So the gladiator finally defeated the tiger although he had to fight his way through heavy traffic to do so. But hovering over the night of Oscar celebrations was a feeling that this might be the last big bash before the lights go out in Hollywood. Prognostications were gloomy from both writers and actors who are due to go on strike from as early as May 2 if agreements are not reached in the meantime.
The 73rd academy awards ceremony saw victory in the best picture category for Gladiator, the film directed by British director Ridley Scott but no one film dominated. Gladiator took five Oscars to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's and Traffic's four apiece.
Julia Roberts, the hottest favourite in any category, won the best actress award for playing Erin Brockovich and in an effusive speech thanked "everyone I've ever met in my life... I love the world". Afterwards she said that during her "out of body experience" receiving the award, she had "shamefully" failed to mention Ms Brockovich, the campaigning legal worker who was the subject of the film.
Russell Crowe took the best actor Oscar for his part in and as Gladiator. He said that the award represented the fulfilment of a dream that, for someone who grew up in the suburbs, must seem "vaguely ludicrous". He added: "For anybody who's on the downside of advantage and relying purely on courage - it's possible."
Crowe appeared unworried by the rumour of kidnap which has hung over him for the past two months and the night's host, Steve Martin, got one of the loudest laughs of the night by suggesting that the FBI had named Tom Hanks as a chief suspect. Hanks obligingly hammed up a look of due shame.
Steven Soderbergh, nominated as best director for both Traffic and Erin Brockovich, won for the former and offered his thanks to "anyone who spends part of their day creating", adding that the world would be "unliveable without art."
Billy Elliot, which had won nominations for Stephen Daldry as best director, Julie Walters as best supporting actress and Lee Hall for best screenplay, came away empty-handed although the nominations in themselves were a remarkable achievement for a film operating on a budget a fraction the size of most of its rivals.
One of the few surprises of the evening came when Marcia Gay Harden won the best supporting actress award for her much acclaimed performance in Pollock, the film about painter Jackson Pollock.
Benicio Del Toro won the best supporting actor as predicted in the category in which Albert Finney had been nominated for his Erin Brockovich role. Finney did not attend. Cameron Crowe won the prize for best original screenplay for Almost Famous while Stephen Gaghan won the best adapted screenplay award for his adaptation of the drug saga Traffic from the original British television series. After the ceremony, Cameron Crowe spoke of the threatened strike and said: "I have a lot of sympathy for the writers."
The producer of Gladiator, Douglas Wick, receiving the best picture Oscar, paid tribute to Ridley Scott as embodying the old Noel Coward song Mad Dogs and Englishmen. The costume designer Janty Yates was one of the film's other Oscar winners. Crouching Tiger won Oscars for best foreign language film and art direction.
One of the highlights of the night in the Shrine Auditorium was Björk, dressed with a swan over her shoulder, singing I've Seen It All from Dancer in the Dark, which had been nominated for best song. She said afterwards that acting was "great to try" but she preferred music. Bob Dylan won the award for original song for Things Have Changed in Wonder Boys. and accepted it by satellite while on tour in Australia.
There was an honorary Oscar for the Yarmouth-born Jack Cardiff, the 84-year-old British cinematagropher who won an Oscar back in 1947 for Black Narcissus. Starting as a child actor, he has worked both as a director of photography (on The Red Shoes, Fanny, The African Queen, The Vikings, War and Peace) and as a director (Sons and Lovers, Girl on a Motorcycle). It was the first time that an honorary award had been given to a cinematographer and after receiving it from Dustin Hoffman and a standing ovation from the audience, Cardiff said: "This one tonight is a biggie ... I'm not dreaming but it's mighty close." Producer Dino De Laurentiis won the Irving Thalberg Award for his lifetime's work, receiving his award from Anthony Hopkins. Best documentary went to Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport.
A fleet of stretch limos took the guests to the parties. At Vanity Fair's do at Mortons, photographers suffered a feeding frenzy when Liz Hurley and Pamela Anderson arrived together.
Inside, the guests battling their way past the trays of semi-freddo and Francis Coppola Chardonnay included Sean "Puffy" Combs, Donald Trump, and Hugh Hefner.
The party for the Mexican nominee for best foreign film, Amores Perros, produced the best margaritas. But some of the traditional parties had been cancelled as studios tighten their cummerbunds.
• Video footage and exclusive reports from LA at film.theguardian.com/oscars2001
Gladiator 5 Oscars
Traffic 4 Oscars
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 4 Oscars
The awards in full
Steven Soderbergh (Traffic)
Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)
Best Supporting Actor
Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)
Best Supporting Actress
Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best foreign-language film
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan)
Best music, song
Things Have Changed by Bob Dylan (from Wonder Boys)
Best original music
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Tan Dun)
Best costume design
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Best live action short film
Quiero Ser (I Want To Be)
Best animated short film
Father and Daughter
Best feature documentary
Into The Arms Of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport
Best short Documentary
Best sound editing
Best art direction/set decoration
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Best effects/visual effects
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon