Charlize Theron snags a Best Actress Oscar as <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> rules them all (11493)

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Charlize Theron snags a Best Actress Oscar as The Lord of the Rings rules them all

Hollywood bowed to an army of hobbits and a pair of convicts on Sunday as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won a record-tying 11 Oscars, including best picture, while Sean Penn and Charlize Theron nabbed top acting prizes for killer performances. In addition, the Academy Awards made Sofia Coppola, the daughter of Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, an offer she couldn't refuse--an Oscar for best original screenplay for Lost in Translation. Of particular interest to gay and lesbian audiences were the wins for Theron, as lesbian multiple murderer Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and for animated-short director Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet), who thanked his boyfriend from the podium.

The 3 1/2-hour-plus show televised around the world held no surprises and seemed to sag whenever host Billy Crystal wandered offstage so that the Academy could hand out awards to what seemed to be an endless army of people from New Zealand or who worked for people from New Zealand. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the conclusion to the fantasy trilogy based on the books by J.R.R. Tolkien and directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson, won all 11 awards for which it was nominated. That tally tied the record for most Oscars for a single movie shared by two other epics, 1959's Ben-Hur and 1997's Titanic, not bad for a film that almost did not get made when Disney's Miramax films wanted to fire Jackson or have another studio take over the project. Time Warner Inc.'s New Line Cinema stepped in and saved the day for Jackson on their way to taking in nearly $3 billion at the global box office. "It's now official. There is nobody left in New Zealand to thank," Crystal joked after Rings won its fifth statuette of the night. It was the first time in Oscar history that a fantasy film had won the top prize, and that distinction was not lost on Jackson. "I'm so honored, touched, and relieved that the...members of the Academy supported us and have seen past the trolls and the wizards and hobbits and are recognizing fantasy this year. Fantasy is an f word that hopefully the five-second delay won't do anything with," he said, referring to a tape delay imposed on the show for the first time. ABC imposed the delay as a safeguard against unscripted obscenity in reaction Janet Jackson's breast-baring Super Bowl performance.

They should have been so lucky. Jackson might have livened things up on a night devoid of surprises or controversy. Hollywood put on its best behavior and spread the prizes among first-time nominees and some oft-snubbed favorites. Penn won for the first time in four nominations, and Theron won on her first try. An actor known for his explosive power, Penn was rewarded for his portrayal of a hoodlum out for revenge after his daughter is killed in Clint Eastwood's tragedy Mystic River. Also winning for the first time were Tim Robbins, who was named best supporting actor for Mystic River, and Renée Zellweger, who received a best supporting actress Oscar for Cold Mountain. Theron won for her performance in Monster, and that Oscar is likely to change her career. The South African-born former model said she took the risky role, in part, to force Hollywood to take her seriously as an actress.

One of the most unscripted moments of the night came when famed documentary maker Errol Morris won for The Fog of War and bluntly said, "I'd like to thank the Academy for finally recognizing my films." Then drawing a parallel between the Vietnam War and the current conflict in Iraq, he said, "I fear we're going down a rabbit hole once again." Said Crystal on hearing that, "I can't wait for his tax audit--scary times." Penn, who was widely criticized for going to Iraq before the war, was understated in his acceptance speech but did manage to get one line about the fog of war: "If there's one thing that actors know--other than there weren't any WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]--it's that there's no such thing as best in acting."

Here are the winners of the 76th annual Academy Awards:

Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn, Mystic River
Actor in a Supporting Role: Tim Robbins, Mystic River
Actress in a Leading Role: Charlize Theron, Monster
Actress in a Supporting Role: Renée Zellweger, Cold Mountain
Animated Feature Film: Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton
Art Direction: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Grant Major (Art Direction); Dan Hennah and Alan Lee (Set Decoration)
Cinematography: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Russell Boyd
Directing: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Documentary Feature: The Fog of War, Errol Morris and Michael Williams
Documentary Short Subject: Chernobyl Heart, Maryann DeLeo
Film Editing: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Jamie Selkirk
Foreign Language Film: The Barbarian Invasions (Canada)
Makeup: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Richard Taylor, Peter King
Music (Score): The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Howard Shore
Music (Song): "Into the West," The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Music and Lyrics by Fran Walsh and Howard Shore and Annie Lennox
Picture: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Short Film (Animated): Harvie Krumpet, Adam Elliot
Short Film (Live Action): Two Soldiers, Aaron Schneider and Andrew J. Sacks
Sound Editing: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Richard King
Sound Mixing: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges, and Hammond Peek
Visual Effects: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook, and Alex Funke
Writing (Adapted Screenplay): The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Writing (Original Screenplay): Lost in Translation, written by Sofia Coppola


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