One - Two Punch

`Baby' wins prizefight, takes film, director awards

The 77th Annual Academy Awards

February 28, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

HOLLYWOOD -Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood's film about a female boxer whose biggest challenges come outside the ring, scored a knockout last night at the 77th annual Academy Awards with four Oscar wins, including Best Picture.

Released by Warner Bros. late in the year to take advantage of what the studio saw as a weak field, the film also earned awards for director Eastwood, actress Hilary Swank and supporting actor Morgan Freeman.

With first-time host Chris Rock keeping things lively with pointed humor that stopped just short of being too risque for the network airwaves (censors beeped out his words at least twice), last night's Oscar ceremony lived up to expectations that it would prove a struggle between Baby and The Aviator.

The latter received the most nominations (11) and won the most Oscars (five). But the biopic about Howard Hughes' early career lost in the top categories when it went head-to-head against Baby. In the Best Director category, Eastwood beat out legendary director Martin Scorsese, who has been nominated five times but has never won an Academy Award.

The evening's biggest crowd-pleaser, however, came when Ray star Jamie Foxx won the award for Best Actor. Raising his Oscar aloft, Foxx led the Kodak Theatre in the call-and-response from Ray Charles' hit, "What'd I Say," then gave thanks to the man whose spirit he so effectively portrayed.

"Give it up for Ray Charles and his beautiful legacy," said Foxx. Then, struggling to hold back tears, he paid tribute to his late grandmother for insisting he behave with dignity and act like a "Southern gentleman."

Swank won the Best Actress Oscar for playing the female boxer at the heart of Baby, while Freeman won for playing the film's wise, partially blind trainer. Cate Blanchett won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.

Pixar's The Incredibles, a tale of outlawed superheroes suffering a midlife crisis, won the studio's second straight Oscar for animated feature. Sideways, a saga of wine-tasting and relationships, took home an Oscar for Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor's adapted screenplay. And Charlie Kaufman earned the original screenplay Oscar for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a tale of memory threatening to be lost.

Freeman, a longtime Hollywood favorite who had been nominated three times before, was gracious and concise in accepting his Oscar. He thanked "anybody and everybody who had anything to do with the making of this picture," but offered praise for director Eastwood.

Backstage, Freeman played down feeling any relief. "After Driving Miss Daisy, I became philosophical," he said. "It occurred to me that winning the nomination is probably the height of it, about as far as you can reasonably go. After that, it's pretty arbitrary.

"But," he admitted "when they call your name, all that goes out the window."

Blanchett, who had been nominated once before (Best Actress, for Elizabeth), said she has been assured by several of Hepburn's friends that she would have appreciated her take on the actress, who won a record four Oscars during her career. "They said she'd be pleased," Blanchett said backstage. "I believe them."

The duel between Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator began taking shape early in the evening. The ceremony's first Oscar, for art direction, went to Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo for The Aviator; the second was Freeman's.

And veteran director Sidney Lumet was given an honorary Oscar for his nearly half-century of achievement in the industry. Lumet has been nominated five times without winning.

The winners

Winners of Academy Awards announced last night:

Picture:

Million Dollar Baby

Director:

Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby

Actor:

Jamie Foxx, Ray

Actress:

Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby

Supporting actor:

Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby

Supporting actress:

Cate Blanchett, The Aviator

Writing (adapted screenplay):

Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways

Writing (original screenplay):

Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Foreign film:

The Sea Inside, Spain

Animated feature film:

The Incredibles

Animated short film:

Ryan

Live action short film:

Wasp

Documentary:

Born Into Brothels

Documentary short subject:

Mighty Times: The Children's March

Art direction:

The Aviator

Cinematography:

The Aviator

Film editing:

The Aviator

Costume design:

The Aviator

Makeup:

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Original score:

Finding Neverland

Original song:

"Al Otro Lado Del Rio," from The Motorcycle Diaries

Sound editing:

The Incredibles

Sound mixing:

Ray

Visual effects:

Spider-Man 2

Honorary Academy Award:

Sidney Lumet

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:

Roger Mayer

Gordon E. Sawyer Award (technical achievement):

Takuo Miyagishima

Scientific and Technical Oscars:

Horst Burbulla, Jean-Marie Lavalou, Alain Masseron and David Samuelson

For more Oscar coverage: baltimoresun.com/awardseason

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