LOS ANGELES – The upbeat musical Chicago won the most Oscars, including the best picture award, but Roman Polanski’s The Pianist was the real headline-maker Sunday in a ceremony dominated by the U.S.-led war with Iraq.
Oscar organizers had encouraged stars not to turn the 75th annual Academy Awards into a peace rally, but most winners, including Adrien Brody, Nicole Kidman and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, acknowledged the conflict in various ways.
Brody, a first-time nominee, was an upset in the best actor category where Daniel Day-Lewis was favored for his work in Gangs of New York. After thanking his parents and The Pianist's fugitive director Polanski, Brody made a plea for peace.
"My experience making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people in times of war, and the repercussions of war," said Brody, who played musician Wladyslaw Szpilman, who survived the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. "And whether you believe in God or Allah, may he watch over you, and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution."
In another Oscar upset, Polanski, who was convicted of statutory rape in 1977, beat out Martin Scorsese for best director. Polanski, who would be arrested if he returned to the United States, was absent from the ceremony, but received a standing ovation. Scorsese, who directed Gangs of New York and numerous classics such as Raging Bull, has never received an Oscar.
The major-hit flick Chicago was awarded the statuette for best picture, making it the first musical to win since Oliver! in 1968. It took home five other awards including one for best supporting actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and ones for art direction, costume, film editing and sound.
The radiant and very pregnant Zeta-Jones kept her thank-you speech politics-free. "My hormones are too way out of control to be dealing with this," said Zeta-Jones, who earlier in the evening performed a number from the movie musical.
The Hours star Nicole Kidman, who donned a much-discussed fake nose for her role playing suicidal novelist Virgina Woolf, stood up for the importance of art during her acceptance speech.
"Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil?" she asked. "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."
Moore, who directed the anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine blasted President Bush for the war in Iraq. "We live in a time, where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons," Moore said from the stage. "We are against this war Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you!"
Moore was greeted by both loud boos and cheers from the audience in Hollywood, notorious for being sympathetic to liberal causes.
Adaptation star Chris Cooper took home the first major award of the night, for best supporting actor. After thanking co-stars Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep, he also mentioned war. "In light of all the troubles in this world, I wish us all peace," he said.
In other major awards, controversial rapper Eminem’s "Lose Yourself" won for best original song from the film 8 Mile, beating out favorite U2. Pedro Almodovar won the original screenplay award for Talk to Her. The Pianist writer Ronald Harwood won for adapted screenplay.
Frida took home two awards -- for makeup and original score. And Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers also won two awards -- for sound editing and visual effects.
In other honors, the Japanese fantasy film Spirited Away won for animated feature. The foreign language film award went to Germany’s Nowhere in Africa. Twin Towers won for short subject documentary. The ChubbChubbs! was named best animated short film. Road to Perdition won for cinematography. And the best live action short was This Charming Man (Der Er En Yndig Mand).
Despite rumors that the Oscars might be postponed due to the war in Iraq and a smattering of cancellations by stars, the organizers always maintained that the show would go on.
ABC said it was prepared to run text updates across the bottom of the screen or cut to Iraq coverage in case of breaking news, but the nearly four-hour show ran uninterrupted.
Actors Will Smith and Angelina Jolie, as well as Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson and designers Matthew Williamson and Donatella Versace all pulled out of the ceremony.
Planners scrapped the glitzy red-carpet arrival festivities. And Barbara Walters postponed her interview segment, which traditionally precedes the ceremony.
Many stars toned the fashion down and wore black, but several of Hollywood's leading ladies including Renee Zellweger and Halle Berry wore glamorous gowns like those usually seen at the glitzy awards.
Demonstrators on both sides of the war issue gathered near the Kodak Theatre, site of the Oscars. Anti-war protesters held signs such as "Bush Betrays USA" and "Oscar for Peace." Half a block from the area where stars arrived, supporters of U.S. troops in Iraq chanted "USA, USA," and held a banner reading "God Bless America."