Rings epic lords it over Oscars

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The Independent Culture

The epic film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King made a clean sweep of the Oscars today with an epic 11 awards out of 11.

It won best picture - the first fantasy film to do so - and best director for New Zealander Peter Jackson. and its awards tally equalled the record held by Ben Hur and Titanic.

A jubilant Jackson said: "This is just unbelievable and I am so honoured and touched and relieved that the Academy has seen past the trolls and the wizards and the hobbits in recognising fantasy this year."

The Return of the King's other awards were for art direction, costume design, visual effects, make-up, sound mixing, film editing, adapted screenplay, original score and original song for Into The West, sung by Annie Lennox.

There were no surprises in the other main categories at the 76th Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Charlize Theron won best actress for her role as real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

Sean Penn won best actor for Mystic River, in which he plays a grieving father out for revenge over the murder of his teenage daughter.

Penn's co-star Tim Robbins was named best supporting actor for his performance as man whose childhood was blighted by sexual abuse.

Hot favourite Renee Zellweger took home best supporting actress for her role as farm hand Ruby in Cold Mountain.

All four were first-time Oscar winners.

Their wins meant disappointment for Britain's acting hopes Samantha Morton (In America), Jude Law (Cold Mountain) and Sir Ben Kingsley (House of Sand and Fog), who all left empty-handed.

Britain did have some success though, thanks to Lord of the Rings.

Besides Annie Lennox, set designer Alan Lee and make-up artist Peter King are both home-grown talents.

Jackson's first two Lord of the Rings films were largely overlooked by the Academy. But the record haul this year was widely seen as a cumulative reward for all three movies.

It was a bad night for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which won only two awards (sound editing and cinematography). Lost In Translation won one (best original screenplay for Sofia Coppola) and Seabiscuit won none.

Tim Robbins used his speech to urge victims of childhood sexual abuse, like his Mystic River character, to seek help.

Annie Lennox, accepting the award for best original song, said: "I'm stunned, thank you so much. I would like to thank Peter Jackson so much for inviting me to be part of this extraordinary project. It's amazing."

The 49-year-old former Eurythmics star dedicated her performance of the song to her mother, Dorothy, and to the British composer Michael Kamen, both of whom died last year.

The mood of the awards was markedly lighter than last year's sombre ceremony, which was overshadowed by the Iraq war. This year there was scant mention of politics - even from Penn, a vocal opponent of the war who has recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq.

The 43-year-old actor couldn't resist one jibe, however, telling the audience: "If there's one thing actors know - other than that there aren't any WMDs - it's that there no such thing as best in acting."

This year's honorary Oscar was awarded to Blake Edwards, the 81-year-old writer, director and producer of the Pink Panther movies. Edwards also directed the likes of Breakfast at Tiffany's, Victor/Victoria and 10.

He thanked "the beautiful English broad" - his actress wife Julie Andrews.

For the first time, the awards were broadcast with a five-second delay. It was prompted by US broadcaster ABC's fear of a controversial episode like Janet Jackson's recent breast-baring at the Superbowl.

AND THE WINNERS ARE:

Best Picture: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Actor: Sean Penn, "Mystic River."

Actress: Charlize Theron, "Monster."

Supporting Actor: Tim Robbins, "Mystic River."

Supporting Actress: Renee Zellweger, "Cold Mountain."

Director: Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Foreign Film: "The Barbarian Invasions," Canada.

Adapted Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Original Screenplay: Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation."

Animated Feature: "Finding Nemo."

Art Direction: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Cinematography: "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

Sound Mixing: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Sound Editing: "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

Original Score: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Howard Shore.

Original Song: "Into the West" from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," Fran Walsh, Howard Shore and Annie Lennox.

Costume: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Documentary Feature: "The Fog of War."

Documentary (short subject): "Chernobyl Heart."

Film Editing: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King."

Makeup: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Animated Short Film: "Harvie Krumpet."

Live Action Short Film: "Two Soldiers."

Visual Effects: "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

Oscar winners previously announced this year:

Honorary Academy Award: Blake Edwards.

Gordon E Sawyer Award (technical achievement): Peter Parks.

Academy Award of Merit (technical achievement): Digidesign.

Academy Award of Merit (technical achievement): Bill Tondreau.

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