In a late awards-season surge, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby emerged as the big winner of the 77th Academy Awards Sunday night, garnering Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), Best Actress (Hilary Swank), Best Director (Eastwood) and Best Picture. This was the second award for Eastwood in direction and Swank in lead actress. This intimate film in classical Hollywood style clearly captured the hearts and minds of voters, beating out The Aviator in all of its major battles.
The Aviator, widely considered the favorite to win the major Oscars at the time the nominations came out, did emerge as the overall winner with five awards including Supporting Actress (Cate Blanchett), editing, cinematography, art direction and costume design. But overall the night was a disappointment for Howard Hughes fans, especially for director Martin Scorsese, who suffered his fifth straight loss in the category. Despite his widely accepted status as an iconic director, Scorsese has never won an Oscar.
When host Chris Rock walked out on the stage at the beginning of the show, he received a standing ovation from the crowd. It seemed apparent that people were ready for him to shake up the established traditions of Oscar emcee. Whether or not he was successful is up to personal preference, but with jabs at George Bush, the remoteness of this year's Best Picture nominees from mainstream tastes, and movies made without stars, he left some people in shock with his directness.
Jamie Foxx, who has dominated the awards circuit since Ray premiered in October, won Best Actor for his masterful portrayal of musician Ray Charles. In accepting his Oscar he tearfully recalled how his grandmother told him to "act like you got some sense," and credited her with where he is today. His principle caretaker growing up, Foxx's grandmother died just as Ray was premiering. The film also won for sound.
With two Oscars and five nominations, it was another landmark year for Academy acceptance of African-American actors. Commenting on the trend, which continues from 2001, when Halle Berry and Denzel Washington won top acting honors, Morgan Freeman said, "It means Hollywood is continuing to make history. We are evolving with the rest of the world."
Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter who has penned such critically acclaimed films as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation finally won an Original Screenplay Oscar for his brilliant, quirky screenplay on love-erasing, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Alexander Payne, who was also nominated for Best Director, won Best Adapted Screenplay with Sideways, a comedy set in California wine country.
The fifth Best Picture nominee, Finding Neverland, won for Best Original Score. In an upset, The Motorcycle Diaries won original song, and the songwriter sang his song "Al Otro Lado Del Rio" as his acceptance speech. He was not allowed to perform it for the Oscars, with the show's producers instead opting for stars Santana and Antonio Banderas.
The Incredibles won the Oscar for Best Animated Film, which was widely considered the biggest lock in any category, as well as the award for Best Sound Editing. This is one of the few box office hits among the nominees. In the other blockbuster heavy technical categories, Spider-Man 2 won for visual effects, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events won for makeup.
The Sea Inside, a biopic telling the story of a quadriplegic fighting for the right to die, won the Foreign Film Oscar. Born Into Brothels, a moving account of Westerners teaching photography to the children of prostitutes in Calcutta, won for Best Documentary.
But in the end the best picture nominees, trading on the classic Oscar-bait themes and conveying human warmth, set the tone of the night. So it seems fitting the film which personified these traits the most won Best Picture. Yes sir, that's my Baby.