Two of Malibu’s own win Oscars


No upsets this time-‘Rings’ sweeps.

By Andrew Lyons/Special to The Malibu Times

Hollywood’s biggest night was also an impressive one for Malibu. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” may have been the big winner of the evening, but the leading acting awards went to two of Malibu’s own.

Sean Penn, who grew up and attended school in Malibu, won Best Actor for his grief-stricken turn in “Mystic River.” And just before he took to the stage, more recent resident Charlize Theron accepted her Oscar for Best Actress. Her glamorous visage Sunday night contrasted dramatically with her appearance as a brutal, emotionally damaged serial killer in “Monster.”

Both performers added a little spice to an otherwise conventional Oscar show. Penn made the only significant reference to opposition to President Bush’s Iraq policy. Theron tearfully thanked her mother, Gerda, who insisted that her daughter pursue her acting dream in America, despite a horrific early ’90s incident in which Gerda killed her alcoholic husband-Theron’s father-in self-defense.

Unfortunately, to get to those moments, the television audience had to sit through a fairly uninspired first three hours. Billy Crystal had some nice moments as host, especially in a clever short film in which he played many of the characters from the nominated films. But his nominee-introduction medley was uninspired and only a few of his jokes had real zing. Perhaps it’s time to consider bringing back Steve Martin, whose unconventional comic rhythms brought freshness to last year’s event.

There were few surprises this year. Tim Robbins won Best Supporting Actor for “Mystic River.” Rather than making a political statement, the noted progressive activist talked about the abuse his character suffered as a child and made a sincere plea for other victims of abuse to seek help. Renee Zellweger was the other acting winner. Her performance as a tough, Civil War era woman in “Cold Mountain” was considered the frontrunner heading into the evening and, to no one’s surprise, she came away victorious.

Sofia Coppola, the first American woman ever nominated for Best Director, wasn’t able to score an upset in that category. But she did win Best Original Screenplay, which created another kind of history. With her victory, she made the Coppola family-grandfather Carmine, father Francis-only the second to ever win Oscars in three consecutive generations. The other was the Huston clan-Walter, John and Anjelica.

Of course the big winner of the night was “The Lord of the Rings.” That film managed to break a record as well. With its 11-category sweep, the film surpassed “Gigi” and “The Last Emperor” (nine wins each) for victories in every category in which it was nominated. In fact, in an evening largely devoid of surprises, one of the few big ones was just how dominant the Hobbits were. The fantasy film even won in several unexpected categories, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Song.

As it became increasingly clear that this was the year of the Rings, viewers had to look elsewhere for moments of excitement and fun. There were a few folks willing to step up to the plate. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson managed to make their appearance more than just a shameless attempt to hype their upcoming movie, “Starsky & Hutch.” Stiller showed up in full Starsky regalia, leaving himself open to the hilarious, drawling barbs of the tuxedoed Wilson.

“Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton had the most charming moment of the night, referencing an eighth-grade love letter he wrote to his now-wife. Recalling his memorable lip-lock with Halle Berry, Best Actress presenter Adrien Brody gave himself a little spray of Binaca before announcing the winner. And Jack Black and Will Ferrell put their comedic and vocal skills to use in a duet about the music the Oscar orchestra plays to tell people that their speeches are going on too long. The hilarious chorus-“You’re boring!”

Perhaps the best moment of the night was the performance of Best Original Song nominee, “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from the movie “A Mighty Wind.” Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who were introduced as their film characters, Mitch and Mickey, stayed in character for the song and even recreated the emotional mid-song kiss from the movie. It somehow managed to be funny, sentimental and sincere all at the same time, a perfect moment of film magic brought to life on a night dedicated to honoring perfect moments in film.