‘Baby’ Is Oscar Heavyweight With 4 Wins
LOS ANGELES – The boxing saga “Million Dollar Baby” was the Academy Awards heavyweight Sunday, claiming best picture and three other trophies, including honors for director Clint Eastwood, lead actress Hilary Swank and supporting actor Morgan Freeman.
The night meant more heartbreak for Martin Scorsese. “The Aviator” came away with the most Oscars ó five, including the supporting-actress prize for Cate Blanchett ó but Scorsese lost the directing race for the fifth time.
Eastwood, who at 74 became the oldest directing winner ever, noted his mother was with him when his Western “Unforgiven” won the 1992 best-picture and directing Oscar.
“She’s here with me again tonight, so at 96, I’m thanking her for her genes,” Eastwood said. “I figure I’m just a kid. I’ve got a lot of stuff to do yet.”
Scorsese matched the record of Oscar futility held by a handful of legendary filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Altman, who also went 0-for-5 in the directing category.
Swank became a double Academy Award winner Sunday for “Million Dollar Baby,” while Jamie Foxx took lead actor for “Ray.” The wins for Freeman and Foxx made it only the second time blacks won two of the four acting prizes.
Swank, who previously won the best-actress Oscar for “Boys Don’t Cry,” once again beat out main rival Annette Bening, nominated for the theater farce “Being Julia.” Bening had been the front-runner for “American Beauty” five years ago but lost to underdog Swank.
“I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve all this. I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream,” said Swank, who played an indomitable boxer.
Swank joined Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field and Luise Rainer as the only actresses with a perfect track record at the Oscars: Two nominations and two wins.
Foxx won for his uncanny emulation of Ray Charles in “Ray.” As he had at earlier awards triumphs, Foxx led the Oscar audience in a rendition of the call-and-response chant from Charles’ 1959 hit “What’d I Say,” whose funky electric-piano grooves play over the opening credits of “Ray.”
“Give it up for Ray Charles and his beautiful legacy. And thank you Ray Charles for living,” said Foxx, who climbed to Oscar glory after an early career built mainly on comedy, including his TV series “The Jamie Foxx Show” and the raunchy sex flick “Booty Call.”
Foxx had been a double Oscar nominee, also picked in the supporting category for the hit man thriller “Collateral.”
Playing Katharine Hepburn in “The Aviator,” Blanchett had the spirit of the Oscars’ most-honored actress on her side. Hepburn, the love of Hughes’ life in the 1930s before she began her long romance with Spencer Tracy, earned 12 nominations and won a record four Oscars.
“Thank you, of course, to Miss Hepburn. The longevity of her career I think is inspiring to everyone,” said Blanchett. She added thanks to “Aviator” director Scorsese, saying, “I hope my son will marry your daughter.”
Oscar host Chris Rock said Blanchett was so convincing that Sidney Poitier, Hepburn’s co-star in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” showed up at Blanchett’s house for supper.
The wins by Freeman and Foxx followed Denzel Washington and Halle Berry’s triumph three years ago for “Training Day” and “Monster’s Ball,” the only other time blacks claimed two acting Oscars.
“It means that Hollywood is continuing to make history,” Freeman said backstage. “We’re evolving with the rest of the world.”
The superhero action comedy “The Incredibles” won the animated-feature prize, beating 2004’s biggest box-office hit, the fairy-tale sequel “Shrek 2.” It was the second-straight animated Oscar for Pixar Animation, which won a year ago for “Finding Nemo.”
“I don’t know what’s more frightening, being watched by millions of people, or the hundreds of people that are going to be annoyed with me tomorrow for not mentioning them,” said Brad Bird, writer-director of the “The Incredibles.”
The latest win dabs salt on the Walt Disney Co.’s wounds over the looming expiration of its distribution deal for Pixar films, which ends after next year’s “Cars.” The back-to-back Oscars underscore Pixar’s growing ascendance and the weakening position of animation pioneer Disney, which has yet to win the animated-feature Oscar with any of its homegrown films and whose biggest recent cartoon hits have all been made by Pixar.
Unlike last year, when “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” dominated the awards as expected and flat-out front-runners took all four acting prizes, the 77th Oscars shaped up as a mixed bag, with only Foxx a virtual lock to win.
“Boy, am I glad there wasn’t a fourth episode of `Lord of the Rings,'” said John Dykstra, who shared the visual-effects Oscar for “Spider-Man 2.”
With no huge hits among top nominees, Oscar organizers worried that TV ratings could dwindle for the live ABC broadcast. The Oscars tend to draw their biggest audiences when blockbusters such as “Titanic” or “Return of the King” are in the mix, stoking viewer interest.
Producers of the show hoped the presence of first-time host Rock might boost ratings, particularly among younger viewers who may view the Oscars as too staid an affair. Rock had mocked the Oscars a bit beforehand, calling awards shows “idiotic,” but he was on his best behavior in his opening monologue.
Rock chided some celebrities by name and included one mild three-letter word, but his routine was fairly clean for the comedian known for a foul mouth in his standup act.
“The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they’re not mad they lost,” Rock said. He recalled the year when Halle Berry won and fellow nominee “Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide, she should have won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance. I was like, if you’d done that in the movie, you’d have won an Oscar, girl.”
Organizers also tried to spice up the show with new presentation tactics, including herding all nominees on stage at the same time, beauty-pageant style, for some awards.
The first prize of the night, for art direction, was awarded that way, with a total of nine nominees from five films spread across stage behind presenter Berry. The Oscar went to “The Aviator,” whose awards also included cinematography, film editing and costume design.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” took the original-screenplay award for Charlie Kaufman. “Sideways” won the adapted-screenplay prize for director Alexander Payne and his writing partner, Jim Taylor.
“My mother taught me to write, and she died before she could see any of this, so this is for you, mom,” Taylor said.
“The Sea Inside,” the Spanish film based on the true story of a bedridden euthanasia lobbyist, won as best foreign-language film, while “Born Into Brothels,” which examines the lives of children of prostitutes in Calcutta, India, received the Oscar for feature-length documentary.
‘Baby’ Is Oscar Heavyweight With 4 Wins