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Oscars 2002 Monday, 25 March, 2002, 07:10 GMT
Tears but very little Oscar drama
Whoopi Goldberg
Goldberg used a visual gag about schizophenia in A Beautiful Mind

Anyone who wondered when 11 September would be mentioned at the 74th Academy Awards had their questioned answered very quickly - two minutes into the ceremony.

Tom Cruise walked onto the stage alone and launched into a "personal" explanation of the magic of movies.

"Should we celebrate the joy and magic that movies bring? Dare I say it? More than ever.

"But that's just me."

Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington
Julia Roberts handed Denzel Washington his award
Almost every public event in the US since the attacks on New York has paid tribute to the heroism of rescue workers or the spirit of freedom.

But the Academy wanted to turn its event into an articulation of the freedom of expression and the part movies play.

It was all quite surreal and unnecessary and it was quite a relief when Oscar presenter Whoopi Goldberg descended from the heavens and launched into a Moulin Rouge pastiche.

"So much mud has been thrown this year all the nominees look black," joked Goldberg, defusing two of the biggest talking points of the Oscar campaign in one gag.

Oscar presenters often walk the line between taste and tastelessness and Goldberg daringly made a jokey comparison between 11 September and Mariah Carey's first film, Glitter.

Introspection and justification? There was plenty of it and a lot more soul-searching to come, a lot more.

The show, played out on a stripped-down, sometimes bare stage, was punctuated by a series of clips featuring celebrities extolling the wonders of films.

It was like watching an endless series of car salesmen drooling over the genius of the internal combustion engine.

Halle Berry
Halle Berry gave Gwyneth Paltrow a run for her money
Woody Allen, well-known as someone who tends to avoid the Oscars, was brought on to introduce a film about New York and the movies and received a standing ovation.

Great romantic

"For New York City I will do anything," said Allen.

"It is a great, great movie town. It is a great romantic and exciting backdrop."

It was not clear if the film or Allen was celebrating the city for itself or as a location for filming.

Of course, in between all of this a few awards were handed out in an extremely leaden show.

There were a lot of surprises - Denzel Washington beating hot favourite Russell Crowe, Jim Broadbent beating Sir Ian McKellen, Halle Berry pipping Sissy Spacek and Randy Newman winning finally after 16 previous nominations.

It was an important night for black actors - with an honorary Oscar for ground-breaker Sidney Poitier, as well as the wins for Berry and Washington, who walked off with both the Oscar and Julia Roberts wrapped around his midriff.

Of the speeches, Halle Berry's tearful, heart-rending eulogy to friends and family matched Paltrow's antics a few years ago.

Dismissed

As the first black actress to win the leading female performer award in the 74-year history of the academy's history, her tears were understandable.

Washington joked that he had been chasing Poitier for 40 years, only for both men to get an Oscar on the same night.

"I will always be following in your footsteps, sir," said the best male actor winner to Poitier.

Broadbent's chances of winning had been dismissed by a presenter on ABC TV in America just seconds after interviewing the British star on the red carpet.

He said: "That's what is great about people like Jim. They are just glad to be here even if they know they might not win."

Best joke

"Stone the crows," said Broadbent. So perhaps he was surprised too.

Ron Howard's best director win for A Beautiful Mind as well as the best picture win put paid to any notions that a bitter smear campaign had ruined its chances.

The best joke of the evening belonged to Nathan Lane, star of the hit Broadway show The Producers.

Speaking about the first Oscar award for best animation he said:" I know Walt Disney would be smiling right now if he wasn't frozen solid."

The show itself was tiresome, from the endless shots of Will Smith and Samuel L Jackson every time reference was made to black actors, to the bored tones of Glenn Close and Donald Sutherland who provided the voiced introductions to the presenters.

Even Whoopi Goldberg seemed fatigued by the show.

"It's time to start the mud slinging for Oscar 75," she said at the end, before concluding with a final sartorial tribute to the heroes of 11 September.

Countdown to the biggest event of the movie year

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