"The Silence of the Lambs" and its beauty and its beast dominated last night's 64th Annual Academy Awards, winning five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director.
"Silence's" Jonathan Demme won Best Director for the job he did in shepherding to the screen Thomas Harris' spooky novel of a young FBI agent's hunt for a brutal psychotic killer, as guided by another, and more frightening, psychotic killer.
Jodie Foster won her second Best Actress Oscar for her performance as FBI agent Clarice Starling in "Silence." She won the award in 1989 as a rape victim for "The Accused." She dedicated her award to all the actresses who came before her.
Anthony Hopkins, who gave a frightening performance as the psychotic killer Hannibal Lecter in "Silence," became the third British actor in a row to take the American industry's top acting honor.
He followed Jeremy Irons in "Reversal of Fortune" and Daniel Day-Louis in "My Left Foot."
The movie also won for Adapted Screenplay by Ted Tally.
The film becomes only the third movie to sweep the five major awards. "It Happened One Night" did it in 1934, as did "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" in 1975.
Barry Levinson's "Bugsy," whose 10 nominations were more than those of any other movie, won just two Oscars, for Art Direction and Costume Design.
"Beauty and the Beast," the first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture Award, won Oscars for Original Score and Song. In accepting the Best Song award for the late Howard Ashman, who was a Baltimore native, William Lauch, Ashman's longtime companion, said, "This is the first academy award we've given to someone we've lost to AIDS. There's an inscription at Howard's grave in Baltimore that reads, 'Oh, that he had one more song to sing.' We'll never hear that song, but for Howard, I thank you."
"Prince of Tides," which created controversy when its director, Barbra Streisand, was snubbed by the academy, was shut out of last night's awards.
Old pro Jack Palance won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and Mercedes Ruehl was named Best Supporting Actress.
Palance, who had been nominated twice before, played Curly, the leathery head wrangler in the hit comedy "City Slickers."
Palance chided awards' host Billy Crystal, who starred in "City Slickers," "I crap better than him." Then, in one of the strangest acceptance performances of all time, the 72-year old actor performed a brace of one-handed push-ups on stage to show that he was still strong; compared push-ups to sex and then told a story about a producer who had pre
dicted he would win an Oscar -- 42 years ago. Palance had been nominated before for "Shane" and "Sudden Fear."
He thus became the subject of a series of running gags from Crystal, who reported over the course of the evening that he had been sighted bungee jumping off the Hollywood sign in the Hollywood hills, or that he had won the New York state primary. "Oh, those kids," said Crystal.
Miss Ruehl, a first-time nominee, won for her role as Jeff Bridges' lover in "The Fisher King."
Miss Ruehl performed no one-handed push-ups but pointed out that the doleful memories of her struggle to become an actress had been magically transformed into charming anecdotes. She also thanked, among others, the late New York producer Joseph Papp, for "nudging her into the light."
Callie Khouri, a first-time screenwriter, won the best original screenplay award for "Thelma & Louise."
"Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Hollywood's 1991 box office champion, won four technical awards -- for sound, sound effects editing, makeup and visual effects.
Politics interrupted the ceremony once when Richard Gere, presenting the Best Cinematography award, stepped briefly into the pulpit when he called for defense funds to be diverted into AIDS research and urged viewers to write their congressmen. Then he presented the award to Robert Richardson, for "JFK." It also won for Best Editing.
But the best ad lib of the night went to Crystal who watched helplessly as 100-year-old Hal Roach, the legendary producer of the Our Gang and Laurel & Hardy comedies, spoke to the audience for a few seconds without a microphone. Crystal then said, "That's all right. Mr. Roach started in silent films."
An Italian film, "Mediterraneo," won the Oscar as the best foreign film. "Stop the wars. Life is better," said the director, an irony since the award was presented by Sylvester Stallone, who has appeared in some of the most violent (and most profitable) war movies ever made.
"In the Shadow of the Stars" won best documentary; the story of chorus members at the San Francisco Opera, it's slated to be shown at the Baltimore Film Festival Friday at 9 p.m. at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
"Session Man" won for best live-action short subject.
The Irving G. Thalberg Humanitarian Award, given each year to an esteemed producer in the name of one of Hollywood's most beloved executives, was presented to producer-director George Lucas, the maker of such legendary hits as "American Graffiti," the "Star Wars" trilogy and the three Indiana Jones pictures.
Lucas, accepting the award, said, "Movies are not made in isolation; it's only because of the very hard work of thousands of actors and technicians that I'm able to stand here and accept this award." But he then especially thanked his teachers for helping him "learn and grow; it was greatly appreciated."
Then, in an unprecedented linkage, the crew of the space shuttle Atlantis, in orbit 300 miles above the Earth, beamed down a congratulations to Lucas, producing another first for an Oscar telecast: a brief vision of a weightless Oscar, spinning through the cabin of the craft.