Oscars party Crash(ed)

The powerful independent racial drama Crash created a major surprise by winning best picture, while Taiwanese-born filmmaker Ang Lee galloped off with the best director Oscar, becoming the first Asian to win the coveted prize. Crash, the low-budget culture-clash drama which explores racial prejudices among a range of characters who are connected in often surprising ways, garnered six Oscar nominations and won three, for film editing, best original screenplay and best picture. Crash pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Academy Awards history, winning best picture Sunday over the front-runner Brokeback Mountain.

Crash, featuring a huge cast in crisscrossing story lines over a chaotic 36-hour period in Los Angeles, rode a late surge of praise that lifted it past the cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain, a film that had won most other key Hollywood honors. “We are humbled by the other nominees in this category. You have made this year one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American cinema,” said Crash producer Cathy Schulman.

Crash also won for the original screenplay by the film’s director, Paul Haggis, and Bobby Moresco. In a year of challenging films at the Oscars, Crash was one of the fiercest, a portrait of simmering racial and cultural tension among blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and Iranians. The other best-picture nominees emerged either out of Hollywood studios or their art-house affiliates. But Crash was a true Oscar rarity, shot outside the system on a $6.5 million budget, then acquired by independent distributor Lionsgate at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, where the film premiered. Crash became a solid box-office hit, grossing $55 million domestically. Haggis noted that his film defied convention with its tiny budget and release date early in the year, which usually is considered a barrier for Oscar season. “This is the year that Hollywood rewarded rule-breakers,” Haggis said backstage.

The winners are…

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: George Clooney — SYRIANA

Achievement in Costume Design: Colleen Atwood — MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Rachel Weisz — THE CONSTANT GARDENER

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year — TSOTSI (South Africa)

Achievement in Film Editing: Hughes Winborne — CRASH

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman — CAPOTE

Achievement in Cinematography: Dion Beebe — MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Reese Witherspoon — WALK THE LINE

Original Screenplay: CRASH — Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco; Story by Paul Haggis

Achievement in Directing: Ang Lee — BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman — CRASH

Honorary Academy Award: Robert Altman