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Ang Lee makes Oscar history with victory

Taiwanese director becomes first Asian filmmaker to win top honor
/ Source: Reuters

Taiwan-born Ang Lee won the best director Oscar Sunday for gay cowboy romance “Brokeback Mountain” but was graceful in defeat when the movie failed to win Hollywood’s top prize.

The film, based on a short story by Annie Proulx, has become a box office success and a hit with critics, but its chances at the Oscars had been questioned by industry watchers given the film’s gay subject matter.

“Brokeback Mountain” missed out on the best picture Oscar, which went to racial drama “Crash”.

Modest and mild-mannered, Lee offered his congratulations to the cast and crew of “Crash” whose Oscar win was announced while he spoke to reporters backstage.

Lee said he wanted to thank the two characters at the heart of “Brokeback” for his award. “Their names are Ennis and Jack. They taught all of us so much, not just about all the gay men and women in our society but just as important (about) the greatness of love itself.”

Lee, who was born in Taiwan and came to the United States in 1978, has become a master at probing the sensibilities of cultures other than his own. Lee, whose martial-arts epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” won the foreign-language Oscar five years ago, became the first Asian filmmaker to win Hollywood’s main filmmaking honor.

His films range from intimate dramas about dysfunctional families like “The Ice Storm” to period English pieces like “Sense and Sensibility”, martial arts (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and comic book adaptations such as “Hulk”.

Accepting his award, Lee said; “I just did this movie after my father passed away. More than any other, I made this for him ... Also everyone in Taiwan, Hong Kong, China — thank you,” he said. Lee also thanked his wife and two children.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives out the awards, passed over Lee for best director five years ago when he was nominated and expected to win for ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Lee has said he never expected “Brokeback” to meet the strong reception it has. “I thought it was a small work of love,” he told Reuters in January. “I never thought it would play like this.”

On Sunday he said the movie had renewed his appetite for filmmaking. “It certainly changed me. Before I got into this movie I was very tired ... I almost wanted to retire, I just felt I had had it. This movie taught me how to look at myself, how to manage myself and enjoy making them.

“I think we sensed that there is some calling, some need to do some movies ...  and then somehow the society catches up, it’s meant to happen. I don’t think we planned it, we spoke to our heart. The audience is very hungry for respect ... for complexity, for maturity,” he said.

The film has earned $79 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices — a mighty sum for a low-budget film meant to play mainly in arthouse cinemas.

Lee’s effort with “Brokeback” earned him many accolades this award season including the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe trophy and the best director award from the Directors Guild of America.