As Oscars Near, Hollywood Blasts Iraq War
By Dean Goodman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters - 22 March) - Hollywood launched a another strike against the Iraqi war on Saturday during a politically charged ceremony that could serve as a prelude for even more fireworks at the Academy Awards the next evening.
In a star-studded luncheon at the Independent Spirit Awards, the arthouse movie industry's version of the Oscars, celebrities blasted President Bush and the American-led war against Iraq.
Most outspoken was documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, the man behind the popular anti-gun expose "Bowling for Columbine," whose title refers to the Colorado high school where two students massacred 13 people in 1999.
"The lesson for the children of Columbine this week is that violence is an accepted means by which to solve a conflict," Moore told the 1,000 attendees gathered under a marquee on Santa Monica Beach as he accepted the Spirit Award for best documentary. "That's the lesson for the kids."
Wearing a badge that said, "Shoot movies, not Iraqis," Moore called Bush a "fictitious president" who was waging "terrorism."
He later told reporters he had spoken to a number of Oscar nominees who said they planned to acknowledge the war in acceptance speeches if they won in their categories. Moore's film is nominated for a best documentary Oscar, but he said he doubted he would win again on Sunday.
Julianne Moore, star of the Independent Spirits' big winner "Far From Heaven," spoke in more measured tones, "We're parents and we teach our children not to fight. Fighting's not the answer," she said as she accepted the best actress prize, one of five won by the 1950s drama.
Moore, who received Academy Award nominations for both "Far From Heaven" and "The Hours," said she would "play it by ear" with regard to any Oscar-night comments about the war. But she was similarly dismissive of her Oscar chances.
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Her co-star, Dennis Quaid, who won for his supporting role as a gay husband, said he did want to "politicize" the Independent Spirits. "It's a strange time for all of us," he told reporters backstage.
Quaid was one of the few guests not wearing a peace lapel pin; he explained that he had just flown in from a shooting in Montreal and was a little disoriented.
Other actors had no qualms about getting political. "Secretary" star Maggie Gyllenhaal, who was a presenter, said the war was about "oil and imperialism."
Actor/filmmaker Mike White, who won for his screenplay for the Jennifer Aniston black comedy "The Good Girl," said, "Let's use a little more spirit this year to get Bush out of office."
It was not all high drama though. The event's host, offbeat director John Waters, said in his opening remarks that these were indeed "scary times." But he added, "Saddam Hussein, George Bush -- no one will stop me from getting my gift bag."
Unlike the Academy Awards, which dispensed with the red carpet this year in order to minimize the frivolity at a grave time, the Independent Spirits maintained its arrivals line, allowing the casually dressed guests to pose for paparazzi and chat with reporters.
Singer/songwriter Elvis Costello set the anti-war tone for the leisurely affair by performing his cover of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" a Nick Lowe song originally written as a parody of peace anthems.
In addition to the actress and supporting actor prizes, "Far From Heaven" won for director (Todd Haynes), best picture and cinematographer (Oscar nominee Edward Lachman).
Best actor prize went to newcomer Derek Luke, star of the urban drama "Antwone Fisher," who recalled that he had been a waiter at the event about four years ago.