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‘Tiger’ earns Oscar stripes

Chopsocky pic ties for most trophies given to foreign film

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” has captured many hearts and soared into the commercial treetops during its jaunt around the world. But the film’s four Oscar wins Sunday earned it a special place in the record books.

The tally for “Tiger” tied it with “Fanny and Alexander” for the most trophies given to a foreign film. The Ingmar Bergman-helmed “Fanny” also won four times in 1983.

Out of 10 nominations, second-most of any pic in the running, “Tiger” took home Oscars for best foreign-language film (Ang Lee), cinematography (Peter Pau), art direction (Tim Yip) and original score (Tan Dun).

The lone downside surprise was helmer Lee failing to win as best director, especially given his victory in that category in the Directors Guild of America Awards. The DGA winner has historically gone on to take the directing Oscar 92% of the time. Steven Soderbergh pocketed the best director prize for “Traffic.”

In accepting the foreign-lingo honor, Lee thanked Sony Classics co-prexies Tom Bernard, Michael Barker and Marcy Bloom for their “masterpiece” job in shepherding and distributing the Good Machine-produced film.

The decade-old, Gotham-based Sony Classics has certainly merited its rep as a foreign film specialist. The specialty film outlet, which operates with great autonomy within the Sony structure, captured the foreign-lingo Oscar last year as well for “All About My Mother.”

“Tiger” began its unlikely path to Oscar gold with an out-of-competition screening at Cannes, where it drew audience raves and strong early praise from critics. Other festival auds, particularly in Toronto, added to the momentum, greeting the film’s dazzling, balletic action sequences with thunderous ovations.

By the fall, much of the pic’s $15 million production budget had been rccouped thanks to strong overseas numbers. But the U.S., an increasingly fickle market for foreign-lingo fare, remained a distinct challenge.

As Sony Classics prepped for one of its patented slow rollouts starting in early December, plenty of rivals questioned the ability of the shoestring artfilm outfit to work the same arthouse-to-megaplex magic pulled off by Miramax and DreamWorks.

Despite much-publicized softness in some Asian territories, “Tiger” has overall been a worldwide sensation, racking up more than $60 million overseas and an astounding $106 million in the U.S. It has ranked among the top 10 domestic titles in 13 of its 15 weeks of release.

At Oscar nomination time, “Tiger” became just the seventh film to earn noms for both best picture and best foreign-language film.

Though Japan took home three “honorary” foreign-language film awards in the 1950s, none of the 17 Asian-language films nominated for best foreign-lingo film has won since.

” ‘Crouching Tiger’ is for a new era,” said Dun, winner for original score. “It’s not just for China. All the cultural boundaries have been crossed. I am honored to have been part of that.”

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