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Oscar Shines on <i>Chicago</i> - 2003-03-24

It was a big night at the Oscars for the musical Chicago, as Hollywood honored its best Sunday evening. The tone was subdued this year, as some at the ceremony turned their thoughts to the war in Iraq. But the show went ahead, as planned, amid tight security.

Outside the Kodak Theater, where the ceremony was held, there were thousands of police and security officers. Down the street, demonstrators shouted competing slogans, either opposing or supporting the war in Iraq.

Inside, the show went ahead, as promised. The musical Chicago earned six Oscars, including one as best picture. This is the first time a musical has won that award since the 1968 film Oliver took the honor. Father and son actors Kirk and Michael Douglas made the announcement.

"You're supposed to say 'And the Oscar goes to…'"
"And the winner is…"

Chicago also earned Oscars for its costume design, art direction, film editing and sound. The film's co-star, Catherine Zeta-Jones, was named best supporting actress.

There was some surprises at the Oscars. The award for best director was expected to go either to Martin Scorsese for Gangs of New York or Rob Marshall for Chicago. The actor Harrison Ford announced the winner.

"And, the Oscar goes to Roman Polanski"

The director, who lives in France, did not to attend. He is a fugitive from a California prison sentence for having sex with a 13-year-old girl, 25 years ago.

The award for best actor went to Adrien Brody, who starred in Polanski's film. Actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Jack Nicholson had been favorites as best actor. Adrien Brody was clearly surprised. "You know, there comes a time in life when everything seems to make sense," he said. "This is not one of those times."

The actor received a standing ovation when he asked the audience to pray for a swift end to the war in Iraq. "Whomever you believe in, if it's God or Allah, may he watch over you, and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution," he said.

Nicole Kidman was named best actress for her role as the suicidal writer Virginia Woolf in the film "The Hours."

"To look life in the face, to know it for what it is, love it for what it is. 'Tis the right of every human being.

The actress said she had to answer a question when she decided to come to the Oscars. "It was, why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil? Because art is important, and because you believe in what you do, and you want to honor that, and it is a tradition that needs to be upheld," she said.

The war in Iraq threatened to overshadow the Oscars and was foremost in the minds of several winners. Chris Cooper, named best supporting actor for Adaptation, a film about Hollywood, was among those who issued a plea for peace.

Filmmaker Michael Moore, who shared an Oscar for the documentary feature Bowling for Columbine, used his acceptance speech to criticize President Bush, provoking an angry response from some in the audience.

"We live in the time when we have fictitious election results, that elect a fictitious president," he said. "We live in a time when we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it's the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of Orange Alerts. We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you." Backstage, Michael Moore said that as an American, he was simply voicing his opinion.

Frank Pierson is president of the motion picture academy, which presents the Oscars. He said the annual presentation is a cultural institution, which he feels is important at a time when American values are being questioned.

He also had a message for those in Iraq. "I want to add something tonight, personally, and that is to say to all of our men and women overseas, God-speed and let's get you home soon. And to the Iraqi people, I say let's have peace soon, and let you live without war," he said.

Academy officials say the Oscars are seen on television by one billion people, worldwide.