- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2000

LOS ANGELES "American Beauty," a movie about a dysfunctional suburban family trying to cope with life's changes, won the Oscar for best film of 1999 at the Academy Awards last night.

Kevin Spacey won his second Academy Award last night for playing an alienated suburban husband in "American Beauty," and Hilary Swank, who portrayed a woman passing as a man in "Boys Don't Cry," won best actress.

Mr. Spacey played Lester Burnham, an upper-middle-class man who, sparked by his lust for his teenage daughter's friend, dumps social convention in British director Sam Mendes' first feature film. It was the second Academy Award for Mr. Spacey who won best supporting actor for "The Usual Suspects."

Sam Mendes won the Oscar for best director for his work on "American Beauty," the quirky comedy about a dysfunctional suburban American family.

It was the first Academy Award for Miss Swank, who leapt from virtual obscurity a year ago to hot Oscar favorite after winning a string of other trophies, including a Golden Globe.

Michael Caine, who played an orphanage headmaster in "The Cider House Rules," won his second best supporting actor Oscar. Angelina Jolie, who played a disruptive mental patient in "Girl, Interrupted," won for supporting actress a generation after her father took home an Oscar.

"The Matrix," the story of a computer hacker who discovers life is a big illusion, won four Oscars for film editing, sound, sound effects editing and visual effects.

John Irving won an Oscar for the best screenplay adapted from a novel for his "The Cider House Rules." Alan Ball won for best original screenplay for "American Beauty."

Mr. Caine, 67, who previously won as supporting actor for "Hannah and Her Sisters" in 1986, seemed overwhelmed by the applause that greeted the announcement by Judi Dench and he saluted his fellow nominees.

"I'm basically up here, guys, to represent you as what I hope you will all be a survivor," Mr. Caine told the star-studded Shrine Auditorium audience.

Miss Jolie, 24, thanked her father, Jon Voight, a best actor winner for "Coming Home" and nominee for "Midnight Cowboy," saying: "Dad, you're a great actor but a better father."

Pop star Phil Collins scored the best original song award for his sentimental "You'll be in My Heart" from the animated Disney film "Tarzan." It was his first win in three nominations.

Mr. Collins thanked his three children, who, he said, "really wrote this song for me."

The award followed a rousing performance of the bawdy "Blame Canada" from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." Robin Williams led the chorus in a production number, even though the show's producers swore there would be none.

Best original score went to John Corigliano for "The Red Violin." The art direction trophy went to "Sleepy Hollow."

"Topsy-Turvy," a drama about the creation of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta "The Mikado," won two awards for makeup and costume design.

The live action short award went to "My Mother Dreams the Satan's Disciples in New York," and animated short Oscar went to "The Old Man and the Sea." Documentary honors went to the short "King Gimp" and the feature "One Day in September."

Spain's "All About My Mother" won best foreign film, prompting one of the night's humorous moments. When director Pedro Almodovar's acceptance speech began to run long and presenter Antonio Banderas pretended to pull him off the stage.

"American Beauty" topped most critic lists going into the ceremony, and it was named best picture in Friday's controversial Wall Street Journal poll of 356 of the 5,607 voting Academy members.

Scientific or not, the survey was "American Beauty's" clincher for best buzz going into the Oscar show, broadcast on ABC with Billy Crystal as host.

The poll's other favorites also seemed to reflect pre-Oscar conventional wisdom: Denzel Washington for leading actor in "The Hurricane," Hilary Swank for leading actress in "Boys Don't Cry," Mr. Caine for supporting actor in and Miss Jolie for supporting actress.

When nominations were announced, "American Beauty" and "The Cider House Rules" were leading contenders for best picture. The standing of "The Cider House Rules" heightened as Miramax put on an ad blitz. DreamWorks countered with a campaign for "American Beauty."

Warren Beatty was named for the Irving Thalberg Award for a high level of producing. Among his producer credits: "Bonnie and Clyde," "Shampoo," "Reds" and "Dick Tracy."

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