Well, we can rest assured that the Academy Awards voting is not rigged.
Going into Sunday night’s Oscars’ ceremony, it was a safe bet that, if the people who run the movie-industry’s annual prize patrol had their druthers, antiwar filmmaker Michael Moore would not have gotten anywhere near a microphone. Moore, who wore a badge reading “Shoot Movies, Not Iraqis,” when he accepted an Independent Spirit Award the night before, had promised that if he won an Oscar he would use his acceptance speech to make an issue of Bush’s war. With right-wing talk radio hosts and members of the Congressional Yahoo Caucus already ranting and roaring about unpatriotic celebrities, the pressure was on to avoid controversy.
But, to a greater extent than just about anyone in Hollywood, Moore embraces controversy. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters who decided the winner of the best documentary feature competition embraced Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” a hilarious and haunting examination of gun violence, poverty and the media in America. The Academy voters gave the rabble-rousing filmmaker, author and activist an Oscar for his documentary — as well as an opportunity to deliver 45 seconds of “message” to the world.
Moore took the stage, and immediately took after Bush and the war in Iraq.
Surrounded by his fellow nominees in the best documentary category, Moore announced, “They’re here in solidarity with me because we like nonfiction. We like nonfiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons. Whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or (the) fiction of Orange Alerts, we are against this war, Mr. Bush.”
As the packed auditorium at Hollywood’s Kodak Theater erupted with a wild mix of applause and booing, Moore yelled: “Shame on you, Mr. Bush, shame on you.” He closed by noting the international opposition to the US attack on Iraq — which includes everyone from religious leaders to country music stars. Addressing Bush, Moore said, “Any time you got the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against you, your time is up.”
Moore’s was not the only antiwar voice heard at what may well have been the most politically-charged Academy Awards ceremony ever. Dozens of stars wore peace pins and Artists United to Win Without War badges. As he introduced a song from the film “Frida,” which tells the story of radical artist Frida Kahlo, actor Gael Garcia Bernal interrupted his scripted remarks to say, “The necessity for peace in the world is not a dream. It is a reality, and we are not alone. If Frida was alive, she would be on our side, against war.”
Actress Barbra Streisand defended free speech rights. Actress Susan Sarandon flashed a peace sign as she appeared on the stage. Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, an outspoken foe of the war who won the best original screenplay award for his film “Talk to Her,” dedicated his Oscar “to all the people that are raising their voices in favor of peace, respect of human rights, democracy and international legality.” And Nicole Kidman, who won the best actress Oscar for playing Virginia Woolf in “The Hours,” spoke of the pain of “families losing people” in a time of war.
Actor Adrien Brody, who won the best actor Oscar for his performance in the Holocaust-themed film “The Pianist,” expressed his great joy at the unexpected honor. He then insisted on a bit more time to say, “I am also filled with a lot of sadness tonight because I am accepting an award at such a strange time. And you know my experiences of making this film made me very aware of the sadness and the dehumanization of people at times of war. And the repercussions of war. And whatever you believe in, if it’s God or Allah, may he watch over you and let’s pray for a peaceful and swift resolution.”
Accepting the best supporting actor award for his role in the film “Adaptation,” actor Chris Cooper closed his speech with a succinct message: “In light of all the troubles in the world, I wish us all — peace.”