Beyond the dazzling smiles and bejeweled red carpet finery, the diversity and inclusiveness of the 79th Academy Awards was the facet that shone brightest. The multi-cultural ethos of Best Picture nominee Babel found a true life portrayal in the panoply of acceptance speeches given in a multitude of languages including Italian, Spanish and Chinese. Clutching their Oscars triumphantly, the winners' dedicated their gold "para todos Latinos"and thanked their "pengyou" back in China.
"If there weren't Blacks, Jews and Gays there would be no Oscars...or anyone named Oscar," quipped host Ellen Degeneres- the openly lesbian funny woman. She kicked off the evening with a soulful celebration of the nominees featuring a full on, tambourine-toting gospel choir that marched and sang up the aisles of the majestic Kodak theater.
Earlier that evening a stellar parade of nominated African and Diaspora actors/actresses walked down the red carpet. Later that night, two would make the fateful walk onto the stage and into Oscar history.
Actress Jennifer Hudson sat calmly, fingers clasped, as the nominees' names were read but quickly became teary eyed with joy when accepting her award. The fairy tale quality of her Cinderella win was all the more poignant after her national rejection on hit TV show, American Idol, three years ago. The singer-actress, winning for her first film, Dreamgirls, thanked her grandmother for inspiring her- "she had the passion for it but she never had the chance"- and thanked her fans and supporters.
"I thank you all for helping me keep the faith even when I didn't believe," said a triumphant Hudson.
Beating out two-time nominee, Will Smith who was chosen for his work in The Pursuit of Happyness, actor Forest Whitaker took home the statue for his haunting depiction of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. After a moment of disbelief and a quick kiss for his wife, the veteran actor took the stage. Overwhelmed with emotion he read a prepared, yet touching, speech expressing his surprise at his acting success but explaining his vision for himself as an actor.
"When I first started acting it was because of my desire to connect to everyone." That link was evidenced in his acknowledgment of his ancestors and the people of Uganda for giving the film its spirit.
Africa's own Djimon Hounsou, Blood Diamond, was lauded for his muddy toil under the "broiling African sun" by Best Supporting Actor presenter Rachel Weiss, but he and front runner Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls, both lost in an upset by Alan Arkin winning for Little Ms. Sunshine. Hounsou had previously been nominated for In America and in the program's opening sequence jokingly said: "Always better the second time around." Hopefully, the third time will be the charm for this native son. He is a winner for bringing much needed attention to the issue of conflict diamonds.
Some issues can only be resolved through the election ballot. The Oscar ballot sought to make its own voice heard on the problem of climate change with a win by former Vice President Al Gore's eco-friendly documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. At the podium with eco-activist Leonardo DiCaprio, Gore joked about a possible run for president but was comically interrupted by the Academy's infamous orchestral music cut off.
In this politically charged era where America is pitted against the world, the Academy took time to show the billions of viewers watching across the globe that we are a country of many and varied peoples. A melting pot montage featured clips from ethnic-American films like The Color Purple, The Godfather and West Side Story.It was a night where everyone was represented from the young- pint-sized presenters Abigail Breslin and Jaden Christopher Syre Smith- to the old- nominees Peter O'Toole and Dame Judi Dench. Every color, every continent, united in celluloid solidarity.VISIT OUR TWO PHOTO GALLERIES OF OSCAR PICTURES:GALLERY I
AND GALLERY IIOSCAR WINNERSBest Motion PictureThe Departed
-Graham King, ProducerBest DirectorThe Departed
-Martin ScorseseBest Actor in a leading role
Forest Whitaker in The Last King of ScotlandBest Actor in a supporting role
Alan Arkin in Little Miss SunshineBest Actress in a leading role
Helen Mirren in The QueenBest Actress in a supporting role
Jennifer Hudson in DreamgirlsBest animated feature film of the yearHappy Feet
- George MillerAchievement in art directionPan's Labyrinth
Art Direction: Eugenio Caballero Set Decoration: Pilar RevueltaAchievement in cinematographyPan's Labyrinth
- Guillermo NavarroAchievement in costume designMarie Antoinette
-Milena CanoneroBest documentary featureAn Inconvenient Truth
A Lawrence Bender/Laurie David Production Davis GuggenheimBest documentary short subjectThe Blood of Yingzhou District
-Ruby Yang and Thomas LennonAchievement in film editingThe Departed
-Thelma SchoonmakerBest foreign language film of the yearThe Lives of Others
(Germany)Achievement in makeupPan's Labyrinth
-David MartÃƒÂ and Montse RibÃƒÂ©Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"Babel" -Gustavo SantaolallaAchievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
"I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth
Music and Lyric by Melissa EtheridgeBest animated short filmThe Danish Poet
-Torill KoveBest live action short filmWest Bank Story
An Ari Sandel, Pascal Vaguelsy, Amy Kim, Ravi Malhotra and Ashley Jordan Production Ari SandelAchievement in sound editingLetters from Iwo Jima
Alan Robert Murray and Bub AsmanAchievement in sound mixingDreamgirls
Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie BurtonAchievement in visual effectsPirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen HallAdapted screenplayThe Departed
Screenplay by William MonahanOriginal screenplay Little Miss Sunshine
Written by Michael Arndt