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Wife's advice pays off

THE BALTIMORE SUN

HOLLYWOOD - Chris Cooper listened to his wife, and that's why he won an Oscar last night.

The screen veteran won the Best Supporting Actor trophy last night. And were it not for his wife, Marianne, he might have turned down the role of John Laroche, the insatiable free spirit at the center of Adaptation.

"Actually, I didn't know if I was capable of fulfilling the role," Cooper said backstage after his win. But then his wife reminded him that the best roles are often intimidating. "When you shy away from the role," he remembered her saying, "you'd better pursue them."

As the first performer to win an Oscar last night, Cooper's acceptance speech was seen as a gauge of what might be expected in the way of political statements. But outside of wishing for peace, he steered clear of the political. "I did say all I wanted to say up there," he said when asked if he wished to elaborate, adding he never considered not attending the awards ceremony, even after the conflict in Iraq broke out. "There was not too much that was going to stop me from enjoying this night."

Regardless of how hard it tried to act otherwise, this town definitely had the wind knocked out of its sails by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decision to forgo its lavish red-carpet arrival rituals.

Noticeably absent this year were the hundreds of fans who typically spend hours sitting on sun-drenched bleachers waiting to glimpse their favorite stars and snap a few pictures. The bleachers were taken down after Tuesday's announcement of the scaled-back plans, and fans who insisted on making the trek to Hollywood Boulevard were kept well away from the Kodak Theatre.

In fact, getting anywhere near the Kodak was a chore, even for those with the necessary credentials. Security guards and Los Angeles police seemed to be everywhere.

The arrivals line, normally set up along Hollywood Boulevard, was almost completely eliminated and the stars got out of their cars and walked quickly inside the theater, pausing briefly for a few photographs.

Inside, veteran Hollywood columnist Army Archerd, who for 40 years has served as emcee for the arrivals, said he did not agree with the Academy's decision. "The troops out there, they love this show, they look forward to all the glitz and glamour."

The 'Awful' news

Unable to choose between the classically bad and the up-and-coming, Razzie voters, who annually dishonor the worst in cinema, awarded two Worst Actress trophies this year, its 23rd-annual event. The first went to perennial (dis)favorite Madonna for her starring role in Swept Away, husband Guy Ritchie's remake of Italian director Lina Wertmuller's saga of mismatched shipwreck survivors. Madonna's "win" surprised no one and delighted everyone at Saturday morning's awards ceremony, held in a Santa Monica hotel.

But this year, the Razzies made room for a new generation: Also cited was pop idol Britney Spears for her turn as a valedictorian with a touch of wanderlust in Crossroads.

Still, when it came to sustained awfulness, Razzie voters remained faithful to the Material Girl. Not only did Swept Away "win" for Worst Picture, but it also garnered Worst Screen Couple (Madonna and co-star Adriano Giannini), Worst Remake or Sequel (a Razzie first for a Worst Picture honoree) and Worst Director.

How bad was Swept Away? It was, Razzie founder John Wilson noted, the lowest-grossing Worst Picture nominee ever, earning less than $600,000.

As for Madonna, well, her domination of the Razzies was near-total; not only did she "win" twice for Swept Away, but she also slinked away with the Worst Supporting Actress award for her cameo as a fencing instructor in the most recent James Bond film, Die Another Day. That brought her career Razzie total to nine.

Crossroads was slammed twice, also earning Worst Song kudos for Spears' achingly heartfelt "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman."

Also garnering a pair of Razzies was Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, for Worst Screenplay (one critic suggested the film should be called The Empire Strikes Out) and Worst Supporting Actor (Hayden Christensen as The Man Who Will Be Darth Vader).

Oscar winner Roberto Benigni earned Worst Actor for his performance as a wooden puppet who wants to be a boy in Pinocchio. And Jackass won in a new category: Most Flatulent Teen-Targeted Movie.

Sadly, none of the dishonorees was present to pick up the trophy, a film can spray-painted gold and worth about $4.89.

With Spirit

Its name may not have turned up much when Oscar nominations were announced last month, but Far From Heaven was far from ignored at Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards, earning trophies for picture, actor, actress, director and cinematography.

The movie, a throwback to the color-drenched potboilers of the 1950s, was lauded repeatedly by an awards show dedicated to honoring films that push the boundaries of cinema. Voters, apparently, had no problem if those boundaries were nearly half-a-century old.

"It's wonderful to feel like [the film] is being recognized by its own community," producer Christine Vachon said after winning the Best Feature award. Asked to explain away the Oscar slight, she shouted in mock exasperation: "Because they're stupid!

Individual winners for Far From Heaven included Julianne Moore (Lead Female), Todd Haynes (Director), Dennis Quaid (Supporting Male) and Edward Lachman (Cinematographer).

"[The film] is really all about emotions," Quaid said backstage. "I think audiences respond to that."

Other Spirit winners included Emily Mortimer, Supporting Female for Lovely & Amazing; Derek Luke, Male Lead for Antwone Fisher; Nia Vardalos, Debut Performance for My Big Fat Greek Wedding; Mike White, Screenplay for The Good Girl; and Erin Cressida Wilson, First Screenplay for Secretary.

Host John Waters, back for a third straight year, largely steered clear of commenting on the war, noting, "While someone did once call me the 'pope of trash,' no one has ever called me an expert in world politics."

Others were not so reticent. Michael Moore, who earned the Best Documentary award for Bowling for Columbine, blasted those who insist that people, especially actors, should stop criticizing the Bush administration's policies.

Democracy, he said backstage, "implies a responsibility to speak your mind and be active. ... "

After the show, Waters noted the irony that, as host of the weekend's first televised awards show, he could be seen as the one setting the tone for how Hollywood would react to the breakout of war.

"That was the only thing that made me nervous," he said. "Before the show, reporters kept coming up ands asking me what I thought of the [Oscars'] red carpet being canceled. That was about 200th on my list of things to think about."

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