A golden night at the Oscars

Jill Kingsland

The Oscars took place this past Sunday without the usual ostentatious pre-show and Barbara Walters interviews. The people in charge of the show decided a few weeks before that such glitz, glamour and overall self-indulgence would be in poor taste at a time of war.

Very noticeably, the show ran like clockwork: the allotted time for each winner’s acceptance speech was clearly shortened (unless you’re Adrien Brody – in which case you can just conduct the orchestra yourself). As opposed to record-breaking length, this year’s show lasted only three and a half hours, ending promptly at midnight.

Steve Martin delivered a toned-down monologue at the start of the show, which contained humor, but probably not quite as much as it would have were we not in a time of war. In one particularly funny moment, as he described Hollywood actors in the form of “they could be x, or they could be y…”, he included one comparison, “they could be democrats, or…” and the audience laughed.

Yes, there is a war. Many winners and some presenters made small mention of wanting a quick end, or wanting peace again soon, including presenter Susan Sarandon, who held her fingers in a peace sign as she stood on stage before she presented the “In Memorium” tribute. Barbara Striesand spoke a little bit of her mind before presenting Best Song. Most strikingly, Best Documentary Feature winner Michael Moore (“Bowling for Columbine”) used his acceptance time to bash the war and our current president, calling them both “fictitious.” “Shame on you, Mr. Bush,” he said to an audience who had mixed feelings about his statements.

Cameron Diaz presented the first award of the evening, Best Animated Feature, to “Spirited Away,” a film from Japan, which gave recognition from the Academy to the genre of Anime. The next big award of the night went to Chris Cooper for Best Supporting Actor in “Adaptation.” Cooper’s performance in the film most definitely deserved the award. He teared up during his acceptance speech, and in closing, wished us peace. Best Supporting Actress went to, little surprise, Catherine Zeta Jones (“Chicago”), who also got a little misty during her speech.

Eminem’s “Lose Yourself, was a surprise winner for Best Original Song, but Eminem did not perform at nor attend the show because he is now on hiatus from the industry.

Nearing the last half hour of the show, the awards for Best Actor and Best Actress went to Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”) and Nicole Kidman (“The Hours,”), respectively. Adrien Brody got to the stage, very powerfully kissed presenter Halle Berry, remarked about not recognizing his own name when he heard it read and took most of his time to reflect on his personal appreciations. When the orchestra started up, Brody turned down to them and said, “Wait one second. One second, please one second. Cut it out, cut it out. I get one shot at this.” In a moment of complete surprise, the orchestra stopped. He continued to discuss how although he was happy to receive the award, he was also “filled with a lot of sadness,” and spoke for a few moments about the war, wishing for a swift resolution.

Nicole Kidman, upon hearing her name, took a few seconds to kiss her mother and her daughter who accompanied her and took to the stage. She sweetly said, “Russell Crowe said, ‘Don’t cry if you get up there.’ And now I’m crying. Sorry.” She continued, remarking that though the nation is in such dire straits at the moment, still, art is important, and that she was glad to receive the honor that evening.

Director Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) did not attend the ceremony on Sunday evening, for if he were to attend, he would risk arrest: Polanski fled the country for France just before his sentencing after his conviction for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old. Unbelievably, Polanski still won the award for Best Director. Some might say it is in incredibly bad taste to give the award to a convicted statutory rapist, but perhaps his work really did deserve the Academy Award.

At that point, the winner of Best Picture seemed almost totally uncertain: up until then, “Chicago” looked like the clear front-runner. After Brody picked up Best Actor and Polanski Best Director for “The Pianist,” Chicago’s chances looked a little slimmer. Father and son Kirk and Michael Douglas presented the award for Best Picture. In an unexpected move, Kirk ripped the winner’s paper in half, and gave half to his son. They held the two pieces of paper together and read together, “Chicago!”

Even though it was a tad toned down, the Academy Awards were still a nice, suspenseful ceremony.