The 73rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony, although devoid of any truly shocking moments, was more entertaining and less frustrating than it has been in recent years, likewise, a year of firsts.
Part of this could be due to the fact that this was, time-wise, one of the shortest ceremonies in recent years. (Last year’s presentation held the record as being the longest ever.)
Another first was the brand spankin’ new host of the Oscars, Steve Martin. Martin kept a nice pace of the event and was humorous in spurts, but exhibited nothing to really distinguish him from the long line of Oscar emcees.
Perhaps the most significant first of this year’s Oscar presentation was that no one film walked away with a large chunk of the golden guys in the major categories.
Ridley Scott’s Gladiator took home five awards and the drug-war tale Traffic walked away with four. Gladiator, the rousing saga of ancient Rome, took Best Picture honors while Taiwan’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon scored a Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar as well as Best Original Score. Steven Soderbergh was named Best Director for Traffic.
Considering that Soderbergh was, in addition, nominated in the same category (a first in over a decade) for his work on Erin Brockovich, Oscar odds were in his favor to win. Keeping with the equal-distribution theme, Cameron Crowe was awarded Best Original Screenplay for his autobiographical film, Almost Famous.
Much to his surprise – and to the surprise of viewers expecting yet another (yawn) win from perennial Oscar favorite Tom Hanks – Russell Crowe garnered the statuette for his portrayal of Maximus, the general turned slave, in Gladiator.
In spite of the fact that Crowe was the brunt of many of the evening’s jokes in reference to his fling with Hollywood’s (then-married) white-bread sweetheart Meg Ryan, the Oscar-winner handled himself graciously throughout the event. Crowe’s acceptance speech was refreshingly humble, and showed a respect for the everyday modern warrior “on the downside of advantage.”
Best Actress Winner, Julia Roberts, was less than invigorating. Roberts’ epic acceptance speech could have put a Benzadrine addict to sleep. Between this one and her similar sermon at the Golden Globes, the Erin Brockovich star’s “Gosh! Golly! I can’t believe I won!” schtick is wearing thin.
Some of the ceremony’s most surprising moments came in the Best Supporting Actor and Actress categories. Best Supporting Actor, Benicio del Toro (Traffic) beat out veteran actors Willem DaFoe, Albert Finney, and Jeff Bridges, as well as the talented and unconventional Joaquin Phoenix. Marcia Gay Harden scored a similar upset in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her role in the bio-pic, Pollock.
In the category of Best Original Song, Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed” from Wonder Boys scored a deserved victory. Dylan (who is eerily resembled Vincent Price in a Kramer wig) performed and accepted the Oscar via satellite from a concert in Sydney Australia.
On the whole, the 73rd Annual Academy Awards proved to be more satisfying than it has been in recent years. Let’s hope that next year’s ceremonies maintain this precedent.