Angelica Huston presents Best Picture nominee The Insider as the show finishes up its first hour, with my count 3 for 6.
Vanessa Williams and LL Cool J introduce the new format for Best Original Song nominees as all five are performed on this single break. Randy Newman and Sarah McLachlan do an incredible job with the song from Toy Story 2, the year's should-of-won, and Aimee Mann did a fine job performing this year's best song from Magnolia. Of course, after each of these great songs were "Music of My Heart" performed by Gloria Estefan and boy band N'Sync, who will undoubtedly never be performing at another Academy Awards ceremony, and "You'll Be in My Heart" performed by Phil Collins. The final song was a grand production of "Blame Canada" from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut by Oscar winner Robin Williams, excising that naughty word that had ABC sweating so much. Cher then came out to give the award to the treacle from Phil Collins in the most astonishingly normal dress I've ever seen on Cher at the Oscars.
The youths of American Beauty Thora Birch, Mena Suvari, and Wes Bentley presented Best Documentary Short-Subject to King Gimp, which brought such exasperating happiness to Dan Kepplinger, the film's subject, that he shook himself out of his wheelchair. The film's producers were seated so far back in the auditorium that it took an full minute for them to make it to the stage. Hollywood couple Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke followed presenting Best Documentary Feature to One Day in September (for the record, I actually came near changing my prediction over to September instead of Buena Vista Social Club, but chose not to; oh, well) who made it from their seats to the stage surprisingly quickly. I thoroughly adored the One Day in September producer's statement that the Academy is more interested in art than box office; if only that was always true.
Dame Judi Dench then gave Best Supporting Actor to Michael Caine in one the most hotly contested races of the evening. Kudos to the Academy for finding a Cruise scene in Magnolia that did not contain expletives. Caine's speech was heartfelt; hey, I've forgiven him for Jaws 4. I like to think that Jude Law might come off of this nomination in the same way Caine came off of his Alfie nomination. Caine's speech actually brought to me just how great this year's nominees were. The only sour grape was Duncan, but man is that guy lovable.
Jane Fonda came in to present the Honorary Academy Award to A Generation, Kanal, and Ashes and Diamonds director Andrzej Wajda, who spoke his speech in Polish. I feel the need now to catch up on some Wajda films after his amazing film montage. Chow Yun-Fat followed, giving the Best Sound Effects Editing award to none other than The Matrix (I really liked how the producers and director chose to show simply the title card with the sounds in the background for the nominees). No film was as aurally impressive this year as The Matrix and it's nice to see that the Academy agreed. Selma Heyek then went through the normal recap of the Academy's Scientific and Technical Achievement awards a week earlier. The Matrix then took yet another win for Best Visual Effects from presenter Arnold Schwartzeneggar.
Diane Keaton then presents Best Picture nominee American Beauty. The year's second best comedy piece this year (behind the opening scenes) was Crystal's showing of his "sixth sense" as he told what people like Roberto Benigni, Annette Bening, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Judi Dench were thinking.
The next piece of business was a musical montage from Burt Bacharach joined by Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Ray Charles, Queen Latifah, and Isaac Hayes perform various Oscar nominated songs from Oscar past, with Hayes sufficiently disappearing in smoke as he performed the theme to Shaft. As the second hour ends, I'm 6 for 12.
After Angela Basset presented The Sixth Sense as a Best Picture nominee and Billy Crystal made jokes on the loss of Isaac Hayes, Penélope Cruz and Antonio Bandaras took the stage to give Pedro Almodóvar his well deserved Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for All About My Mother. I think that it was pretty easy to see Almodóvar had won when Cruz went into conniptions after reading the envelope; she, of course, is one of Almodóvar's stock actors, even appearing in All About My Mother.
Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves were then brought to the stage to present Best Original Score. In the biggest surprise of the year, John Corigliano's The Red Violin score defeated the Thomas Newman score for American Beauty. Too bad it was not an upset from The Talented Mr. Ripley's Gabriel Yared instead. Edward Norton then came out to move into the heartbreaking In Memoriam. Pause into commercial.
Samuel L. Jackson then takes up Best Picture nominee The Green Mile. Julianne Moore and Russell Crowe take the stage for Best Art Direction, awarding the unbelievable work on Sleepy Hollow. After Topsy-Turvy double wins earlier, I had a weird feeling that it might pick this one up too. Afterwards is the award for Best Film Editing as presented by Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones to The Matrix. Kudos to the producers and director for their compilation viewing in showing the nominees in this category, they really knew how to use the digital projection screens to their best. Jack Nicholson finally took off the sunglasses to give the Irving Thalberg Award to good friend Warren Beatty, who proved in his acceptance speech that those Bulworth rants were not that hard to write for Beatty