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Biggest Surprise: Binoche's Victory

Reaction: 'Don't stand in the way of a moving steamroller,' says one Hollywood insider.


Juliette Binoche's upset win for best supporting actress over Lauren Bacall was the talk of the industry Monday night--at least the talk of some insiders watching the Oscar telecast from the comfort of their homes.

Binoche, the French star of best picture winner "The English Patient," upstaged the film legend, who had expected to win. That award--and emcee Billy Crystal's inspired opener--seemed to get the biggest responses from those industry insiders polled while they watched from home.

"Binoche is the lesson on this one. Don't stand in the way of a moving steamroller," said entertainment attorney David Colden. "That was the biggest surprise. But the Kodak moment was definitely seeing Muhammad Ali and George Foreman on stage [more than] 20 years later. It just goes to show that real life has more exhilarating endings than the movies."

For Reuben Cannon, one of the producers of Spike Lee's tribute to the Million Man March, "Get on the Bus," the award given to "Jerry Maguire" co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. for best supporting actor was the highlight of the evening. "In this family, that and the honor to [the documentary "When We Were Kings"] brought tears to our eyes. It brought back memories of what we had celebrated the night before."

The night before was the 17th annual Black Oscars Dinner, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel with 180 attending. It is a little-publicized, private ceremony staged by members of the African American entertainment community the night before the Oscars. It is not affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' awards show.

Cannon was one of 12 honored Sunday night for their involvement in film last year. Among those receiving a special recognition award and taking home an African statuette of the Tree of Life, made by the Makonde Tribe of Tanzania and Mozambique, were Gooding; Lee; Marianne Jean-Baptiste ("Secrets & Lies"); Irma P. Hall ("A Family Thing"); Samuel L. Jackson ("A Time to Kill"); Queen Latifah ("Set It Off"); Reggie Rock Bythewood ("Get on the Bus" screenwriter); Will Smith ("Independence Day"); Regina King ("Jerry Maguire"); Bruce Smith ("Space Jam" animation co-director); and Robert L. Johnson, chairman of Black Entertainment Television, who plans to launch a 24-hour channel that will show films showcasing black talent.

Proceeds from the $175-per-person dinner benefit the African-American Sports Entertainment Foundation, which in turn donates the money to other black charities.

Ironically, Gooding, the only African American to win Monday night, was the only no-show among honorees Sunday night.

"That's OK. We're glad he won. His acceptance speech was worth it," Cannon added. "Up to now Sally Field had the best acceptance speech when she said, 'You really like me.' Cuba just raised the bar."

Colden put it another way: "The world now knows Cuba Gooding was not acting when he did 'Jerry Maguire.' "

Aside from Gooding, praise was heaped on Crystal's opener. "It was better writing than most of the studio pictures this year," Colden joked.

Added one producer who didn't want to be named: "It certainly was the highlight . . . except of course for Binoche. For Bacall it was snubbed again."

Alan Ladd Jr., who took home the best picture Oscar last year as a producer of "Braveheart," said: "I've known Lauren for quite awhile and I know this had to be a disappointment. Binoche was a very big surprise."

Billy Bob Thornton's win for best screenplay adaptation in "Sling Blade" was a win for Ladd as well. "That was one I voted for."


The Scorecard for the Night

The top winners at Monday night's Academy Awards:

"The English Patient": 9

"Fargo": 2

"Shine": 1

"Sling Blade": 1

"Jerry Maguire": 1

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