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Oscar ceremony serves up a clean sweep and a long nap

Oscar ceremony serves up a clean sweep and a long nap
February 29, 2004

Sean Penn picked the wrong year to attend the Oscars. Hollywood’s favorite rebel – and four-time best actor nominee – famously snubbed Academy Awards ceremonies in the past. Though he threatened, yet again, to bypass this year’s awards show, he turned up Sunday night in a sleek tux with wife Robin by his side. Penn went on to win the best actor gold for his Mystic River turn – but he also had to sit through one of the most lackluster awards ceremonies in years.

Billy Crystal’s cracked meek jokes, winners thanked too many names and stars – dressed up in glitz and glam – tried not to look bored. Peter Jackson’s epic Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King may have made history by winning all eleven awards for which is was nominated, but the steady stream of New Zealanders trudging onto the stage made for a monotonous evening.

Though this year’s list of nominations was surprising – Keisha Castle-Hughes instead of Nicole Kidman; a nod for Seabiscuit, but not for Cold Mountain; and –long last – nominations for Bill Murray and Johnny Depp . The ceremony, in contrast, proved to be numbingly predictable.

As expected, three-time nominee Renee Zellweger and two-time nominee Tim Robbins claimed best supporting prizes; four-time nominee Sean Penn and first-timer Charlize Theron won for best leads; three-time nominee Denys Arcand got the gold for foreign language film; double nominee Sofia Coppola missed out on best director, but won best original screenplay instead and, well, the rest of the major awards went to the Middle Earth clan.

There were no upsets this year (though Bill Murray looked upset when he lost to Penn). No political jibes (though Penn mentioned WMDs in his acceptance speech). No tearful speeches (though Charlize Theron’s came close). There wasn’t even a red carpet disaster (though Uma Thurman’s odd white frock almost qualified). All in all, the evening was a polite affair that gave stars an opportunity to rest their feet before the real parties began.

What did the world have to say about the Oscars? The following is a round of comments about the 76th Academy Awards from the world’s newspapers.

“It was an 11-"Ring" circus. As Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings won every award it was nominated for, and the director kept rising like a repeat soufflé to approach the stage, and compere Billy Crystal ran out of Tolkien jokes, the 76th Academy Award ceremony proved Nietzsche's theory of eternal recurrence. That is, if you sit long enough watching an Oscars show you will see the same film clips and hear the same speeches for ever and ever and ever.”
Nigel Andrews, The Financial Times

“Peter Jackson was crowned king of the movie world yesterday when he and the New Zealand team behind The Lord of the Rings triumphed in a clean sweep of the Academy Awards. In what will endure as the proudest moment in New Zealand film history, Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won all 11 awards for which it was nominated.”
Russell Baille, The New Zealand Herald

“This year's Oscar show, produced by first-timer Joe Roth, was notable for being relaxed and not taking itself too seriously. Blake Edwards went through a wall in a wheelchair in accepting his honorary Oscar, Will Ferrell and Jack Black sang a delightful "You're Boring" to the Oscar exit music, and the show's annual necrology cast an especially wide net, recognizing writer John Gregory Dunne, trailer virtuoso Andy Kuehn and experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage.”
Kenneth Turan, The Los Angeles Times

"Every Academy Awards season is different, except insofar as they are all pretty much the same. Perhaps that is just the nature of seasons. But by accident and by design, the events leading up to Sunday night's 76th annual festival of Hollywood self-regard were, if anything, even more the same than usual. The academy, the film industry and the gods of chance and history all seemed to be sparing no effort to ensure that this year's Oscars would be as normal, as uneventful and as predictable as possible — to honor tradition by producing a generic extravaganza."
A.O. Scott, New York Times

Susan Buzzelli

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