Angelina Jolie wins best supporting actress Oscar
By Porter Anderson
(CNN) -- In the first major award of the 72nd annual Academy Awards, Angelina Jolie was named best supporting actress for her work in "Girl, Interrupted," a film based on a true story of mental treatment, despair and struggle.
Jolie made an emotional thank-you speech, appearing in a dark, close-fitting gown. Backstage, she gasped with relief and smiled at reporters when shown a still shot of her acceptance speech. "Look," she chortled, "it really happened!"
Jude Law, a best supporting actor nominee for his work in "The Talented Mr. Ripley," greeted Jolie as soon as she left the stage. Law then was joined by Cate Blanchett in giving the Oscar for best live-action short film to "My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York," which Barbara Schock and Tamara Tiehel accepted.
The Oscar for animated short piece went to filmmaker Alexander Petrov for "The Old Man and the Sea."
The awards got off to a well-dressed start, as Lindy Hemming was given the trophy for costume design. This was Hemming's first Oscar and she won it for her work in "Topsy-Turvy."
The award for sound design was given to the "The Matrix" sound designers. John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, David Campbell and David Lee accepted the award. This was Rudloff's second Oscar; his first, for "Glory," came in 1989.
Sound quickly gave way to the best makeup award, taken by a boisterous Christine Blundell and Trefor Proud for "Topsy-Turvy." It was the first award for both.
By the time these awards were given out, the Academy was already an hour into its show -- partly because of an extended, buoyant opening on Sunday night from host Billy Crystal.
In the broadcast's opening sequence, Crystal appeared in a set-up series of spoofs in which he appeared in Anne Bancroft's "The Graduate" role, Mrs. Robinson; a crowd member in "Spartacus"; a sidekick to Charlie Chaplin ("I see dead people," Crystal said, a reference to "The Sixth Sense"); and in a bathroom-tiled "Psycho" sequence, it was Spacey who turned up on the dry side of the shower curtain.
As the show went to air -- broadcast live by ABC from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles -- there were several tight contests in play.
In one, Annette Bening was pitted against Hilary Swank for the best actress award. Long a Hollywood favorite, Bening's nomination was for her work as a suburbia-crazed housewife in "American Beauty" -- one of the most widely released films of the year. By contrast, newcomer Swank's interpretation of a young woman who dressed as a man was seen primarily in art houses by a relatively small aggregate audience.In another, actors Kevin Spacey and Denzel Washington were widely thought to be the frontrunners for best actor. Spacey played the frantically insecure father and husband of "American Beauty," a man for whom midlife crisis could become terminal. Washington played the boxer whose ring name is the title of "The Hurricane." A win would make Washington the second African-American to win that Oscar.
Washington and Spacey are former best supporting actor winners. And in this year's competition, they face a sentimental favorite of no small impact -- 79-year-old Richard Farnsworth, nominated for his work in "The Straight Story."
The best picture Oscar seemed to stand firmly between "American Beauty" and "The Cider House Rules" -- the latter positioned, in the opinion of many observers, by a massive publicity effort on the part of Miramax.
In bright, late-afternoon sunshine, Hollywood royalty smiled and blew kisses to the adoring faithful, once more, as limos rolled up in carefully choreographed sequence for the stars' arrivals.
Gowns, as usual, became a focal point, many designers having flown in collections and held a kind of bazaar at which actresses could browse and select outfits to borrow for the big night.
No one lost sight of actress Erykah Badu, who sported a soaring green turban wrapped in gold cord. The headdress was some three feet tall, providing a kind of moving column of fabric as it towered above the sunglassed glitterati.
Dame Judi Dench -- a best supporting actress winner last year for her work as Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love" -- wore a sheer two-piece champagne-colored gown, spangled with metallic embroidery.
When teased about his the brief nudity in his work in "American Beauty," Spacey cracked, "Let the Wall Street Journal do a poll on that," a reference to the Journal's poll of some 6 percent of Academy voters. Academy officials were infuriated by what they perceived as the newspaper's effort to kill suspense before Sunday night's awards show.
Actor Michael Caine said he'd attended the Academy Awards three times in the past and lost. But he was braving the event once more, hoping not to jinx his chances at a best supporting actor trophy for his work in "The Cider House Rules."
In the long red-carpeted ramp-up to the festivities, a particularly memorable fashion nadir was provided by the songwriter and composer of the controversial best song nomination, "Blame Canada," from the gleefully irreverent and off-color "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut."
Lyricist Trey Parker wore a copy of the open-bodiced outfit with which Jennifer Lopez made a high-profile arrival at last month's Grammys. And composer Marc Shaiman was in a pink frock reminiscent of Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar gown of last year.
The long journey to the podium
Even before "American Beauty" collected its pack-leading eight Academy Award nominations, there was a little cyber-ambush when a Web site claimed it had short lists from which this year's Oscar nominees would be drawn on February 15. That info didn't pan out.
But when ballots went out to the roughly 5,600 voting Academy members, about 4,000 went astray in transit.
Then 55 of the statuettes -- each boasting the best-cut external obliques in fitness-crazed Hollywood -- were swiped from a loading dock. A shipping-company employee has been charged with grand theft. All but three of the coveted mantelpiece tchotchkes were found. But security, as they usually say about more politically dicey event, has bee tight at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium this evening.
And the final blow, at least to the Academy faithful, came Friday when The Wall Street Journal published its poll of likely winners. The Academy was not amused -- nor completely up-front: The Journal could make its poll only with the cooperation of voters who responded.
Not all happy endings
In a year noted for some intelligently written and crafted films, not all the smarter stuff was well represented among Oscar hopefuls.
"The Talented Mr. Ripley," for example -- a disturbing and richly made film about murderous obsession and self-delusion -- offers only faint hopes of an Academy for its writer-director Anthony Minghella and in the best supporting actor category for Jude Law. Conspicuously overlooked in the nominations is Matt Damon's brooding performance of the dark title role.
And "Being John Malkovich" -- a gleefully edgy bit of mild surrealism about being exactly who you are, no more, no less -- offers the chance of an award only to Charlie Kaufman for its screenplay; Spike Jonze, its director; and Catherine Keener, for best supporting actress.
But many take heart in Tinseltown's embrace of "American Beauty," a far more challenging take on dysfunctional suburbia than most United States sitcomery can accommodate. Swank's nomination for her work as a cross-dressed victim of intolerance in so difficult a film as director Kimberly Peirce's "Boys Don't Cry" has been seen by some observers as a good sign that the industry may be broadening its scope in social issues and aesthetic treatment.
Among the best picture nominees, "The Cider House Rules" carries a clear message in support of a woman's right to an abortion under certain circumstances -- bracing stuff for an Academy that sits down more comfortably to award last year's conquering sonnet, "Shakespeare in Love."
"The Insider" is about blowing whistles, not smoke, in the real-life struggle of the American big-tobacco industry, and arrives at a time when manufacturers are mounting "don't smoke" ad campaigns aimed at kids. "The Green Mile" has been called a "death row fairy tale." And Bruce Willis' "The Sixth Sense" is a determinedly brainy horror tale that has carried in young Haley Joel Osment for a best supporting actor award.
Raunchy song's creators tuning up for Oscar night
The Official Academy Awards Site
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