This story was originally published in Newsday on March 24, 1998
It is the most expensive and most successful movie ever, but Oscar voters last night gave "Titanic" only a share of its last remaining record - most Academy Awards - although the $200-million epic was named best picture and its 11 awards tied it with "Ben Hur" as the biggest winner.
The love-story / disaster movie lost only three of its record 14 nominations: actress, supporting actress and makeup. Its creator, James Cameron, took the Oscar for best director and led the audience at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium in a moment of silence for the 1,500 lives lost in the Titanic disaster.
Helen Hunt's performance as a waitress and single mother in "As Good As It Gets" gave the star of TV's "Mad About You" her first Oscar as best actress, over Kate Winslet, among others. "I'm here for one reason," Hunt told the audience at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, "and that's Jim Brooks, one single reason." Brooks, who directed "As Good As It Gets," was not nominated.
Jack Nicholson won the best actor award for the same movie. His third Oscar on his 11th nomination made him the Academy's most-honored actor.
Kim Basinger was named best supporting actress for her comeback role as a prostitute in "L.A. Confidential." As her husband, Alec Baldwin, led the cheers, Basinger thanked "everyone I ever met in my entire life." "Titanic's" Gloria Stuart, who at 86 was the oldest Oscar nominee, settled for wearing a $20-million necklace from the jeweler Harry Winston.
When Drew Barrymore read the title "Men in Black" for best makeup, the dream of "Titanic" standing alone atop the Oscar record books was dashed.
A joyous, emotional and well-behaved Robin Williams, named best supporting actor as Matt Damon's therapist in "Good Will Hunting," thanked his late father, who agreed his son could be an actor, "but suggested I have a backup profession, like welding."
"Good Will Hunting" also won an Oscar for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck's original screenplay. They each thanked their mothers, who were sitting next to them. "L.A. Confidential," the best-picture choice of most critics, won for best adapted screenplay.
Returning as host of the ABC telecast, Billy Crystal compared the three-hours-plus broadcast to "Titanic": "We are huge, we are expensive, and everybody wants us to go faster."
Indeed, the technical effort that broke the budget for "Titanic" paid off in Oscars for cinematography, visual effects, sound, sound effects editing, costumes, art direction, and editing.
"My Heart Will Go On," sung by Celine Dion - itself the most popular single in radio history - won an Oscar for its creators, James Horner and Will Jennings. Horner's score for the movie also received an Oscar.
In categories without a "Titanic" presence, winners were: Anne Dudley's score for "The Full Monty" as best musical or comedy score, "Geri's Game" as best animated short, "Visas and Virtue" as best live-action short.
Best foreign-language film went to "Character," a Dutch movie made by three-time Oscar winner Mike van Diem."The Long Way Home," about the fate of Holocaust survivors in post-war Europe, brought a second documentary Oscar to Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of Los Angeles' Simon Wiesenthal Center - and, Crystal said, rabbi of the host. "A Story of Healing" received the award for documentary short.
The 3-hour, 40-minute-plus Oscar telecast on ABC was expected to attract the largest non-sports audience of the television season. In what has become his trademark Oscar opening, a montage featuring Crystal inserted into each of the nominated films, he posed nude, was spat on, had his head ducked down a toilet and then dropped his pants, "Full Monty" style.
The telecast changed tradition by grouping performances of the best song nominees and by presenting the best actress award in its first hour.
Producer Gil Cates' desire to speed things along did not extend to the special features that keep the broadcast running past 12:40 a.m., including an alphabetical introduction of living Oscar-winning actors and actresses, and a live appearance by Bart the Bear, star of "The Edge," which received no nominations.