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Oscars' predictability made it no fun show

Hollywood's big night's sense of fun and surprise was lacking because of the predictability of the winners.
By Bob Tourtellotte (Reuters) | PTI, Los Angeles
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2004 01:11 PM IST

Oscar awoke in Hollywood on Monday, yawned and went back to bed after a night filled with predictable winners that lacked the surprises that give Hollywood's big night a sense of fun.

Voters at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did exactly as Oscar watchers expected by handing epic film fantasy "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" the best picture Academy Award. It earned 10 other Oscars, one in each category in which it was nominated.

The four first-time winners in the actor, actress and supporting categories were all the favorites coming into the night. Absent from the glamour-filled evening was the spontaneity of a young Adrien Brody running to the stage and passionately kissing Halle Berry, as happened last year.

In fact, one of the biggest laughs from the audience came when Brody, before announcing this year's best actress winner, Charlize Theron, sprayed his mouth with breath freshener.

"When Robin Williams joked about the five-second delay, he needn't have worried. Indeed, the guy with his finger on the button could have easily nodded off policing an Oscar-cast notable only for its workmanlike efficiency," Daily Variety's critic Brian Lowry wrote in his review of the show.

"Rings" was a big winner, but after its huge box office success -- nearly $3 billion for all three films -- it hardly needed an award to be seen by more people in theaters or sell more DVDs down the road.

Likewise, best actor Sean Penn and supporting actor Tim Robbins, both of "Mystic River," as well as best actress Theron and supporting actress Renee Zellweger in "Cold Mountain," are all working at the top of their craft.

Theron's victory makes her more than a pretty face to Hollywood's talent agencies, which will send her career in new directions. But she had already been well known in previous roles, such as summer hit "The Italian Job."

Sunday's big winner never took the stage. Independent company Newmarket Films distributed Theron's serial killer movie "Monster" as well as "Whale Rider," which put 13 year-old Keisha Castle-Hughes in the best actress category, too.

Nominations are used by distributors to help boost the movie ticket sales because of all the promotional hype at Oscar time, but once awards fever cools, the so-called "Oscar bounce" flattens out. Award-winning movies generally receive their biggest benefit in home video and DVD sales.

Privately held Newmarket played the awards season like a fiddle. Releasing "Monster" in late December, Newmarket sent the $5 million movie to a $26.9 million domestic box office, and that figure continues to rise.

"Surely, the Oscar attention is what has given the film a special focus," Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, told Reuters. Beyond "Monster," Berney was beaming at having distributed Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which on Sunday turned in a five-day $125 million domestic box office haul - a massive take for an indie distributor.

Despite what was considered a long and laborious show, television network ABC, too, turned out to be a winner with ratings that were up 30 percent from last year. The network owned by the Walt Disney Co. saw some 43.5 million viewers tune in to the show, making it the most watched Oscar broadcast since 2000, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

And finally, what about those "Rings" hobbits, especially the big one, director Peter Jackson? The "Lord of the Rings" has been such a huge success at box offices that his future as a director is a lock.

He and his team back in Wellington, New Zealand, are already working on a movie about super-sized ape, King Kong, but his fans want a Jackson version of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit."

For now, any movie based on the Tolkien novel that preceded the "Rings" trilogy will have to wait. Jackson wants to do it, but the rights to make and distribute the movie are tied up in talks between "Rings" backer New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

"I guess MGM's lawyers and New Line's lawyers are going to have a huge amount of fun over the next few years to work it all out," Jackson said.

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