It was a groundbreaking Oscar night, with the event making its debut at a brand-new venue in downtown Hollywood. It was a history-making night, with the first African-American woman taking home a Best Actress Oscar in the Academy Awards' 74-year history.
It was a humorous night, with Whoopi Goldberg taking her fourth turn as host. It was a surprising night, with Woody Allen appearing at the Oscars for the first time in his long film career. It was almost an earth-shattering night, as clouds loomed overhead during arrivals, and sprinkles, yes sprinkles, fell for nearly 90 seconds. And most of all, it was a long night — coming in at just under four hours and 20 minutes with the credits.
Every year I walk away from the Academy Awards with one special memory. Usually it's how damn tired I am, but then I always remember something of greater importance. This year, for instance, I was certain my memory would be of having my eardrum shattered by a photographer eager to have Julia Roberts turn around for an "over the shoulder" shot. The only problem is that she was 50 yards down the red carpet. This photojournalist (and I use that term as loosely as MC Hammer once wore his pants) thought for certain Julia would hear him if he continued to screech her name at rock concert decibels. She never came over. He was wrong. I was deaf.
There were far greater things that happened, though, and these pearls will fill my Oscar memory bank ...
All Hail Halle
The most outstanding moment for me was when I openly wept along with the lovely and gracious Halle Berry as she gave the longest and most moving acceptance speech for her win as Best Actress in Monster's Ball. She thanked everyone, genuinely, and with such heartfelt sincerity. And I do mean everyone, including her lawyers. She actually gave an acceptance speech that was so good she deserved an award for that, too.
And in the blink of a very tearful eye, another memorable thing happened — Denzel Washington pulled out the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Training Day. Some thought this was going to happen, but Russell Crowe remained a strong contender right up to the very end.
Although it seems politically incorrect to talk about the evening in regards to skin color, that's what people did talk about backstage. It was the first time in history that a black woman won the Best Actress Oscar. Washington is now the only African-American to have two golden statuettes. And, of course, on this same night, Washington's only black predecessor in the Best Actor category, Sidney Poitier, was given an honorary award. So when anyone came backstage, the question of the night was not "What are you wearing?" but whether he/she felt Hollywood finally made a breakthrough regarding the color barrier.
The unanimous answer was that it wasn't really an issue of color and people outside of Hollywood probably never thought it was. Berry and Washington gave great performances and were recognized for those. End of story.
An Oscar Upset