Oscar's golden idols
|||Local viewers praise movies that have messages|
|||Good evening, ladies and gentlemen ' ... and Felicity'|
|||And in the category of best-dressed are ...|
By ANN OLDENBURG
By ANN OLDENBURG
Small movies with big messages — movies that most people in the country probably still haven't seen — dominated the 78th Annual Academy Awards yesterday in Hollywood, setting a serious tone for the glitzy night. "Crash" won as best picture. The much-talked-about "Brokeback Mountain" brought Ang Lee an award for best director, and also won Oscars for best adapted screenplay and best score.
"They're important movies, and I would hope we continue on that path," said Oscar veteran Nicole Kidman, a presenter.
Meryl Streep, also presenting, summed up the night as she entered the Kodak Theatre: "I still get nervous and cotton-mouthed. It's all the hoopla and hype. I want to go inside and throw up."
Inside, the show got under way with Hollywood man-about-town George Clooney winning as best supporting actor for his role as a CIA spy in the oil industry thriller "Syriana."
"I don't know how you compare art," said the uncharacteristically serious Clooney in a nod to the "stellar" performances of his fellow nominees.
He then referred to host Jon Stewart's opening-monologue comment that Hollywood is "out of touch with mainstream America."
Clooney said he is happy to be part of a group that fought against AIDS long before the rest of the country and constantly pushed for civil rights. "I'm proud to be part of this academy. I'm proud to be a part of this community, and I'm proud to be out of touch."
On stage soon after him, best supporting actress Rachel Weisz also thanked people who risk their lives to "fight injustice" as her character did, challenging drug companies in "The Constant Gardener."
It was up to Stewart, in his first turn as host of the Oscars, to keep the jokes rolling amid the serious thank-yous. Comedy Central's "Daily Show" host got the crowd laughing early, mostly by poking fun at the audience.
Four minutes before show time, Stewart left his dressing room, cheering loudly and clapping his hands, determined to pump up the silent backstage crew. He shouted, "Let's go, Giants!" Then, realizing he might be catching some withering glances, Stewart also shouted "Let's go, Mets!"
As Stewart gave his opening monologue, Clooney won a big laugh from the crew backstage.
When Stewart joked that "Good Night, and Good Luck" — the title of the movie Clooney directed — is also what Clooney says at the end of his dates, the actor appeared on camera laughing good-naturedly. Then as if realizing the joke was on him, Clooney's face dropped into shocked offense.
Immediately after collecting his Oscar, Clooney encountered Reese Witherspoon in the wings of the stage. He gave her a kiss on the cheek as he held hands with Kidman.
Later, near the celebrity green room, Clooney good-naturedly taunted Kidman. "You want to see this?" he said waving his Oscar, adding, "But you have one of these, don't you?" In the press room, Clooney was comical and affable. The first question asked was whether he is dating Teri Hatcher. "Oh, thanks for these important questions," he said.
With regard to being "out of touch," as he said in his acceptance speech, Clooney said, "The nominated films might be out of the mainstream at times, but the mainstream keeps changing. These films would have been the middle-of-the-road in the 1970s."
Clooney also joked about having his agent as his date, "because that always gets people talking."
A lot of male stars brought along family members. John Singleton and Terrence Howard brought their mothers. Jack Nicholson brought kids Ray and Lorraine.
Twenty minutes before the show began, Nicholson prowled the wings of the stage. The notorious flirt turned his charm on Kidman. After a brief exchange, Nicholson walked away grinning and Kidman played it cool until he was out of earshot. Giddily, she put a hand over her mouth and said, "Oh, my God."
Outside, it was a beautiful Los Angeles evening for a red-carpet frenzy. While Keira Knightley posed for photographers, Dolly Parton chatted about her "cheap" jewelry.
On seeing a giant Oscar statue on the red carpet, Naomi Watts, star of "King Kong" (up for art and sound awards), pointed to it. "That is far more imposing. I fell in love with Kong, but I could fall in love with him, too."
One of the makers of "March of the Penguins," Emmanuel Priou, was joined by three more filmmakers walking down the red carpet with a stuffed penguin named Nestor. They were using the flipper to shake reporters' hands. Later, when the film won for documentary feature, they appeared onstage with the toys.
Before the night got under way, Steven Spielberg reminded all that it's still the industry's big night. "This is the royal ball in the world of Cinderella, and most of us turn into pumpkins at midnight, but one in each category doesn't," he said. "It is fun to be honored by the academy and, even on a year when we are not honored, it is just fun to be involved in this celebration."
But as for it being a serious night, Jennifer Lopez didn't agree.
"It seems like the same old thing," she said. "A lot of beautiful dresses."
The Oscar win for "Crash" injected a note of drama into the ceremonies, as many analysts had predicted the film might unseat "Brokeback Mountain" in the best picture category.
"Thank you for embracing our film about love and tolerance and truth," said "Crash" producer Cathy Schulman on accepting the award. "We are humbled by the other nominees in this category. You have made this year one of the most stunning and breathtaking maverick years in American cinema."
Ang Lee also chose to emphasize the message of tolerance his film incorporates, in thanking "Brokeback Mountain" characters Ennis and Jack, the men who fall in love but cannot publicly show it.
"They taught all of us who made the movie so much — not just about the gay men and women whose love is denied by society, but the greatness of love itself," Lee said.