HOLLYWOOD - In an evening filled with raw emotion, stunning surprises and even a little '60s-style peace protests thrown in for good measure, Chicago, the Roaring '20s musical morality tale, won the Oscar for Best Picture last night at the 75th Academy Awards.
And, though the win for the overwhelmingly popular Chicago was expected, the wins for actor Adrien Brody and director Roman Polanski for the Holocaust drama The Pianist were shockers that drew gasps and sustained applause from the stunned audience. As he walked on stage to accept his Best Actor Oscar, the tall, lanky Brody gave a passionate kiss to last year's Oscar winner, Halle Berry, who presented him with the award. But the humor of the moment soon gave way to deeper feeling.
"There comes a time when everything seems to make sense. This is not one of those times." said Brody, who added his experience working on the film made him "very aware of the sadness' caused by war.
The other major surprise was the best director award going to Polanski, a fugitive from American justice since he fled the United States in the late 1970s after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl. Going into the awards, Chicago director Rob Marshall, who won the Directors Guild of America award, was considered the favorite.
For sheer numbers, Chicago, based on the Bob Fosse Broadway musical, was the big winner last night. Not since Oliver! won the top honor 34 years ago has Oscar had a song in its heart and a spring its step. The movie danced off with six golden statuettes to lead all others.
But for perennial Oscar power Miramax, it was a mixed night. The studio's Gangs of New York, which had been nominated for 10 awards, left empty-handed.
Brody, 29, won for his role as Wladyslaw Szpilman, the Polish Jew who evaded Nazis during World War II in The Pianist. The audience in the Kodak rose and cheered as Brody clutched his head in disbelief. He had just pulled off the unthinkable: beating Oscar-winning veterans Jack Nicholson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Caine and Nicolas Cage. Brody thus tied Richard Dreyfuss as the youngest actor to ever win the honor.
Emotion overtook Nicole Kidman as she accepted the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as writer Virginia Woolf in The Hours. Denzel Washington, who presented her with the award, said that the Australian actress had won "by a nose." a kidding reference to the fact that Kidman had donned a prosthetic nose to play the character.
The awards were staged on a somber evening when war news from Iraq was hard to ignore and the Oscar's usual glitz factor was sharply muted. During the broadcast, viewers were jolted back to the reality as ABC News anchor Peter Jennings delivered periodic updates on U.S. com bat deaths in Iraq.
Seasoned character actor Chris Cooper, his eyes welling with tears and his voice cracking, accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Adaptation, where he portrayed an eccentric orchid poacher.
Without mentioning the words Iraq or war, Cooper's acceptance speech still provided the evening's first political punch: "In light of all the trouble in this world, I wish us all peace."
Catherine Zeta-Jones, who played a celebrity-seeking, vaudevillian Velma Kelly, who murders her cheating husband and her sister in Chicago, took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. The raven-haired Welsh actress who is pregnant with her second child by husband and fellow Oscar winner Michael Douglas, was beaming as she gleefully remarked: "My hormones are too way out of control to even be dealing with this now."
Peter O'toole, a seven-time nominee for films such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Lion in Winter, accepted his first Oscar - an honorary Academy Award, presented by Oscar-nominee Meryl Streep.
Robert W. Welkos and Susan King write for the Los Angeles Times, a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Here are some of the winners of the 75th annual Academy Awards:
Best Picture: Chicago
Actor: Adrien Brody, The Pianist
Actress: Nicole Kidman, The Hours
Supporting Actor: Chris Cooper, Adaptation
Supporting Actress: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago
Director: Roman Polanski, The Pianist
Foreign Film: Nowhere in Africa, Germany
Adapted Screenplay: Ronald Harwood, The Pianist
Original Screenplay: Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her
Animated Feature Film: Spirited Away
Art Direction: Chicago
Cinematography: Road to Perdition.
Sound Editing: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Original Score: Frida, Elliot Goldenthal
Original Song: "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile, Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto
Documentary Feature: Bowling for Columbine
Documentary (short subject) : Twin Towers
Film Editing: Chicago
Animated Short Film: The Chubb- Chubbs!
Live Action Short Film: This Charming Man (Der Er En Yndig Mand)
Visual Effects: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Honorary Award: Peter O'Toole