A Beautiful Mind, the hit drama which tells the life story of mathematics genius John Forbes Nash Jr, was named best picture and its director Ron Howard best director at last night's 74th annual Academy Awards, held for the first time at its new home the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.
But Russell Crowe, who played Nash, was beaten to the best actor prize by Denzel Washington for Training Day and the historic night belonged to him and Halle Berry who won the best actress Oscar for Monster's Ball. It was the first time in Academy history that two African Americans had won the actor and actress prizes, Berry was the first African American to win the best actress award and Washington was the first African American to win two acting Oscars. He won his first for best supporting actor for Glory in 1989.
Supporting acting awards went to Jim Broadbent for playing John Bayley in Iris and Jennifer Connelly for playing Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind. A Beautiful Mind won a total of four Oscars - its writer Akiva Goldsman won the best adapted screenplay Oscar.
The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, which had been nominated for 13 awards, walked away with just four for cinematography, score, visual effects and makeup.
Other multiple winners were Moulin Rouge with two Oscars for art direction and costume design and Black Hawk Down with editing and sound. Gosford Park won one award for best original screenplay for Julian Fellowes.
Shrek from DreamWorks was named best animated feature, the first time out for the category, beating Monsters Inc from Disney and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius from Nickelodeon Movies and Paramount Pictures.
Ending a bitter few weeks' campaigning which saw Amelie distributor Miramax Films publicly request rival distributors to add more screenings of their films, No Man's Land from Bosnia/Herzegovina won the best foreign language film Oscar. The award closed out a triumphant year for the film which won the screenplay award at last year's Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Globe in Jan this year. The film, distributed domestically by United Artists, has been a commercial disappointment in the US, grossing $0.75m since its Oct opening and the award could be a box office boon to the film.
"I hope that we get a push-up from [the Oscar]," said No Man's Land director Danis Tanovic backstage. "It's going to go to 400 cinemas from next Friday. But basically the film has won a lot of prizes and is coming to the end of its life with this beautiful prize."
Universal and New Line shared top Oscar tally with four each, Walt Disney Co, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures won two each, while Lions Gate, Miramax, United Artists, USA Films and Warner Bros scored one award apiece. DreamWorks technically won the most awards with one for Shrek and four for A Beautiful Mind which the studio co-financed with Universal Pictures. In fact, DreamWorks is celebrating its third consecutive Best Picture Oscar after American Beauty in 1999 and Gladiator last year.
Berry, in what is destined to go down as a historic acceptance speech, accepted her Oscar for all the African American women who went before her. Almost unable to speak through her tears, Berry cited Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll, as well as her peers Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett and Vivica Fox. Honorary award winner Sidney Poitier cheered from his family's box for both Berry and Washington.
"It's really not just about me," said Berry backstage. "It's about so many women of color that went before me, that paved the way and people who are fighting alongside with me and the ones that will come along whose path will be indelibly easier because of everyone. Today this meant, I hope, that the glass ceiling was broken wide open."
Other highlights of the show included Italy's Pietro Scalia, who shouted "Viva Italia" at the podium, when he won the editing prize for Black Hawk Down. "I wanted to say that I'm honoured to be Italian and to be part of Italian film history," said Scalia backstage. "I just wanted to express my own national pride and also that I'm fortunate to be working in Hollywood." Scalia won in 1991 for JFK and was also nominated for Good Will Hunting and Gladiator.
After 14 previous Oscar nominations and no wins, Randy Newman finally won his Academy Award for best song "If I Didn't Have You" from Monsters Inc although he lost to Howard Shore for best original score for the film. He beat popular favorites Sting and Paul McCartney who were nominated for songs from Kate & Leopold and Vanilla Sky respectively.
Winner of the best documentary feature was Murder On A Sunday Morning, a French-made, HBO-backed film about the imprisonment of an African American man in Florida on charges of a murder he didn't have anything to do with. "Black people are arrested in this country only because they're black," said director Jean-Xavier De Lestrade backstage. "That's what we try to show in this film."
Best documentary short subject was Thoth, a 43-minute film follows a San Francisco street performer, opera-singer and violinist who accompanied the director Sarah Kernochan to the ceremony. Best live action short was The Accountant, a US picture starring director Ray McKinnon as a mild-mannered accountant who changes the course of the world, while best animated short was the popular three-minute For The Birds from Pixar Animation Studios which was directed by Ralph Eggleston.
Also at the ceremony, which was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier and Robert Redford received honorary lifetime achievement Academy Awards. Denzel Washington and Walter Mirisch presented Poitier with his award to a rousing standing ovation from the audience. He shared the award with film-makers who cast him and other African American actors in the 50s and 60s, naming Joseph L Mankiewicz, Richard Brooks, Darryl Zanuck, Ralph Nelson, Stanley Kramer, the Mirisch brothers, Guy Green, Norman Jewison "and all others who have had a hand in altering the arts for me and for others."
Calling him "a beloved and indelible force in American film," Barbra Streisand presented Robert Redford with his award. Redford, who also received an enduring ovation, said that his influential Sundance Institute was his way of giving back to the industry. He said that it would be important in the future that the freedom of artistic expression be nurtured and kept alive. "In keeping diversity alive, it will help keep our industry alive," he said.
Backstage, Redford stopped his Q&A to watch Washington pick up his Oscar and joked that he was glad Washington had recently joined the board of the Sundance Institute.
Film-maker Arthur Hiller was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award by his Love Story stars Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw.
Woody Allen attended his first ever Oscar ceremony to introduce a Nora Ephron-directed montage of clips from films set in New York City as a tribute to the city after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11. Backstage, Allen said he came only to represent New York. "I'm not a big awards person," he said. "I don't feel comfortable with any kind of artistic competition. And so, when I had an opportunity to do this for the city, it was a different story. I didn't have to present anything, I didn't have to accept anything."
He said that he would stay in Los Angeles to see friends for a few days but couldn't resist a jab at the city he