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Landreth's Ryan wins

Canadian Press

Canada struck Oscar gold Sunday night as Ryan, an innovative digitally animated short by the National Film Board's Chris Landreth, won in the best animated short category.

"I am here tonight because of the grace and humility of one guy watching from Montreal," the bearded Landreth said in accepting his award.

"Ryan Larkin, I dedicate this award to you," he added, referring to the subject of his film, a fellow NFB animator from the 1960s who fell on hard times, succumbing to drugs and alcohol. Currently a panhandler on the streets of Montreal, Larkin was watching the proceedings from his favourite bar in that city.

Landreth, from Toronto, also thanked his producers, Copper Heart Entertainment and the film board.

"You guys are visionaries in Canadian filmmaking."

He also had thanks for his crew, for (Toronto's) Seneca College, where student animators helped complete the project, and for the Canada Council which provided financial support.

"And finally to the Academy for continuing to support short filmmaking in all its forms. I cannot tell you how cool that is."

One of the major Canadian contenders at the awards was London, Ont., native Paul Haggis who was up for best adapted screenplay for Million Dollar Baby. But Haggis was the first Canadian to go down to defeat when the award was won by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for Sideways.

There was still a Canadian connection, though, since Ottawa-born actress Sandra Oh not only had a major role in the film, but is married to Payne.

Earlier on the red carpet, there was plenty of Canuck-content outside the Kodak Theatre.

Mike Myers said "hi" to his mom. Spike Lee expressed his regrets to Canadians who have been denied their NHL hockey. Oprah Winfrey said she loved all of Canada.

"Thank you for talking to my country," Toronto-native Myers said to Scarlett Johansson while the two chatted with CTV's Ben Mulroney.

"I thought I'd be exiled otherwise," Johansson quipped in return.

Myers asked if he could say hello to his mother and brother, and noticed that Mulroney's chin bore a resemblance to his ex-prime minister father's. Later, Annette Bening agreed.

Myers voiced the title character in Shrek 2, which was up for best animated feature.

Asked if the Shrek phenomenon was more than he expected, Myers said only that he was happy to have a job.

Moments later, while talking to Star Jones-Reynolds on another red-carpet TV show, Myers was asked if he was concerned that Oscar host Chris Rock might step on a few toes.

"I think that Chris is a genius. I think that whoever has their toes stepped on are in very good company."

Speaking earlier on the red carpet Haggis had praise for star/director Clint Eastwood for whom he's already written what he expects will be Eastwood's next film project.

"I'm just grabbing onto his coattails and hanging on as long and as hard as I can. He's an amazing man to work with."

Haggis denied reports he had rejected Sandra Bullock for the lead role in Million Dollar Baby, but "I'd always seen Hilary (Swank) in this role right from when I wrote it. She was a natural athlete ... so I knew she could embody it."

Newcomer Hubert Davis, the first-time B.C. filmmaker whose Hardwood was in the running for best documentary short, was also present. Davis did not win.

"Hardwood is really a story of my dad who played for Harlem Globetrotters for 18 years, but it's also about my family and their courage to come forward and tell their story," he said prior to the ceremonies.

"Keep your fingers crossed," he added, with his father Mel and his Canadian producers Peter Starr of Kitchener, Ont., and Erin Faith Young of the National Film Board in tow.

Bening and husband Warren Beatty told Mulroney that they recalled having dinner with Mulroney's dad at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"This is my biggest success," Beatty said about his wife's best-actress nomination for Julia, which was produced by Toronto's Robert Lantos.

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