Monday, March 25, 2002

Berry, Washington make Oscar history

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Halle Berry sobs during her acceptance speech.
(AP photos)
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        History was made in Hollywood Sunday when for the first time African-Americans, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, took home the Oscars for best actor and best actress.

        The night's emotional high point came when Ms. Berry, who was rated a distant second until the Screen Actors Guild honored her for Monster's Ball, became the first African-American woman to win an Oscar as best actress.

        She sobbed openly as she took the stage to say, “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, the women that stand beside me. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance.”

Berry and Washington
  • Jewelry adds to awards show glitter
  • List of Oscar winners
  • Local couple get red carpet treatment
  • Breakthrough for black actors
  • Howard has a beautiful night
        Dorothy Dandridge was nominated as best actress in 1955 for Carmen Jones. Hattie McDaniel is the first black woman to win an acting Oscar, for supporting actress in Gone With The Wind (1939). This year's host Whoopi Goldberg also won as supporting actress for Ghost (1990).

        Sidney Poitier was the only other African-American to win Best Actor, in 1963 for Lilies of the Field.

        Ron Howard won his first Oscar as director of A Beautiful Mind, which also won best picture.

        Surprises were in the air at the 74th Academy Awards when early awards were strewn among many contenders.

        Almost everyone predicted Jennifer Connelly's win as best supporting actress for A Beautiful Mind, but almost nobody expected the supporting actor prize would go to Jim Broadbent for Iris. Sir Ian McKellen had been strongly favored to take the category for his performance as Gandalf in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

        Lord of the Rings, with 13 nominations, was in the running for a majority of craft awards, and won for visual effects, makeup and cinematography, as well as original score. But it lost film editing and sound to Black Hawk Down, and art direction and costumes to Moulin Rouge.

        No Man's Land, an acerbic Bosnian war movie, scored a surprise win over the popular French romantic comedy Amelie in the foreign-language category.

        With 16 lifetime nominations, composer Randy Newman won his first Oscar for the song “If I Didn't Have You” from Monsters, Inc. The audience guffawed when he reached the stage and said, “Please, I don't want your pity. ... I want to thank the music branch for giving me so many chances to be humiliated.”

        Sunday's show inaugurated Oscar's new, retro-style home with a ceremony drenched as usual in nostalgia, glamour, excess and self-congratulation.

        But it also did something extraordinary; it went for laughs.

        An event commonly criticized for pomposity and self-importance elevated comedy throughout the evening, most strikingly in persuading Woody Allen to appear and introduce a Nora Ephron compilation saluting films made in New York.

        Though he has been nominated 20 times and won three Oscars during his career, until Sunday Mr. Allen had never attended an Academy Awards ceremony.

        Mr. Allen told the audience that when Academy officials called, “I thought they wanted their Oscars back. ... I panicked, because the pawn shop has been closed forever.”

        The writers made a point to inject humor during awards for the specialty categories that often leave viewers bored. Cameron Diaz read a head-spinning “explanation” of production design; Halle Berry recited a comical poem about sound.

        Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon, on stage to present the award for best makeup, read a string of jokes about the transformative powers of the nominees. Without them, said Mr. Phillippe, “Actors would look like the people in documentaries.”

        Later, two presenters of the costuming award were introduced as, “Owen Wilson, who is nominated for an Oscar tonight, and Ben Stiller, who is not.” The two actors then appeared in a comic skit in which Mr. Stiller denied he was jealous over Mr. Wilson's nomination as co-screenwriter of The Royal Tenenbaums.

        Ms. Goldberg, acting as Oscar host for the fourth time, arrived dressed in a glittery dancing-girl costume a la Moulin Rouge, on swing lowered from the ceiling.

        “So much mud has been thrown this year, all the nominees look black,” she joked. About the new theater, she drew laughs from the age-obsessed crowd when she said, “The academy wanted the old place but the network wanted to go with a younger theater.”

        She also made fleeting reference to Sept. 11, linked to an odd joke: “America has suffered through a great national tragedy. But we've recovered. Mariah Carey has already made another movie.”

        The Sept. 11 terroist attacks were mentioned a number of times. Kevin Spacey, introducing the traditional tribute to artists who died in the past year, asked the audience first to stand in silent tribute to “all the American heroes.”

        Tom Cruise opened the show with a paean to movie magic, and a reference to the post-Sept. 11 shockwaves that briefly forced the industry into an unaccustomed period of self-examination.

        He acknowledged that the terrorist attacks forced people in the movie business to question their own relevance, then asked, “What of tonight? Should we celebrate the joy and magic that movies bring? Well, dare I say it, more than ever.”

        This year marked the debut of the new Kodak Theatre, built by the Academy to provide a permanent home for the show that in recent years has most often been held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Los Angeles Music Center or the Shrine Auditorium.

        The new theater, built into a glossy new shopping mall, seats about 3,100 for the Oscar show. The Chandler held 2,700; the Shrine seated 4,000.

        Director Arthur Hiller received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Honorary Oscars were presented to Robert Redford, largely in recognition of the enormous influence of his Sundance Institute on the growth of independent film, and to Sidney Poitier in recognition of his 50-year career as an actor, director, writer and activist.

        Twenty-one awards were presented on March 2 to recognize scientific and technical achievements, such as the award to Bernard Werner and William Gelow for “engineering and design of filtered line arrays and screen spreading compensation as applied to motion picture loudspeaker systems.”

        At the March 2 event, Edmund M. Di Giulio received the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for his part in the engineering and development of the Steadicam.

Jewelry adds to awards show glitter
List of Oscar winners
Local couple get red carpet treatment
Breakthrough for black actors
Howard has a beautiful night

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