Oscars: The Luckiest of the Best

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February, 2005

LOS ANGELES - Movies are my work and my love. Even more, it has been a source of inspiration throughout my life. When I was a boy in U.S. internment camps, the movies I saw in the mess hall after dinner helped me to vicariously escape the barbed wire fences that confined me to a world beyond. After the war, back home again in Los Angeles, the nearness of the fabled studios of Hollywood became irresistibly enticing beckons. As a drama student at U.C.L.A., making student films with classmates like Francis Coppola, we explored the possibilities and challenges of filmmaking. When I became a young professional actor, through the trials and tribulations of building a career, I learned the value of hard work and dedication combined with resilience. As a lifelong movie buff, I was moved, outraged, enchanted, and transported by films like, "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Grapes of Wrath," "Lawrence of Arabia," "Bridge over the River Kwai," "Gandhi," and "The Godfather." I love movies.

Because I love movies, the Oscar ceremonies, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' annual recognition of excellence in motion pictures, is a joyous celebration. It is, for me, not a contest, but a gala. To me, all of the nominated artists are winners and the Oscar recipients are the luckiest of the best. I go to the Oscars to revel in and celebrate the best in movies.

I had a great time at the Oscars this year. Security before I got to the red carpet at the Kodak Theater was quite intense but once past, it was the grand old Hollywood tradition well observed. The flash bulbs flashed, the fans in the stands shrieked on cue, and glitter and glamour was all around. I saw Penelope Cruz looking stunning; best actress nominee, Annette Benning and her well-known husband moved slowly down the red carpet waving regally; Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy, who were both nominated for the best adapted screenplay of "Before Sunset" together with Richard Linklater; were making the interview rounds as if they were congenitally attached. Inside the theater, one could easily spot Clint Eastwood because of his height, sculpted good bones, and metallic white hair. The air was electric with anticipation.

An authoritative, amplified female voice boomed the countdown and the Oscar telecast was on. Chris Rock, the much-hyped host this year, began with a riff on stars, actors, and President Bush. Poor Jude Law - I felt so sorry for him being mocked for being such a busy actor. He had, in fact, been in a lot of movies this past year; "Closer," "I Heart Huckabees," "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," "Alfie," and smaller roles in "The Aviator," and "Lemony Snickets." I wondered whether he was in the audience and how he might be taking it. I thought it was good that, later in the evening, Sean Penn, last year's Oscar recipient, stated from the stage that Jude Law was a fine actor. I heartily agreed.

The first acting award announced was Best Supporting Actor. There were five great nominees for the recognition. Who can decide between apples, oranges, peaches, and pears? I love them all for their own unique deliciousness. That is the way I feel about all the nominated performances for supporting actor. Alan Alda was contemptibly ingratiating as the crooked U.S. Senator in "The Aviator." Thomas Haden Church was a lovable goofus in "Sideways." Jamie Foxx's performance as the terrified cab driver in "Collateral" was compelling. Clive Owen in "Closer" probed the dark depths of a complex character. Morgan Freeman, an actor who always impresses me, created a full, rich, and touching portrait of a has-been hanging on in "Million Dollar Baby." They were all brilliant, each in their own singular way. The luckiest of this gifted group turned out to be Morgan Freeman. I applauded unreservedly - as I would have any of the other actors. I did, however, agree with his luck. Morgan Freeman is a great actor.

Chris Rock unexpectedly kept the program moving right along. One after another, the awards were announced. There were a few innovations with this year's presentation. In a few categories, all the nominees were on stage together to be introduced as the award was announced. I thought that was a good idea. A bad innovation was the announcement of the nominee and the awards made from the audience. I thought that diminished the awards as well as the recipients. I think the awardees all deserve to receive their Oscars on stage. I hope we don't see this kind of harebrained innovation next year.

As an actor, I'm most passionately interested in the acting awards. I applauded until my hands hurt as the Oscars were handed out to Cate Blanchett, then Hilary Swank, and finally to Jamie Foxx. What a lucky group of radiant talents they are! The sixteen other actors that were not quite so lucky this year are still brilliant, gifted actors and I know we can continue to expect wonderful works from them.

I know there will be many among you who will want to know which actor I voted for. I am not revealing my very subjective choices - and that is what they are - subjective and personal. All I will say is that some of my choices were lucky and some were not.

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