Why the Oscar winners' list is so satisfying. Even if all her favorites didn't win, Lisa Schwarzbaum is glad to celebrate with Halle Berry, Ron Howard, and others
Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, ...
Credit: Halle Berry and Denzel Washington: Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect

Why the Oscar winners’ list is so satisfying

Here’s something I never thought I would say: I’m thrilled that Halle Berry won the Academy Award for Best Actress. I wouldn’t have voted for her. I wasn’t fond of her performance in ”Monster’s Ball.” (Any reader of EW.com knows I wasn’t a fan of the whole, dang, hyperventilating movie.) But somewhere between the moment she negotiated Joan Rivers’ fashion perp walk so gracefully before show time — insanely beautiful, daringly dressed — and the moment she sobbed extravagantly with an Oscar in her hand, I wanted Halle Berry to win, for the sheer, grand spectacle and showbiz symbolism of the thing.

I wanted Berry to win because somewhere during the nasty Oscar campaign and counter-campaign hysteria that preceded last night’s event, I decided the Academy Awards are all about spectacle, symbolism, and zeitgeist anyhow, and it was time to embrace my inner shmaltzaholic. So let records be broken! Let racial barriers be knocked down — I’m all for it! Let Ron Howard savor an Oscar for Best Director because it’s his time, too; that’s enough artistic merit for me to salute a middle-brow, feel-good schizophrenia movie. And after 16 music nominations, here’s to composer Randy Newman and his bouncy, serviceable songs; give the man a statuette for ”Monster’s, Inc.” and let him make a speech!

I knew that most of the nominees I backed didn’t stand a chance anyhow. No problem. It’s all fine. It’s all good. (It’s the Oscars; it’s a crapshoot; I don’t take it personally.) And nothing, nothing was finer, on a night when Sidney Poitier accepted his honorary award so eloquently, than the one-two thrill of Halle Berry and Denzel Washington, two African-American actors in the winners’ circle. Readers of EW.com know that I was rooting for Washington over Russell Crowe from the get-go, electrified by his fierce, opposite-of-nice-guy performance in ”Training Day”: Not only did I think he should win, I thought he WOULD win. But nothing prepared me for the corny come-a-long-way pride I felt as history was made.

And now it’s done. Spells and curses have been broken, and some unpleasantness has been avoided, too: Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren, for instance, didn’t have to paste on grand thespianic smiles when one or the other won for ”Gosford Park.” The honor of bagging two consecutive Academy Awards for Best Actor still goes exclusively to Tom Hanks, a distinction that, had Russell Crowe played his politicking cards better, our American Best Boy might have had to share with the Bad Boy of Australia. Spike Lee has nothing to complain about, even in the documentary category, since neither Jews, Israel, or the Holocaust figured in ”Murder on a Sunday Morning,” about a black man in the wrong place and time when a crime is committed.

This year, Oscar did his duty in ways I hadn’t even anticipated when making up lists of who should win and guessing who would. Old, sturdy, clubby, dependable Hollywood was acknowledged with wins for an old-fashioned Hollywood biopic. But a fresh prince and princess of a modern era in progressive Hollywood now also reign. What was a big deal last night will no longer ever be quite the deal it was — for which I applaud all who won, all who voted, and all of us who only sat and watched.

What do you think of this year’s Oscar winners?

More: EW.com’s Oscar night photos, winners list, and the latest news.

Monster's Ball
  • Movie
  • 111 minutes