have learned the horribly dehumanizing event war is. Whatever it is you believe in, whether it is God or Allah, let us pray to them for a swift resolution.”

So they closed the 75th Academy Awards after a night of surprising upsets, emotional acceptance speeches and crazy dresses attempting to be original. And with the moon high above the Kodak Theater, Hollywood concluded making love to itself so its stars could run off to parties of crazy drunk and self-indulgence where the politics end because the cameras are turned off. Now we must sit in the theaters where we wait for another night of glitz and glamour.

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