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Hollywood's big stars arrive for Oscars

Written by: Staff

LOS ANGELES, Mar 6: Led by George Clooney and Heath Ledger, Hollywood's biggest stars descended on the Kodak Theatre for the 78th annual Oscars ready for what could be the closest battle for best movie in years.

Gay romance ''Brokeback Mountain'' comes into the night as the favorite for the top film award, but it has faced stiff competition from race relations drama ''Crash,'' and three other nominees, thriller ''Munich'' from director Steven Spielberg and moral dramas ''Good Night, and Good Luck,'' and ''Capote.'' Several of the nominated films and performances, such as ''Brokeback,'' feature gay subject matter and characters, leading many Hollywood movers, shakers and beautiful people to think that Oscar might have a taboo-breaking night.

But movies, like art, often reflect the subjects that are on the minds of people, the show's producer Gil Cates told Reuters outside the Kodak on the glamour-filled red carpet.

''If you want a sense of what America is like, you'll watch the Oscars,'' Cates said yesterday.

''Brokeback,'' about two lonely cowboys who fall into a love that spans decades, is joined by ''Capote,'' about openly gay author Truman Capote's reporting for his book ''In Cold Blood.'' Philip Seymour Hoffman, who portrays the writer, is nominated for best actor. Likewise, TV star Felicity Huffman is nominated for best actress portraying a transsexual man on the verge of becoming a woman in ''Transamerica.'' Both Hoffman and Huffman face strong competition. Hoffman faces Terrence Howard as a pimp who longs to be a rapper in ''Hustle&Flow,'' and Ledger portraying one of the gay cowboys in ''Brokeback.'' Huffman faces her biggest competition from Reese Witherspoon as June Carter in the Johnny Cash biographical movie, ''Walk the Line.'' CLOONEY LEAVES THEM LAUGHING Clooney is nominated in three categories, best supporting actor for playing a weary CIA agent in ''Syriana,'' best directing and best writing for ''Good Night.'' But on the carpet, Clooney told reporters he believed his chances were low. ''This gives me three opportunities to lose, which is really exciting ... We're rather unburdened by success at these events which makes it much easier,'' he quipped.

Thousands of fans lined up to catch glimpses of their favorite stars dripping in diamonds and the strode up the red carpet. There was Britain's Rachel Weisz, nominated for best supporting actress for ''The Constant Gardener,'' and newcomer Amy Adams, nominated in the same group for ''Junebug.'' Despite the many message movies -- ''Munich'' tackles government-ordered assassinations and Palestinian foreign language film nominee ''Paradise Now'' is about suicide bombing -- there were few protests outside the Kodak.

''Paradise Now'' has angered some Israelis who believe it condones suicide bombing, but outside the Oscars, its director, Hany Abu-Assad said he thought all the talk about his movie was good.

''I think it's very good to have different reactions because with different reactions you generate discussion, and discussion is a good thing,'' he said.

Much as it has throughout Hollywood's award season, ''Brokeback'' swept through Saturday's Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. The Spirit awards are one of the top honors among independent films.

''Paradise Now'' was named best foreign film, and the big-business morality tale ''Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room'' won for best documentary at the Spirit awards.

Both are competing for Oscars in their respective fields.

''Paradise Now'' has strong competition from South Africa's ''Tsotsi'' and Germany's ''Sophie Scholl - The Final Days.'' ''Enron'' faces competition from popular nature film ''March of the Penguins,'' whose French filmmakers lightened up the scene on the red carpet. They came with their dates: stuffed toy penguins wearing tuxedo bowties.


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