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Roman Holiday

British, French name ''Pianist'' best picture. Does the Roman Polanski drama's victory over ''Chicago'' and ''Gangs'' presage an Oscar upset?

The Pianist | GRAND PIANO The French and English film academies chose ''The Pianist''
Image credit: The Pianist: Guy Ferrandis
GRAND PIANO The French and English film academies chose ''The Pianist''

If overseas support means anything, the awards momentum for Oscar dark horse ''The Pianist'' crested over the weekend. The Roman Polanski drama, nominated for seven Academy Awards, topped the winner's list at Oscar's French and British counterparts, the Cesars and the BAFTAs. On Saturday, ''Pianist'' took home seven Cesars, including best picture, director, and actor (Adrien Brody). The next night, at the other end of the Chunnel, British voters awarded it best picture and director, upsetting heavy favorites ''Chicago'' and ''Gangs of New York.''

The BAFTAs spread the wealth, with best actor going to Daniel Day-Lewis (''Gangs''), best actress to Nicole Kidman (''The Hours''), best supporting actor to Christopher Walken (''Catch Me if You Can''), and best supporting actress to Catherine Zeta-Jones (''Chicago''). Best adapted screenplay went to ''Adaptation,'' while best original screenplay and best foreign language film went to ''Talk to Her.''

Unlike the BAFTAs, the Cesar winners were mostly French (including the Polish-born Polanski, now a French citizen), but a surprising number of Cesars went to Americans. Brody is believed to be the first American to win a Cesar for best actor. Best foreign film went to Michael Moore's documentary ''Bowling for Columbine,'' and honorary Cesars went to Spike Lee and Meryl Streep.

The BAFTAs have been positioning themselves as an Oscar precursor over the last three years, having made a point of moving the ceremony up a month so that it precedes the Academy Awards. Last year, they may indeed have played a role, though not the way organizers might have liked; Russell Crowe's post-victory pounding of a BAFTA telecast producer may have convinced Hollywood voters that he was too boorish to earn a second consecutive Best Actor Oscar (after ''Gladiator'') for ''A Beautiful Mind'' and helped swing support to eventual winner Denzel Washington (''Training Day'').

As for the Cesars, who cares what the French think?

Originally posted Feb 24, 2003