By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com March 25 2003 12:00 AM ET
Almodóvar, Chicago, The Pianist among Oscar's big winners
The Best Picture Academy Award for the flashy musical Chicago was one of the few predictable elements of a ceremony that included three key wins for the Holocaust drama The Pianist. On a night when the war with Iraq set a somber tone, Adrien Brody took Best Actor and Roman Polanski earned the directing prize for The Pianist against higher-profile front-runners. The Japanese film Spirited Away won for feature-length animation against cartoon behemoths from Hollywood. Eminem took the Best Song Oscar over a field that included veterans Paul Simon and U2.
The ceremony included an angry indictment of the Bush administration from documentary winner Michael Moore and a tearful moment of empathy for war victims from Brody. With six awards, Chicago--made by openly gay filmmakers Rob Marshall (director), Bill Condon (screenwriter), and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (executive producers)--was the main winner at a ceremony where pageantry took on greater solemnity because of the U.S.-led war on Iraq. Chicago became the first musical to win Best Picture since 1968's Oliver! Catherine Zeta-Jones, Best Supporting Actress winner for Chicago, was the first performer to win an Oscar for a musical since 1972.
Nicole Kidman won for lead actress as author Virginia Woolf in the somber drama The Hours. Chris Cooper earned the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the twisted Hollywood tale Adaptation. Kidman, Cooper, and Zeta-Jones had been acting front-runners, but first-time nominee Brody was something of a long shot in the Best Actor field, where each of the other contenders already had at least one Oscar. Jack Nicholson of About Schmidt and Daniel Day-Lewis of Gangs of New York had been viewed as best bets to win the lead-actor trophy. The Pianist was based on the life of Holocaust survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jew who eluded the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto. Brody told the Oscar crowd the film was a tribute to Szpilman, and he fought back tears as he said the role gave him a taste of the dehumanization that comes with war. "It's just a very difficult thing to do, to celebrate when there is sadness and conflict in the world. Our achievements as artists and filmmakers and actors are valid, and we deserve to celebrate that," Brody said backstage. But "the timing, for me, is a little odd."
Polanski had been a bit of a long shot for director. Martin Scorsese was viewed as the likely winner for Gangs of New York through much of Oscar season, but Rob Marshall's triumph for Chicago at the Directors Guild of America awards made it look like a horse race between Scorsese and Marshall. A Holocaust survivor himself, Polanski has been an exile from the United States since he fled 25 years ago to avoid sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski would have faced arrest had he entered the country to attend the Oscars. The Pianist also earned the adapted-screenplay award for Ronald Harwood. The Best Original Screenplay Oscar went to openly gay filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar for Talk to Her, marking the first time that a Spanish-language film received an Academy Award in the screenplay category.
Chicago came in with a leading 13 nominations, followed by the crime epic Gangs of New York with 10. But Gangs was shut out in every category. Chicago was adapted from the Bob Fosse stage hit about two Jazz Age murderesses using their jailhouse celebrity to further their singing careers. Musicals gradually fell out of favor in Hollywood after their critical peak in the early 1960s, when West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music won Best Picture. Moulin Rouge, a Best Picture nominee a year ago, helped rekindle the genre, and Chicago has become a huge box-office success with a domestic gross of $134 million and climbing. "I just hope that we continually do musicals," said producer Marty Richards. "I just hope that they don't do one musical after another just because it's the flavor of the week and that they do good musicals and we bring back at least one of them a year. That would be my joy."
Spirited Away, from Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki, was a huge hit in his home country, but an English-language adaptation brought in only a modest $5.5 million in the United States last fall. The animated-feature Oscar seemed more likely to go to one of the Hollywood films, like the $100-million-plus hits Ice Age or Lilo & Stitch. Eminem won his Oscar for cowriting "Lose Yourself," a song from 8 Mile, in which he also starred.
Oscar organizers scrapped much of the ceremony's revelry in light of the Iraq war. A celebrity or two decided against attending because of the conflict, while some wore peace pins or drove to the Oscars in fuel-efficient vehicles to protest American reliance on overseas oil. Moore, whose Bowling for Columbine won the feature-length documentary prize, railed against the White House, saying, "Shame on you, Mr. Bush," for going to war. He received a standing ovation as he headed to the stage, but his angry speech was greeted with a mix of applause and boos. Bowling for Columbine, Moore's alternately hilarious and horrifying examination of gun violence in America, also condemns U.S. policies and intervention overseas. "We kill each other at an enormous rate, more so than virtually any other country on this planet," Moore said backstage. "What was the lesson that we taught the children of Columbine this week? This was the lesson, that violence is an acceptable means to resolve a conflict."
For a change, Oscar organizers moved the show along swiftly, bringing it in at just over its scheduled 3 1/2-hour time. Some past Oscar shows, including last year's, topped four hours.
Here is a complete list of winners from the 75th annual Academy Awards:
Director: Roman Polanksi, The Pianist
Actor: Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Actress: Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Supporting Actor: Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Supporting Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Adapted Screenplay: The Pianist, Ronald Harwood
Original Screenplay: Talk to Her, Pedro Almodóvar
Animated Feature: Spirited Away
Animated Short Film: The ChubbChubbs!
Art Direction: Chicago
Cinematography: Road to Perdition
Documentary Feature: Bowling for Columbine
Documentary (short subject): Twin Towers
Film Editing: Chicago
Foreign Language Film: Nowhere in Africa, Germany
Live Action Short Film: This Charming Man (Der Er En Yndig Mand)
Original Score: Frida
Original Song: "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile, Eminem, Jeff Bass, and Luis Resto
Sound Editing: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Visual Effects: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Honorary Award: Peter O'Toole
Academy Award of Merit: Alias/Wavefront for its Maya computer imaging software
Academy Award of Merit: The Arnold & Richter Cine Technik and Panavision companies for their advanced motion picture camera systems