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'Chicago' triumphs at Oscars

Musical wins six Oscars at night of surprises

By Todd Leopold
CNN

Kidman
Nicole Kidman won best actress for "The Hours."

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Big night for 'Chicago' at subdued 75th Oscars. CNN's Eric Horng reports (March 24)
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(CNN) -- To paraphrase from a song not in the musical, "Chicago" was Oscar's kind of town Sunday night, winning six Academy Awards at a show full of upsets, emotion and some politics that couldn't be left at the door.

The musical of razzmatazz and "All That Jazz" became the first movie musical to win best picture since 1968's "Oliver!" It also took home Oscars for best supporting actress (Catherine Zeta-Jones), art direction, costume design, sound and film editing. "Chicago" had led all films with 13 nominations.

But even with "Chicago's" good feelings carrying the day, it was best actor Adrien Brody and best actress Nicole Kidman who brought the house down with their moving speeches.

Kidman, who won for her performance as Virginia Woolf in "The Hours," couldn't restrain her emotions as she accepted her award.

"Russell Crowe said don't cry if you get up there, and now I'm crying," she said. "I'm standing here in front of my mother and my daughter, and my whole life I wanted to make my mother proud, and now I want to make my daughter proud," she said, holding back tears.

Brody, who portrayed Jewish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman in "The Pianist," the true story of a musician in a Warsaw ripped apart by World War II and the Holocaust, beat competition including Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Caine and Nicolas Cage.

"This has been an amazing, amazing journey," said the somewhat stunned Brody. Then, after holding off the orchestra music that attempted to guide him offstage, he said, "It fills me with great joy, but also great sadness, because I'm accepting this award at such a strange time," he continued, referring to the war in Iraq. "Let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution," he added to a standing ovation, and paid tribute to a friend serving in Kuwait.

In an upset, "Pianist" helmer Roman Polanski won best director. "Chicago" director Rob Marshall and "Gangs of New York" director Martin Scorsese -- the latter winless now in four directing nominations -- were thought to be the front-runners. Presenter Harrison Ford accepted on behalf of Polanski, who was also winless before this evening and who did not attend the ceremony in Los Angeles because he remains a fugitive from U.S. law.

Mentions of politics

Zeta-Jones
Catherine Zeta-Jones won best supporting actress.

For most of its first two hours, the Oscars managed to pretty much avoid any mention of politics. But as the evening wore on, there were more references to the war in Iraq, with varying responses.

Brody's talk was greeted warmly; presenter Susan Sarandon flashed a quick peace sign. Even Academy president Frank Pierson made a mention: "To the Iraqi people, let's have peace soon and live without war," he said to cheers, wishing for a swift end to the war.

Michael Moore's acceptance speech, however, earned applause from some -- but hoots of derision from others.

Accompanied on stage by his fellow documentary nominees, Moore, who won best documentary feature for "Bowling for Columbine," wasted no time in lighting into President Bush, the 2000 election and the war in Iraq.

"I've invited my fellow documentary nominees on stage with us here in solidarity with me," he said, "because we like non-fiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man who's sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts. ... We have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you."

Moore expanded on his comments with the press backstage.

"I'm an American," he said. "You don't leave your citizenship behind when you enter the doors of the Kodak Theatre." He added that expressing opinions is "what I do. I do that in my filmmaking."

Asked what he thought of the catcalls, he said, "Don't report that there was a split decision in the hall because five loud people booed."

There was some protest activity outside the theater Sunday. Reuters reported a group of about 50 protesters at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine held signs saying, "One more American for peace" and "Bring U.S. soldiers home." At the opposite end of the street, a group supporting the troops waved American flags and had tied red, white and blue ribbons to the barricades.

Several upsets

Security
Security was tight at the Oscars prior to Sunday's broadcast.

Moore's speech, and the reaction to it, was the exception. Many winners were full of laughter and surprise.

The very pregnant Zeta-Jones chuckled as she walked to the stage to accept her award for best supporting actress from presenter Sean Connery.

"A Scotsman giving this Welsh girl ..." she said with delight, before laughing gleefully. She thanked her co-stars and fellow nominees, and then worked in a good word for her hometown of Swansea in south Wales.

Earlier, Chris Cooper accepted a supporting actor nod for his performance as a scraggly orchid thief in "Adaptation."

After thanking his fellow nominees, co-star Meryl Streep -- "working with this woman was like making great jazz," he said to the actress -- and, movingly, his wife, Cooper concluded his acceptance with some solemnity.

"In light of all the troubles in this world, I wish us all -- peace," he said.

Upsets grew numerous as the night went on. Besides Brody and Polanski, there was Eminem, who won best song for "Lose Yourself" from his movie "8 Mile," beating U2 and Paul Simon. (The rapper was a no-show.)

"Frida" won for best score. The movie also picked up an award for best makeup.

The German film "Nowhere in Africa" won for best foreign-language film. Best animated feature was won by the Japanese work "Spirited Away" against some very successful -- and big-budgeted -- Hollywood competition.

And in the screenwriting categories, Pedro Almodovar won for his Spanish-language script for "Talk to Her," and Ronald Harwood triumphed in adapted screenplay for his script for "The Pianist" -- the latter over favorites Charlie Kaufman ("Adaptation") and Bill Condon ("Chicago").

Oscar also remembered one of its legends with a posthumous award. Conrad L. Hall, a 10-time nominee who had previously won for "American Beauty" (1999) and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1969), won the Oscar for best cinematography for "Road to Perdition." His son, Conrad W. Hall, accepted the award and paid tribute to his father.

Martin, with aplomb

Martin
Host Steve Martin got the show off to a rousing and humorous start.

Host Steve Martin kept things light throughout the evening, launching into jokes right away.

"Well, I'm glad they cut back on all the glitz," he said during his opening monologue. "You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That'll send them a message."

Martin also got off digs at large corporations, the "gay Mafia," Jack Nicholson, Mickey Rooney and Kathy Bates. "Jack Nicholson was in a hot tub with Kathy Bates," Martin said, referring to a scene in the film "About Schmidt," "but then, who hasn't been?"

Bates seemed pleasantly shocked.

Later, Martin described what it took to be a movie star. "They can be tall or short, thin or skinny," he said. "They can be Democrats, or ..." he paused, his voice trailing off, "or skinny."

And Martin, never at a loss for words, even had a riposte for Moore.

"It's so sweet backstage," he said. "The Teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo."

The Oscars were one of the quickest of recent years, clocking in at around 3 1/2 hours and ending around midnight ET.


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