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Feature: Oscar 2002

The 74th Annual Academy Awards

Denzel Washington and Halle Berry: historic Oscar winners A strange night… but a marvellous one for Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, as James Cameron-Wilson discovered via ABC's coverage. From the monthly film magazine with the fastest Oscars coverage in print!

Inevitably, the shadow of September 11 hung over the proceedings like a miasma. On the evening of the 74th Awards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the often elusive Woody Allen was persuaded to make an appearance to represent a beleaguered New York - an occasion that prompted one of a handful of standing ovations. Gracefully acknowledging the applause, Woody quipped, “Thank you... That makes up for the strip search.”

Thankfully, it was also an evening of surprises. The Lord of the Rings did not sweep the board, although, with four wins, it did take away the most trophies. But four wins out of 13 nominations is not a landslide. Indeed, the 18 major trophies were shared between 11 movies. A Beautiful Mind took the top honours for Best Film and Best Director (Ron Howard), but failed to put Russell Crowe into the vaunted company of Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks through winning consecutive Best Actor Oscars. Although Russell was the bookies’ favourite, the whoops that greeted the announcement of Denzel Washington’s nomination immediately augured the Kiwi’s fate.

In fact, there were surprises galore, at least where the bookmakers were concerned. Neither Sissy Spacek nor Ian McKellen enjoyed their expected turn in the sun: it was also the first year that a Bond girl won the Oscar. Hell, it was the first time that an African-American walked off with the Best Actress accolade - or, more accurately, stumbled off with it. Among several emotional highlights, Halle Berry’s win was the most full-heartedly, gob-smackingly remarkable. When her name was announced (by Russell Crowe), the actress went into what looked like some kind of seizure. Eventually she climbed onto the stage and, utterly speechless, just stood there crying, really crying. This wasn’t the sob fest we had seen Tom Hanks, Gwyneth Paltrow and Mira Sorvino give in previous years, this was life-threatening, gut-clawing emotion. Lost for words and with tears pouring down her cheeks, Halle stared into the audience wondering what to do next. Then, pulling herself together, she delivered a speech that set off a human water-sprinkling system amongst the celebrity guests.

In between guttural sobs, Halle proclaimed: “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge [whom the actress played in a 1999 TV movie], Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox, and it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of colour that has a chance because tonight the door has been opened…” Nicole Kidman had tears in her eyes, as did Helen Mirren; and Halle’s husband, the R&B singer Eric Benét, was fighting back the vapours. I have been watching the Oscar ceremony closely for 30 years, now, and never have I seen a display of emotion of this magnitude. It was wonderful. And to think that Halle is in the middle of playing the Bond girl (Jinx) in the new 007 outing, Die Another Day. Eat your heart out Izabella Scorupco et al.

Indeed, if anything, the evening belonged more to the African-American than to September 11. Whoopi Goldberg (who, in 1991, won the Oscar for Ghost in the Best Supporting category) was compere and on better form than when she last hosted the event. The night’s most emotional Honorary Award went to Sidney Poitier, the first black performer to win a Best Actor Oscar (for Lilies of the Field, in 1964). When last year’s Best Actress, Julia Roberts, skipped on stage, it was Denzel’s turn...

by James Cameron-Wilson

Reporting selected from the 12-page Oscar® awards section in our May edition, published March 28 2002 (available to order now):
Film Review (May)

Image © 2002 ABC, Inc. /CRAIG SJODIN
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (May), see below for ordering options
Film Review (May)
#617, May 2002
ships from Mar 28 2002
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