Four Oscars for “No Country for Old Men”

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OSCAR CHEER: European actors carried the day at the 80th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, on Sunday. (From left) Winners for Best Actor (
OSCAR CHEER: European actors carried the day at the 80th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, on Sunday. (From left) Winners for Best Actor ("There Will Be Blood") Daniel Day-Lewis, Best Supporting Actress ("Michael Clayton") Tilda Swinton, Best Actress ("La Vie En Rose") Marion Cotillard and Best Supporting Actor ("No Country for Old Men") Javier Bardem pose with their trophies.

Europeans sweep acting prizes at the annual Academy Awards in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES: The Coen brothers completed their journey from the fringes to Hollywood’s mainstream, their crime saga “No Country for Old Men” winning four Academy Awards, including best picture, in a ceremony that also featured a strong international flavour.

Europeans swept the acting categories on Sunday night. British actor Daniel Day-Lewis and France’s Marion Cotillard were best lead actor and actress. The supporting actor and actress prizes went to Spain’s Javier Bardem and British actress Tilda Swinton.

Bardem won for supporting actor in “No Country,” which earned Joel and Ethan Coen best director, best adapted screenplay and the best-picture honour as producers.

Day-Lewis won his second best-actor Academy Award for the oil-boom epic “There Will Be Blood,” while “La Vie En Rose” star Cotillard was a surprise winner for best actress, riding the spirit of Edith Piaf to Oscar triumph over British screen legend Julie Christie, who had been expected to win for “Away From Her.”

Swinton won for her portrayal as a malevolent attorney in “Michael Clayton.”

As a raging, conniving, acquisitive petroleum pioneer caught up in California’s oil boom of the early 20th century, Day-Lewis won for a part that could scarcely have been more different than his understated role as a writer with severe cerebral palsy in 1989’s “My Left Foot.”

“My deepest thanks to the academy for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town,” Day-Lewis said.

Day-Lewis walked up the steps to accept his trophy from Helen Mirren, then went down on one knee before her, head bowed. Mirren, last year’s best-actress winner for “The Queen,” picked up his cue, touching Lewis’s Oscar to his shoulders as she would a royal sword.

“That’s the closest I’ll ever come to getting a knighthood,” the Englishman said.

“The Bourne Ultimatum” won the editing Oscar and swept all three categories in which it was nominated, including sound editing and sound mixing.

Cotillard, the first winner ever for a French-language performance, tearfully thanked her director, Olivier Dahan.

“Rocked my life”

“Maestro Olivier, you rocked my life. You have truly rocked my life,” said Cotillard, a French beauty who is a dynamo as Piaf, playing the warbling chanteuse through three decades, from raw late teens as a singer rising from the gutter through international stardom and her final days in her frail 40s.

“Thank you, life; thank you, love. And it is true there (are) some angels in this city.”

Heavies ruled the first acting prizes. Along with Day-Lewis’ greedy oilman, Bardem played an unshakable executioner in “No Country” and Swinton played a conniving attorney who stops at nothing to achieve her goals in a $3 billion class-action lawsuit in “Michael Clayton.”

Backstage, Swinton said she was “so stoked, as they say, I think it’s fantastic. ... I’m amazed I’m still standing. But I’m not complaining. It’s good.”

Swinton, 47, born in London into a patrician Scottish military family, noted that other foreign actors were taking home the gold Sunday. “Hollywood is built on Europeans,” she said. “Don’t tell everybody, but we’re everywhere.”

Bardem won for his fearsome turn in “No Country.”

“Thank you to the Coens for being crazy enough to think I could do that and for putting one of the most horrible haircuts in history over my head,” said Bardem, referring to the sinister variation of a page-boy bob his character sported.

Host Jon Stewart joked that Bardem’s haircut in the film combined “Hannibal Lecter’s murderousness with Dorothy Hamill’s wedge-cut.”

The ceremony’s montage of photos and film clips of stars, filmmakers and others in cinema who died in the past year ended with a scene from “Brokeback Mountain” featuring Australian actor Heath Ledger, who died of a prescription drug overdose last month.

Michael Moore, who assailed President George W. Bush over the Iraq War in his Oscar speech for documentary winner “Bowling for Columbine” five years ago, missed out on a chance to take the podium again.

His health-care study “Sicko” lost the documentary prize to “Taxi to the Dark Side,” a war-on-terror chronicle that centres on an innocent Afghan cab driver killed while in detention.

Box-office dud “The Golden Compass” scored an upset for visual effects over the blockbusters “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

Other early winners included “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” for costume design, “La Vie En Rose” for makeup and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” for art direction.

“Killer movies”

Stewart joked about this year’s crop of “Oscar-nominated psychopathic killer movies.”

“Does this town need a hug? What happened? ‘No Country For Old Men,’ ‘Sweeney Todd,’ ‘There Will Be Blood?’ All I can say is, thank God for teen pregnancy. I think the country agrees,” Stewart said, referring to best-picture nominee “Juno.” — AP

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