Monday, February 11, 2008

71st Academy Awards

The 71st Academy Awards ceremony was the last to take place at Los Angeles County Music Center, held on March 21st 1999, and was Whoopi Goldberg's third time hosting the Awards. It was the first time the ceremony took place on a Sunday. The ceremony ran extremely long, due largely to extended acceptance speeches. Notable films included Shakespeare in Love, which received 13 nominations and won 7 awards, Saving Private Ryan, which received 11 nominations and won 5 awards, and Life Is Beautiful, which received 7 nominations and won 3 (including Best Actor and Best Foreign Language Film). The 71st Academy Awards saw the show's first "official" pre-show, as the Academy attempted to compete with the likes of E!'s Joan Rivers and other red carpet denizens. The show attracted 45.61m viewers, a 18% decline to the previous years 57.25 million, yet a high rating compared to most other ceremonies. This was the first time that two people have been nominated for Academy Awards for playing the same person in different films - Queen Elizabeth I - played by Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love. This would mark the final time the show would originate from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, a venue the Academy Awards called home for nearly thirty-years.

Shakespeare in Love is an award-winning 1998 romantic comedy film. The film was directed by John Madden and co-written by playwright Tom Stoppard, whose first major success was with the Shakespeare-influenced play Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. The film is largely fictional, although several of the characters are based on real people. In addition, some of the characters, lines, and plot devices are references to Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare in Love won a number of Academy Awards in 1998, including Best Picture and Best Actress (for Gwyneth Paltrow). It was the first comedy to win the Best Picture award since Annie Hall (1977).

The Best Director award went to Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan. The Best Actor award went to Roberto Benigni. Benigni's first film as director was Tu mi turbi (You upset me, 1983). On the set he met the Cesenate actress Nicoletta Braschi, who was to become his wife, and who has starred in most of the films he directed. In 1984, he played in Non ci resta che piangere ("Nothing left to do but cry") with the very popular comic actor Massimo Troisi. The story was a fable in which the protagonists are suddenly thrown back in time to the 15th century, just a little before 1492. They start looking for Columbus in order to stop him from discovering the Americas (although for very personal love reasons), but are not able to reach him. Beginning in 1986, Benigni starred in three films by American director Jim Jarmusch. Down By Law (1986) Night on Earth, (1991) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003). In 1993, he starred in Son of the Pink Panther, directed by veteran Blake Edwards. There, he played Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau's illegitimate son who is assigned to save the Princess of Lugash. A serious role was in Federico Fellini's last film, La voce della luna (1989). In earlier years Benigni had started a long-lasting collaboration with screenwriter Vincenzo Cerami, for a series of films which scored great success in Italy: Il piccolo diavolo ("The little devil", with Walter Matthau), Johnny Stecchino ("Johnny Toothpick"), and Il Mostro ("The Monster"). Benigni is probably best known outside Italy for his 1997 tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella), filmed in Cortona and Arezzo, also written by Cerami. The film is about an Italian Jewish man who tries to protect his son's innocence during his internment at a Nazi concentration camp, by telling him that the Holocaust is an elaborate game and he must adhere very carefully to the rules to win. Benigni's father had spent two years in a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, and La Vita è bella is based in part on his father's experiences. In 1998, the film was nominated for seven Academy Awards and Benigni personally won the Best Actor. The Best Foreign Language Film is awarded to the film itself, but Academy rules stipulate that the director will accept the award. The score by Nicola Piovani also won an Oscar. Famously, in the midst of being so giddy with delight, he climbed on the back of the seat for his procession to the stage and applauded the audience after he was told he had won one of his Oscars. The next year's ceremony, when he read the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Actress, host Billy Crystal playfully appeared behind him with a large net to restrain Benigni if he got excessive with his antics again. Benigni played one of the main characters in Asterix and Obelix vs Caesar as Detritus, a corrupted Roman tax collector who wants to kill the Caesar and claim the throne of the Roman Empire.

Gwyneth Paltrow is an Academy Award-winning American actress. Paltrow starred in Se7en (1995), opposite Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman. The film was hugely successful commercially and critically. Then in 1996 she starred in Emma, where she received strongly positive critical acclaim, particularly in the UK for her impressive English accent, as well as in Europe and Asia. Two years later, Paltrow starred in Shakespeare in Love, a fantasy of how William Shakespeare might have written Romeo and Juliet. The film received critical acclaim, earned more than US$100 million in domestic box office receipts, and received numerous awards. Shakespeare in Love won the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy and Best Screenplay, as well as the Academy Award for Best Picture. Paltrow also won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role from the Screen Actors Guild. Later that year, Paltrow won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role. After her Oscar win Paltrow starred in other movie roles such as A Perfect Murder. In 2000 Paltrow starred in The Talented Mr. Ripley which earned over $80 million domestically, and received positive reviews. She then starred in Bounce with Shakespeare in Love costar Ben Affleck, which was moderately successful, both critically and commercially. Since then, she has had a relatively low-profile, yet steady, film career with a few critically acclaimed film roles, including Proof (2005) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). On December 5, 2003, she married Chris Martin of the British rock group Coldplay in a secret wedding ceremony in Southern California. Paltrow gave birth to their first child, Apple Blythe Alison Martin, five months later, on May 14, 2004, in London. Her second child, Moses Bruce Anthony Martin, was born on April 8, 2006 in New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital.

James Coburn was an Oscar-winning American actor. Coburn became famous in the 1960s and 1970s as the "tough guy" in a variety of films, first mostly with his friends Steve McQueen, Robert Vaughn and Charles Bronson (with whom he co-starred in The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape). A villainous part in the hugely successful Charade (1963) and a character role as a one-armed Indian tracker in Major Dundee (1965) gained him much notice. In 1966, he finally became a bona-fide star with the release of Our Man Flint, a James Bond spoof released by 20th Century Fox as competition. In 1973 he teamed up with radical director Sam Peckinpah for the film Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (they had first worked together in 1965 on Major Dundee). But an MGM producer tried to sabotage the production causing the film to be drastically edited when it opened. Both Peckinpah and Coburn were disappointed and delved into Cross of Iron, a critically-acclaimed war epic which performed poorly in the US but was a huge hit in Europe. He then appeared in films such as Young Guns II (1990), Sister Act 2 (1993), Maverick (1994), The Nutty Professor (1996), and Payback (1999), mostly in small but memorable roles. For appearing as the abusive father of protagonist Nick Nolte in Affliction, he received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1998. He died suddenly on November 18, 2002 at the age of 74, of cardiac arrest, while listening to the radio. He was survived by his wife Paula Murad, a son, and a stepdaughter.

Judi Dench is an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, Tony-, three-time BAFTA-, and six-time Laurence Olivier Award-winning English actress. In 1995 she became known to an international audience after taking over the role of 'M' (James Bond's boss) with the James Bond films, starting with GoldenEye. It could be argued that she helped reinvigorate the franchise with her fresh, sharp, and unexpected interpretation of the role. She has won multiple awards for performances on the London stage, including a record six Laurence Olivier Awards. She also won the American Tony award for her 1999 Broadway performance in the role of Esme Allen in David Hare's Amy's View. Alongside her numerous award winning performances, she has also managed to take on the role of Director for a number of stage productions. Dench won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Elizabeth I in the film Shakespeare in Love. Judi Dench has frequently appeared with her close friend Geoffrey Palmer, in the series As Time Goes By and in the films Mrs. Brown and Tomorrow Never Dies, both filmed in 1997. Judi Dench has also lent her incredible voice to many animated characters, narrations, and various other voice work. Dench's more recent film career has been extremely successful. She successfully garnered six Oscar nominations in nine years for Mrs Brown in 1997; her Oscar-winning turn in Shakespeare in Love in 1998; for Chocolat in 2000; for the lead role of writer Iris Murdoch in Iris in 2001 (with Kate Winslet playing her as a younger woman); for Mrs Henderson Presents (a romanticised history of the Windmill Theatre) in 2005; and for 2006's Notes on a Scandal, a film for which she received critical acclaim, including Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations. In 1971, Dench married British actor Michael Williams and they had their only child, Tara Cressida Williams (aka "Finty Williams"), on 24 September 1972, who has followed the family's theatrical tradition to become an accomplished actress in her own right.

Life Is Beautiful (Italian: La vita è bella) is a 1997 Italian language film which tells the story of a Jewish Italian, Guido Orefice (played by Roberto Benigni, who also directed and co-wrote the film), who must learn how to use his fertile imagination to help his son survive their internment in a Nazi concentration camp. The first half of the movie is a whimsical, romantic comedy and often slapstick. Guido (Roberto Benigni), a young Italian Jew, arrives in Arezzo where he sets up a bookstore. Guido is both funny and charismatic, especially when he romances Dora (Italian, but not Jewish), portrayed by Benigni's actual wife Nicoletta Braschi), whom he steals – at her engagement – from her rude and loud fiancé. Several years pass, in which Guido and Dora have a son, Joshua (written Giosuè in the Italian version. Portrayed by Giorgio Cantarini). In the film, Joshua is around five years old. However, both the beginning and ending of the film is narrated by an older Joshua. In the second half of the movie, Guido, Guido's uncle, and Joshua are taken to a concentration camp on Joshua's birthday. Dora demands to join her family and is permitted to do so. In an attempt to keep up Joshua's spirits, Guido convinces him that the camp is just a game – a game in which the first person to get 100 points wins a tank. He tells Joshua that if you complain for hunger you lose points, while quiet boys who hide from the camp guards earn points. He convinces Joshua that the camp guards are mean because they want the tank for themselves and that all the other children are hiding in order to win the game. He puts off every attempt of Joshua ending the game and returning home by convincing him that they are in the lead for the tank. Despite being surrounded by rampant death and people and all their sicknesses, Joshua doesn't question this fiction both because of his father's convincing performance and his own innocence. Guido maintains this story right until the end, when – in the chaos caused by the American advance drawing near – he tells his son to stay in a sweatbox until everybody has left, this being the final test before the tank is his. After trying to find Dora, Guido is caught, taken away, and is shot by a Nazi guard, but not before making his son laugh one last time. Joshua manages to survive, and thinks he has won the game when an American tank arrives to liberate the camp, and he is reunited with his mother.The movie made the Cannes Film Festival in 1998, winning the Grand Prize of the Jury. It then went on to win Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Dramatic Score and Best Foreign Language Film. Benigni won Best Actor in both the foreign film category and overall for his role. The film was additionally nominated for Academy Awards for Directing, Film Editing, Best Picture, and Best Original Screenplay.

"When You Believe" is an Academy Award-winning song composed by Stephen Schwartz for the DreamWork's animated feature The Prince of Egypt, and produced as a single with additional music by writer-producer Babyface. It was the main theme of the film and was released as a single by American divas Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey as the soundtrack's first single in 1998"When You Believe" won the 1999 Academy Award for "Best Original Song" and was nominated for a Golden Globes for "Best Original Song".

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