No milestone at the 2002 Academy Awards can compare with the Halle Berry-Denzel Washington double whammy for lead-acting awards (after Oscar’s near-complete neglect of African-Americans for 74 years). Nonetheless, there were several other notable first-time achievements:
”Shrek” won the first-ever Best Animated Feature award.
Losangelophobe Woody Allen showed up for the first time.
Randy Newman’s Susan Lucci-like losing streak finally came to an end.
After a career spent showing neither leg nor cleavage, Whoopi Goldberg displayed both in her ”Moulin Rouge”-inspired costume.
During one joke, the camera actually caught Russell Crowe smiling.
Tom Cruise’s new braces made their first public appearance.
The ceremony was held in Hollywood for the first time in 42 years. Despite the 900 fewer seats available, questions about the acoustics, and security that – according to Whoopi – was ”tighter than some of the faces” of the celebrities, the Kodak Theatre got generally positive reviews from the stars. ”Oscar finally has a home, and this looks like a good one,” Ernest Borgnine told the Los Angeles Times. ”I think it’s wonderful that it’s here. I won my Oscar [as Best Actor for 1955’s ”Marty”] up the street at the Pantages, and it’s nice to be back over here.”
Denzel Washington, aside from becoming the first African-American actor to win two Oscars (unless you count the honorary one that Sidney Poitier received a few minutes earlier), may have been the first Oscar nominee to claim to be totally calm on the day of the show. He said he prepared that afternoon by watching college basketball and reading the Bible. ”I just had a peace about me all week and all day,” Washington said backstage, acknowledging that he was a lot more of a wreck the first time he won, as Best Supporting Actor for ”Glory” in 1989. ”I think it’s more exciting and surreal the first time around. I was just taking pictures with Halle a few minutes ago, and she doesn’t know where she is. She’s gone, she’s out there. When I won the first time, 11 or 12 years ago, I didn’t know if I had won or if I’d just ran up there and picked it up anyway.”
First-time Oscars winners included Ron Howard (Best Director, ”A Beautiful Mind”), Akiva Goldsman (Best Adapted Screenplay, ”A Beautiful Mind”), and Julian Fellowes (Best Screenplay, ”Gosford Park”). The common thread: They all started their careers as actors. During E!’s live post-show broadcast, Bradley Whitford (”The West Wing”) mentioned that he had long ago told his college acting classmate Goldsman that he was a lousy actor and should try something else. Yet when Goldsman picked up his ”Beautiful Mind” trophy, ”he didn’t thank me,” said Whitford, pretending to be miffed.
Danis Tanovic’s ”No Man’s Land” marked the first time a film from Bosnia won the foreign film Oscar, and everyone back home in Sarajevo was apparently overjoyed. ”I’m so happy, as if I received the Oscar,” produce vendor Dzemal Kovac, 40, told the Associated Press. ”It’s time for the world to see that not all Bosnians who go west are refugees, but that there are some good and successful people here.”
In a move copied from January’s American Film Institute Awards, the Best Picture excerpts were accompanied by clips of the directors talking about their films. (No one thought much of the idea then, either.)
This was the first Oscar telecast produced by a woman, Laura Ziskin.
It was also the longest broadcast, running some 4 hours and 17 minutes, eight minutes longer than the previous record holder in 2000. Note to the Academy: That’s one record you don’t need to break next year, okay?