First-time Oscar host Steve Martin dispensed with the funny film clips and song homages typical of past Oscar host Billy Crystal at Sunday's ceremony. Instead, the comedian who wrote the Hollywood satires Bowfinger and L.A. Story plied the crowd with industry insider jokes about face lifts, Survivor, and having dinner with his "good friends," "Mel" and "Julia."
He also plugged his book Shopgirl, got off a joke or two at the expense of a grim-faced Russell Crowe (mocking his way with the ladies), and referred pointedly to the suggestive titles of the films of Spanish star Penélope Cruz (her movies include Live Flesh, Woman on Top, and Blow).
Despite that insider-ish, "who cares if they don't get it outside L.A." humor, the awards ceremony (which clocked in at a relatively short three hours and 29 minutes) set a new standard for global relations.
An out-of-this-world message from the space station module Destiny kicked off the 2001 Oscars, in keeping with the half-hearted 2001: A Space Odyssey theme of the show. Sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke, who penned the novel that Stanley Kubrick later turned into his most admired film, presented the award for best original screenplay via satellite from Sri Lanka.
(The award went to Almost Famous scribe Cameron Crowe, who saw his two Oscar-nominated actresses, Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand, cancel each other out in the Best Supporting Actress category).
Bob Dylan also beamed in from across the globe (specifically, from Australia) to perform the song "Things Have Changed" from Wonder Boys, and to accept the Best Original Song Oscar for the same moments later.
Tiger's Success Spells an 'Overture for a New Era'
The geography-lesson nature of this year's Oscars didn't stop there: Puerto Rican-born supporting actor winner Benicio Del Toro gave a shout-out to two of Traffic's filming locations of which he had become enamored, Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales, Mexico; Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee thanked his friends and family in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan; and Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan thanked his folks back in Kentucky.
Backstage, the international flavor continued, with Crouching Tiger's cinematographer, Peter Pau, and composer, Tan Dun, answering questions in both Chinese and English, and Irving G. Thalberg recipient Dino De Laurentiis pontificating for a while in Italian.
While the Chinese Crouching Tiger didn't pull off an Oscar sweep, its box-office success and critical acclaim in the West signify a "breaking down of boundaries," Chinese composer Tan Dun, who won the Best Original Score Oscar, said. "I have no boundaries in my mind. This doesn't just mean happiness for Chinese people, it's [an] overture for a new era."