Political speeches range from contemplative to fiery

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

— Michael Moore was ferocious. Adrien Brody was heartfelt. Their victory speeches on Oscar night addressed the U.S.-led conflict in Iraq in dramatically different tones -- and drew dramatically different reactions.

Moore received a standing ovation when he won; his fiery criticism of President Bush and the war first drew cheers, followed by a cacophony of boos as he shouted: "We are against this war, Mr. Bush. Shame on you, Mr. Bush. Shame on you!"

Critical reaction was as varied as the Kodak Theatre's response to Moore's rant.

"Oscars turn to Bush-bash," proclaimed a headline in the New York Post on Monday, although Moore was the only winner to directly criticize the U.S. president.

Rob Owen, TV editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said: "Love him or hate him, Moore woke up the crowd." A.O. Scott of The New York Times added that Moore's similar remarks at Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards art-films celebration were met with greater approval than at the more mainstream Oscars.

Others making appeals for peace were Nicole Kidman, who won best-actress for "The Hours," and Frank Pierson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Sunday's show was the least-watched Oscar ceremony since Nielsen Media Research began keeping records in 1974, with an estimated 33.1 million people watching -- down sharply from 41.8 million viewers last year.

Questions going into the ceremony about whether a big Hollywood party was appropriate in wartime likely took its toll on the telecast's viewership, Larry Hyams, ABC's chief researcher, said Monday.

While Moore's remarks were polarizing for some, Brody united the crowd in a standing ovation with his soft-spoken, sympathetic speech after winning the best-actor award for playing a Holocaust survivor in "The Pianist."

"Whatever you believe in, if it's God or Allah, may he watch over you and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution," he said, adding: "And I have a friend from Queens who's a soldier in Kuwait right now, Tommy Zarobinski, and I hope you and your boys make it back real soon."

A headline in The Hollywood Reporter trade newspaper stated: "Brody's plea steals thunder from Moore."