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At the Oscars, a 'Baby' Boom

Boxing Drama Wins Best Picture, Director, Actress; Foxx Is Top Actor

By Hank Stuever and William Booth
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 28, 2005; Page A01

HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 27 -- "Million Dollar Baby," Clint Eastwood's taut, small film about the determination of a woman boxer and her gruff trainer, won Best Picture at the 77th annual Academy Awards. Eastwood also won Best Director, while Hilary Swank took Best Actress and Morgan Freeman took Best Supporting Actor for their roles in the film.

It is the most major awards (a category encompassing Best Picture, Director and the four acting awards) for one film since 1992, when "The Silence of the Lambs" won four.

Clint Eastwood accepts the directing award for "Million Dollar Baby," which was also named Best Picture. The film won four major awards. (Mark J. Terrill -- AP)

Jamie Foxx, as expected, won Best Actor for his portrayal of R&B legend Ray Charles in "Ray."

"Let's live this African American dream," Foxx said, thanking his managers, but he was also speaking broadly about the Oscars themselves, and Hollywood culture. The wins by Foxx and Freeman mark only the second time that blacks have won two of the acting awards.

Foxx spoke in his acceptance speech of having recently met Sidney Poitier, who was the first black man to win the Best Actor Oscar, in 1963. "And yes, Sidney Poitier said, 'I saw you once. And I looked in your eyes and there was a connection.' And he says, 'I give you responsibility.' So, I'm taking that responsibility tonight. And thank you, Sidney."

Oscar love was spread fairly evenly among this year's nominees, and winners of the big awards didn't exactly defy front-runner predictions or upset many office pools. The cautionary tape delay employed by producers seemed unnecessary, given the relatively tame behavior from comedian host Chris Rock, who explained backstage that he doesn't use bad language in front of his mother, Rose, who was sitting in the front row. (The show itself clocked in at just over three hours, a victory for producers of a show that has been known to spill out to four hours in the past.)

"The Aviator," director Martin Scorsese's epic story of the highs and lows of billionaire Howard Hughes, took five awards -- the most for any movie this year -- including cinematography, art direction, costume design and editing. Cate Blanchett won Best Supporting Actress for playing Katharine Hepburn in the film, but it failed to garner awards for its director or its star, Leonardo DiCaprio.

"When you play someone as terrifyingly well-known as Katharine Hepburn, it's a collaborative effort; you need as much help as you can get," Blanchett said, accepting the award.

As he has in the past, Rock made light of the meaning of the Academy Awards to black Americans; in one taped bit, he asked black moviegoers at a megaplex if they had seen any of the nominees: " 'Finding Neverland'? 'The Aviator'?" No, they answered, but they all joked that they saw "White Chicks" -- a comedy in which two black men pose as two young white women.

This year's Oscar was a milestone for Swank, putting the young actress in elite company. She won an Oscar in 2000 for her portrayal of a cross-dressing girl in "Boys Don't Cry." She is one of only five actresses to go two for two at the Oscars. The others who had two nominations and two wins: Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field and Luise Rainer.

"I know some people criticize women boxers, but that's their dream," Swank said backstage. "Who is anyone to say that they can't follow their dream?" Swank also said, "I love my humble background and where I came from. It's given me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people."

Asked if this was a flashback to her first Oscar, Swank said that, well, this time "I remembered to thank my husband," which she did not do in 2000. Swank said it had taken her five years to find another great role, and she said she hoped she didn't have to wait that long again.

Freeman, who won for his role as Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris, gave a brief acceptance speech at the beginning of the evening, but later, backstage, said that he had become "philosophical" about the Oscars after three previous nominations without a win. "It occurred to me that winning the nomination is probably the height of it. It's about as far as you can really reasonably go. And after that, it's pretty arbitrary because how many of us can be the best? Who can? But when they call your name, all that goes out the window."

Other winners included Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for their adapted screenplay for the art-house hit "Sideways."

"The old cliche is true, about it's great just to be nominated. It's true, it's true," said Payne, who also directed "Sideways," in his backstage remarks.

Charlie Kaufman, the oddball screenwriter who'd previously been nominated for "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation," shared the original screenplay award for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." (Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth co-wrote that movie's storyline.)

"The Incredibles" won Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing. "The Sea Inside," a Spanish film, won Best Foreign Language Film. "Born Into Brothels" won the Documentary Feature award. Composer Jan A.P. Kaczmarek won the Original Score Oscar for "Finding Neverland." Best Original Song went to Jorge Drexler for "Al Otro Lado del Rio," from "The Motorcycle Diaries."

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