With “shock and awe” currently exploding over the skies of Baghdad, concern for safety at the annual Academy Awards ceremonies led to a scaled-back red carpet opener and increased security provided by the National Guard. Despite the international concern, Oscar Night continued for its 75th year.

Shabina Khatri
Michael Moore flashes the peace sign yesterday in Los Angeles as he poses with the Oscars he won for Best Documentary Feature for the film “Bowling for Columbine.”

The Steve Martin-hosted event responded to the current situation in Iraq with a subdued atmosphere, most apparent in the removal of the glitzy arrivals and paparazzi. The Academy wished to respect the serious nature of the overseas conflict, as well as the attending personalities, by removing the standard extravagant interview and picture-taking gala while ardently preventing any stoppage of the event which has never once been cancelled.

Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, stood in front of reporters on the steps of the Kodak Theater to declare his dedication to continuing the ceremonies. “At a time when American culture and values are under attack all over the world, we think it is more important than ever that we honor those achievements that reflect us and Americans at our best,” Pierson said.

Rumors abounded regarding the possible absence of numerous performers and high-profile personalities, including Tom Hanks and Best Actress-nominated Nicole Kidman, but most proved unfounded. In fact, only Will Smith actively stated his withdrawal from presenting last night due to the ongoing war.

But Michael Moore criticized President Bush and the U.S.-led war in Iraq during his acceptance speech yesterday, receiving both a partial standing ovation and some jeers from Hollywood’s elite.

The documentary maker won his first Oscar for “Bowling for Columbine,” but called up other nominees on stage to join him in a show of solidarity for nonfiction during these “fictitious times.”

“We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elect a fictitious president,” Moore said. “We live in a time where we have a man who’s sending us to war for fictitious reasons, whether it’s the fiction of duct tape or the fiction of orange alerts.” Applause gave way to some boos, as the orchestra began playing to cue the filmmaker to leave the stage. “We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you,” Moore shouted.

Some of the celebrities not in attendance due to various reasons included Cate Blanchett, Best Picture nominated producer/director Peter Jackson, esteemed and controversial rapper-turned-actor Eminem and Best Supporting Actor nominee Paul Newman.

In addition to the “glitz-free” opening of the ceremonies, the press was blacklisted from Vanity Fair’s black-tie after-party at Hollywood eatery Morton’s.

Some of the more extreme hearsay included a vicarious request from the White House to postpone the awards, which was immediately denied. “There have been more rumors flying around about the Academy Awards … than there is flying around about what’s happening in Iraq,” Cates said.

Even with the mass of security precautions, possible terrorist concerns and the ongoing war, Pierson proclaimed that there was no real concern that the Oscars posed a legitimate target for a terrorist attack. As it has for 75 years and counting, the show did go on.

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