“And now, back to the Oscars,” Peter Jennings said an hour into the show after a two-minute newsbreak to give the latest on the war in Iraq. He only interrupted one other time, for about 30 seconds.
No matter how much Hollywood wanted Sunday night to be about razzle, dazzle, glitz and glamour, war was on everyone’s mind, and presenters and winners let their views be heard.
The most vocal was Michael Moore, who won for his documentary feature, Bowling for Columbine.
“I’ve invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage … they are here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction,” Moore said before he unloaded on President Bush. “We love nonfiction, and we live in fictitious times. We live in a time when we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time when we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of false alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you.”
Moore’s speech was followed by boos and a drowning orchestra as he finished with a final “Thank you.”
The second-most controversial moment came when best actor winner Adrien Brody pulled a Julia Roberts and told the maestro to hold the band.
“This award has filled me with great joy, but I’m also filled with a lot of sadness,” he said. “I’m accepting this award at such a strange time, and you know my experience with the making of (The Pianist) made me very aware of the sadness and dehumanization at the times of war and the repercussions of war. And if you believe in God or Allah, may he watch over you. And let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.
“I have a friend from Queens who’s a soldier in Kuwait right now … I hope you and your boys make it back real soon. God bless you guys. I love you.”
The Pianist received more than most expected when presenter Harrison Ford read Roman Polanski’s name as Best Director. Although the fugitive, convicted for a 1970s rape, wasn’t present at the ceremony, the audience of celebrities gave him a standing ovation.
But as expected, the big winner of the night was Chicago, which garnered six awards by the end of the night, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for a pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Chicago star Renee Zellweger lost to Nicole Kidman, who won The Hours’ only award of the night. However, Gangs of New York was shut out completely, even though it had 10 nominations.
The Two Towers, the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, received two awards, both for technical achievements in sound editing and visual effects. Frida also picked up two awards for makeup and original score.
Chris Cooper beat out stiff competition in Paul Newman, Ed Harris and Christopher Walken to win the best supporting actor prize for Adaptation, the film’s only win.
While Chicago director Rob Marshall didn’t win an Oscar, he was the most thanked person of the night, as practically each of the six winners from Chicago let the Academy know it was his “vision.”
Nowhere in sight was eventual Best Original Song winner Eminem, who opted not to perform his song from 8 Mile. And though each of the other nominees performed musical numbers throughout the evening, the only two times Eminem’s name was referenced were when the nominees were read and following, “The Oscar goes to …”
But at midnight, after the crowd started getting tired of hearing the lounge version of “All That Jazz,” it wasn’t an evening about no-shows and shut-outs, wins and losses, or even whether Polanski would show and be arrested on stage or Zeta-Jones would go into labor during her musical number with Queen Latifah. It was a night about war.
With everyone, from presenter Gael Garcia Bernal, to winner Kidman making one reference or another about the conflict overseas, the message was known: The show will go on.
Just not as originally planned, with host Steve Martin making light of the situation early on: “As you may have noticed, there was no red carpet this year. That’ll send them a message.”
Olga Robak and Pablo Saldana contributed to this report.