U and D'Works repeat with tale of troubled math whiz

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  • Academy voters were in a schizophrenic frame of mind — in more ways than one.

    Universal/DreamWorks’ pic from Imagine Entertainment, “A Beautiful Mind,” which concerns real-life schizophrenic math genius John Nash, took home the top prize. Accepting the award were producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, with the latter also winning as best director for the pic.

    Otherwise, voters were of a split personality, with eight pics nabbing one Oscar apiece, and only four films taking home multiple awards.

    This marks the second consecutive win for U/DreamWorks after “Gladiator,” and the third straight victory for DreamWorks, which took the prize for the 1999 “American Beauty.”

    People like to talk about Academy voting patterns and “the kind of movie Oscar voters love,” but voters proved again that they’re full of surprises.

    Halle Berry (Lions Gate’s “Monster’s Ball”) became the first black woman ever honored in the best actress race and Denzel Washington won in the actor race. In the past 73 years, only six black thesps had ever won in the four acting categories.

    Four of the five pics in the best film race took home prizes. Universal/DreamWorks’ “A Beautiful Mind” won four, tied with New Line’s “The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.” Twentieth Century Fox’s “Moulin Rouge” won two, while USA Films’ “Gosford Park” had one.

    Miramax’s “In the Bedroom” went home empty-handed.

    The only other multiple-winning film was Sony/Revolution’s “Black Hawk Down,” marking the first Oscar wins for Joe Roth’s fledgling company. In studio tallies, U/DreamWorks nabbed four, as did New Line; Fox, Disney and Sony/Revolution each have two.

    In addition, DreamWorks nabbed one solo. In the Academy’s feature-animation race, the first new category in 20 years, “Shrek” won. The trophy was accepted by Aron Warner, one of three credited producers of the pic.

    It’s an interesting note that DreamWorks’ computer-animated toon should be the first-ever winner in this new race, after rival Disney had dominated the field for decades with cel animation.

    Supporting wins went to Jim Broadbent (Miramax’s “Iris”) and Jennifer Connelly (“Beautiful Mind”). Both played real-life characters — respectively, John Bayley and Alicia Nash — who remained supportive and loving during the mental problems of their spouses. They also joins 45 previous actors who’d won for portraying real people.

    First-time nominee Akiva Goldsman won for adapted screenplay (“Beautiful Mind”). It’s DreamWorks’ third consecutive script win, after “American Beauty” and “Almost Famous.”

    For original screenplay, voters chose Julian Fellowes for USA Films’ “Gosford Park”– winning on his first produced screenplay. It’s the second consecutive script win for the 3-year-old USA Films, after last year’s “Traffic.”

    The first nom for Bosnia-Herzegovina, “No Man’s Land” won the tight foreign-language race. The pic, directed by Danis Tanovic and being distributed in the U.S. by MGM/UA, concerns Bosnian and Serb soldiers stranded in a trench between enemy lines during the Bosnian war.

    As an indication of the state of the industry: Two studios have shared the best-winner pic in four of the last five years, after Fox-Paramount’s “Titanic” (1997); Miramax-U’s “Shakespeare in Love” (1998); and DreamWorks-Universal’s “Gladiator” (2000).

    Though he failed in his bid at consecutive best actor trophies, Russell Crowe joins a select few who’ve starred in back-to-back best pic wins.

    A tearful Berry received a standing ovation, saying, “This moment is so much bigger than me.” She acknowledged “every woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has now been open.”

    Although her win was not entirely a shock, Sissy Spacek was considered a front-runner, winning AFI and Golden Globe honors, as well as a slew of critics prizes. Berry’s victory, however, was hinted in her SAG Awards win earlier this month.

    “It was a very large door, and I’m glad that she’s the one who kicked it down,” host Whoopi Goldberg later said.

    Washington from WB’s “Training Day” became only the second black thesp ever to win in the best-actor category. He saluted Sidney Poitier, saying all his life he’d been following in the actor’s footsteps, “And there’s nothing I’d rather do, sir.”

    Washington is also the 11th actor to win in both lead and supporting races, having been honored for “Glory” in 1989.

    “Rings” was kudoed for cinematography by Andrew Lesnie; the music score of Howard Shore; makeup by Peter Owen and Richard Taylor; and the visual effects of Jim Rygiel, Randall William Cook, Mark Stetson and Taylor.

    “Moulin Rouge” won for costume design of Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie; Martin also won for her art direction, with Brigitte Broch honored for set decoration.

    (For Academy historians, it’s a case of deja vu: John Huston’s 1952 “Moulin Rouge” also won for both art direction and costume design.)

    Sony/Revolution’s “Black Hawk Down” triumphed for Pietro Scalia’s editing, and the sound work of Mike Minkler, Myron Nettinga and Chris Munro.

    The trophy for original song went to Randy Newman for “If I Didn’t Have You,” from Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” marking his first victory after 16 noms. “I don’t want your pity,” deadpanned Newman when he got a standing ovation.

    The singer-songwriter thus escaped a mention in Oscar’s record books as the person with the most noms without a win. However, sound man Kevin O’Connell, with his 15th winning-less nom this year (for “Pearl Harbor”), is now tied with composer Alex North and art director Roland Anderson for that record.

    Two-time winners Howard and “Rouge” designer Martin were among seven individuals with double noms this year. Newman was another. Of the other four, Christopher Boyes won in sound editing. Robert Altman, Todd Field and John Williams were left out of the winner’s circle.

    Among the triple nominees Richard Taylor was also a double winner, while Peter Jackson lost on all three bids.

    Sarah Kernochan chalked up a notable record as she and Lynn Appelle won for the docu short subject “Thoth.” Kernochan is now two for two: She also won an Oscar for her only previous docu 29 years ago, the 1972 “Marjoe.”

    “Rouge” and “Rings” accounted for a slew of winners from Australia and New Zealand. And there were a hefty number of first-time nominees who triumphed.

    Accepting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, Arthur Hiller saluted his “unbelievably caring” parents, who helped those who needed someone “to stand up for their rights,” and thanked them as well as his wife and children. “It’s so embarrassing to receive an award for doing what you should be doing.”

    Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford received honorary awards. Both are previous winners, Poitier as actor for the 1963 “Lilies of the Field” and Redford as helmer of 1980′s “Ordinary People.”

    After receiving an 80-second standing ovation, Poitier praised “the courageous, unselfish choices made by visionary filmmakers” that allowed his ground-breaking career. He singled out Joseph Mankiewicz, Richard Brooks, Ralph Nelson, Darryl Zanuck, Stanley Kramer, the Mirisch brothers, Guy Green, Norman Jewison “and all others who had a hand in altering the odds.”

    Redford, also greeted with a prolonged standing ovation, reminded the entertainment industry “to embrace the risks as well as the sure things … in keeping diversity alive, it will help keep our industry alive.”

    The world is in a sea-change, he added, and we must hold onto “the freedom of expression that allows us as artists to tell a story in our own way.” He said it’s a right not to be taken lightly.

    The Gordon E. Sawyer Award went to Edmund M. Di Giulio. Sci-tech awards were handed out March 2.

    This year’s honoree roster again points up the fallacy that there are any “surefire” Oscar bellwethers.

    For example, Broadbent and Connelly were win-less at the SAG Awards. Of the best-pic predictors, critics and the Producers Guild of America missed the boat. Only the Golden Globes got it right.

    In terms of campaigning, everything was more intense this year, probably because the lack of a clear front-runner revved up the adrenaline of the nominees. There was mucho press and industry speculation about possible election factors: mudslinging among film candidates, Crowe’s outburst at the BAFTA awards, and the race issue in the acting categories.

    Acad voters read about it and talked about it, but it’s quite possible that, despite the attention, the voters disregarded all the gossip and simply voted for the work that they thought was best.

    This year, there were 5,739 voting members in 15 branches of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The largest branch has 1,315 actors; the smallest boasts 110 documentarians.

    The 74th annual awards were held at the new Kodak Theatre in the Hollywood & Highland complex, the first time Oscars have been held in Hollywood since the April 1960 event at the Pantages.

    The kudocast was produced by Laura Ziskin and aired live in the U.S. on ABC.

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