'Gladiator,' Crowe, Roberts win top Oscars
(CNN) -- "Gladiator," the digitally enhanced Roman epic blockbuster, stood victorious at the 73rd Academy Awards, taking home a leading five Oscars, including best picture and a best actor statuette for Russell Crowe.
Julia Roberts, the bankable star with the flashbulb smile, won her first Academy Award for her role in the legal feel-good film "Erin Brockovich," while "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" took home four Oscars, including best foreign language film. "Traffic" also netted four Oscars, including best director for Steven Soderbergh.
But as the credits rolled on the ABC telecast, it was "Gladiator," the film that combined swordplay and stunning visual effects to create the story of a wronged Roman general bent on revenge, that had the most reasons to celebrate. Douglas Wick, a producer with "Gladiator," thanked the film's director, Ridley Scott, for making it happen.
"Ridley, you invaded three continents with your tireless perfectionism, and brought new meaning to the phrase, 'mad dogs and Englishmen in the noonday sun,'" said Wick.
Crowe, holding his first best actor Oscar, also thanked Scott.
"I owe this to one bloke, and his name is Ridley Scott," Crowe said. "To anyone who grew up in the suburbs anywhere, a dream like this seems vaguely ludicrous. But this moment is directly connected to those childhood imaginings."
The award's presentation ended a remarkable year for Crowe, who made as many headlines for his on-screen performances as he did for his off-screen romance with married actress Meg Ryan. He was also the apparent subject of a kidnapping plot that never panned out.
'I love the world!'
Meantime, Roberts, who played the trashy-but-determined mom and legal aid in "Erin Brockovich," took four minutes to give her acceptance speech, during which she thanked "everyone I've ever met in my life."
"Thank you, thank you ever so much. I'm so happy," she said at one point. "I love the world! I'm so happy! Thank you!"
In one of the night's biggest upsets, Soderbergh won best director for "Traffic," the drug drama that highlights perceived failures in the United States' war on drugs.
Many observers had picked Ang Lee, director of the high-flying "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," to win that honor, as he did at the Directors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.
But Soderbergh gracefully took the golden statuette.
"I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating -- a book, a film, a painting, a piece of dance, a piece of music -- anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us," said Soderbergh. "I think this world would be unlivable without art."
ABC telecast the Oscars live from the Shrine in Los Angeles, California. Steve Martin hosted the event, which ended just a few moments before midnight EST – a short event, by Oscar standards.
The ceremony got off to a quick start, with Benicio Del Toro and Marcia Gay Harden taking home their first Oscars early in the evening.
Harden, who won best supporting actress for her role as the supportive wife of abstract-expressionist painter Jackson Pollock in the movie "Pollock," thanked the academy, then turned to thank her mother and father.
"Dad, who's here tonight, thank you for teaching me how to soldier through tough situations, and mom for teaching me to do it gracefully," said Harden.
Del Toro, who played a Tijuana, Mexico, cop in "Traffic," dedicated his Oscar for best supporting actor to two filming locations in the movie: Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Mexico.
Other Academy Awards handed out included:
Best foreign language film, art direction, best original score and best cinematography Oscars to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
Best screenplay adaptation and best film editing Oscars to "Traffic"
Best original screenplay to Cameron Crowe for "Almost Famous"
Best makeup to "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas"
Best costume design, visual effects and sound Oscars to "Gladiator"
Best feature-length documentary to "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport."
Bob Dylan, the 1960s folk poet/musician, took the best song Oscar for his "Wonder Boys" tune "Things Have Changed." Dylan had earlier performed the song for the crowd via satellite hook-up from Sydney, Australia.
"Oh good God, this is amazing," Dylan said moments after he heard his name announced. He thanked several people, including "Wonder Boys" director Curtis Hanson, "who just kept at it, who encouraged me to do it. And I'm so glad I did. God bless you all with peace, tranquility and good will."
Famed Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis was honored with the Irving Thalberg Memorial Award, celebrating his 60-year career during which he's been involved in the creation of more than 600 films and garnered more than 30 Oscar nominations.
"I must say I've been very lucky in my life," said De Laurentiis, who stepped to the stage amid a standing ovation. "Let me dedicate this to the Italian film industry with the hope that they come back in life with new talent and fresh ideas."
Cinematographer Jack Cardiff was given an honorary Oscar for a career that includes "The African Queen" (1951) and "War and Peace" (1956).
"I'm not dreaming, but it's mighty close," said Cardiff. "I think of all those takes and millions of retakes, but tonight makes it all worth while."
The ceremony opened with a video-cast from the International Space Station with astronauts "beaming down" Martin.
Back on Earth, Martin made the most of the celestial opening. "That introduction cost the government $1 trillion," he said, "so there goes your tax cut."
Martin, following in the footsteps of popular Oscar host Billy Crystal, shirked the tradition of Crystal's musical opening. Instead, he relied on his experience as a stand-up comic to open the night with a monologue.
"Hosting the Oscars is much like making love to a woman," said Martin. "It's something I only get to do when Billy Crystal is out of town."
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