Probably the most you can say about the first Academy Awards show to honor films of the new millennium is that it will likely go down as the least memorable. I’m not knocking host Steve Martin. He was always entertaining and cracked some good jokes at the expense of the nervous actors in front of him. However, without any really off-color material or pre-taped segments typical of predecessors Billy Crystal and David Letterman, the whole affair was just a little too tasteful for its own good. There weren’t even any outfits on the ladies too whorish or circus-like (well, except for one singer/first-time actress). Who’d think you’d miss Cher? At least you can depend on Bjork to find her own way, which apparently lead to the costume shop of Cirque de Soliel. Other than the Icelandic princess, the biggest ripple in this classy facade was the stoned demeanor of a couple actress/presenters (Renee, OPEN YOUR EYES).
The closest thing to a surprise was Marcia Gay Harden’s Best Supporting Actress win, though it was well deserved. Overall, statuettes were handed out rather evenly between the biggest contenders. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” won for Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Art Direction, and Score. “Traffic” took home Director, Supporting Actor for Benicio Del Toro, Adapted Screenplay for Stephen Gaghan, and Editing. “Gladiator” nailed Best Film, Costume Design, Visual Effects, Sound, and Actor for Russell Crowe. However you may feel about the merits of one picture over another, it’s difficult to argue that Crowe and Del Toro are not two of the best actors working today of any age or that Soderbergh’s five-year-long hot streak doesn’t place him at the top of his profession. I may have strongly liked many of Julia Roberts’s films but her Best Actress award felt justified not only by “Erin Brockovich” but by her sweet, heartfelt acceptance speech. Also heartfelt were the speeches from the writing winners for what were both ultimately very personal works. Cameron Crowe’s original screenplay for “Almost Famous” was a thinly fictionalized account of his own youth, while Gaghan’s “Traffic” was likely shaped by his reported personal experience of heroin addiction, of which he alluded to in his speech.
For once, I’d actually seen most of the nominees for Documentary Feature. My personal choice would have been the moving “Legacy”, but “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport” was my pick in the pool. Let’s face it, in any Oscar race, all things being equal, no one ever went poor betting on the Holocaust.
I’d have to say only two aspects of the show constituted any pre-conceived stabs at cleverness, both concerning remote broadcasts from across the planet. One would be to have the Best Adapted Screenplay award presented by Arthur C. Clarke in Sri Lanka. See, he adapted his original story “The Sentinel” with Stanley Kubrick for “2001: A Space Odyssey”. It’s now 2001, get it? The other would be Bob Dylan’s performance of his Best Song winner from Australia. Shot almost entirely in tight close-up of his face, it was probably the most disturbing element of any Oscar broadcast in recent memory. It was a little too revealing, and some aspects of our heroes should just remain a mystery.
Here’s the list of Oscar Winners for 2001:
Best Picture: Producers Douglas Wick, David Franzoni, Branko Lustig, Gladiator
Best Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Gladiator
Best Actress: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich
Best Supporting Actor: Benicio Del Toro, Traffic
Best Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden, Pollock
Screenplay Adaptation: Stephen Gaghan, Traffic
Original Screenplay: Cameron Crowe, Almost Famous
Foreign Language Film: Ang Lee, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Original Score: Tan Dun, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Original Song: â€œThings Have Changedâ€ from Wonder Boys, Bob Dylan
Art Direction: Tim Yip, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Film Editing: Stephen Mirrione, Traffic
Live Action Short Subject: Florian Gallenberger, â€œQuiero Ser (I want to be)â€
Animated Short Subject: Michael Dudok de Wit, â€œFather and Daughterâ€
Costume Design: Janty Yates, Gladiator
Sound: Scott Millan, Bob Beemer, Ken Weston, Gladiator
Sound Editing: Jon Johnson, U-571
Cinematography: Peter Pau, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Make-up: Rick Baker, Gail Ryan, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Documentary Short: Tracy Seretean , â€œBig Mamaâ€
Documentary Feature: Mark Jonathan Harris, Deborah Oppenheimer , â€œInto the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransportâ€
Visual Effects: John Nelson, Neil Corbould, Tim Burke, Rob Harvey, Gladiator
Academy Award winners previously announced this year:
Honorary Oscar: Cinematographer Jack Cardiff.
Honorary Oscar: Screenwriter-Producer-Director Ernest Lehman.
Technical Achievement: Rob Cook, Loren Carpenter and Ed Catmull of Pixar for the â€œRendermanâ€ software
Gordon E. Sawyer Award: Producer Irwin W. Young.
Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award: Producer Dino De Laurentiis.