Miramax and Paramount Vantage were the narrow winners at a largely
workmanlike 80th Annual Academy Awards with No Country For Old Men claiming four Oscars for best film, directing and adapted screenplay for Joel and Ethan Coen and supporting actor for Javier Bardem.
There Will Be Blood, which like No Country For Old Men was parented by
Miramax and Paramount Vantage, won a pair of statuettes for Daniel
Day-Lewis' lead performance as the deranged oilman Daniel Plainview
and Robert Elswit's cinematography.
The prospects for Paul Thomas Anderson's Upton Sinclair adaptation had surged in recent weeks, however in the final reckoning No Country For Old Men just about had enough in the tank to translate its awards season supremacy into victory last night.
Atonement and Michael Clayton, which each entered the night with seven
nominations, earned best score for Dario Marianelli and supporting
actress for Tilda Swinton's turn as a machiavellian chief counsel,
In fact, Swinton's stunned reaction was one of the few genuinely entertaining moments of the telecast as she came from leftfield to deny Cate Blanchett her second supporting actress trophy (after The Aviator)for her performance as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There.
'I really just had a reverse Zoolander moment when I think I heard
someone else's name and suddenly slowly heard my own,' Swinton told reporters backstage.
The two other emotional highlights also came from deserving female
winners who hadn't been runaway favourites heading into the ceremony.
A shocked and tearful Marion Cotillard took the top actress prize for her rendering of the legendary French singer Edith Piaf in La Vie En
Rose, which Picturehouse released in North America.
'You rocked my life,' Cotillard told the film's director Olivier Dahan from the stage. 'You truly rocked my life.'
Diablo Cody also had a hard time fighting back tears as she accepted the original screenplay award for Fox Searchlight's wildly successful comedy Juno.
Universal's The Bourne Ultimatum finished the night as the second most
honoured film with three Oscars (the studio won four overall including
best costume design for Elizabeth: The Golden Age.)
Christopher Rouse won for his editing and there were victories in the sound categories for sound editors Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg and sound mixers Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis.
Buena Vista's latest Pixar film Ratatouille had long been regarded as
a shoo-in for the animated Oscar and so it proved to be.
Accepting the award, director and screenwriter Brad Bird thanked his high school guidance counsellor whose stubborn refusal to accept film-making as a viable career 'gave me the perfect training for the movie business.'
Bird also thanked 'all the dreamers who are supporting a rat who
Stephan Ruzowitzky's holocaust tale The Counterfeiters from Austria
won the best foreign language category in a lightweight field that
will be remembered more for the films the Academy left out - notably
Cristian Mungiu's Romanian Palme d'Or winner 4 months, 3 Weeks & 2
Days and Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's Persepolis.
Nonetheless it would take a churlish observer to begrudge Ruzowitzky
his triumph or deny the poignancy of his acceptance speech.
'There have been some great Austrian film-makers working here, thinking of Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Preminger,' he said.
'Most of them had to leave my country because of the Nazis, so it sort of makes sense that the first Austrian movie to win an Oscar is about the
Alex Gibney was equally sobering as he collected the documentary prize
for Taxi To The Dark Side, a harrowing investigation into the US
Administration's use of torture in the war on terror that THINKFilm
released in North America.
'Let's hope we can turn this country
around, move away from the dark side and back to the light,' Gibney
said after revealing that his late father, a former Navy interrogator,
had urged him to make the film.
Alexandra Byrne won best costume for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Byrne
said director Shekhur Kapur wanted the costumes to reflect Elizabeth's
journey towards immortality and divinity 'and he also said he felt
instinctively he saw Elizabeth wearing the color blue, which meant
that it was immediately out of the comfort zone of the first film.'
Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald took best make-up honours for
transforming Cotillard into an ageing Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose.
The art direction prize was awarded to Dante Ferretti (art direction)
and his wife Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration) for
DreamWorks/Warner Bros Pictures International's Sweeney Todd, the
pair's second Oscar since The Aviator three years ago.
Visual effects artists Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and
Trevor Wood won their first Oscar for New Line's The Golden Compass.
Effects supervisor Fink told reporters backstage afterwards that he
believed the film's 'delicate intimacy and character performance' gave
it the edge in a 'huge' category distinguished by spectacle.
Dario Marianelli's score was the sole winner of the night for Focus
Features' Ian McEwan adaptation Atonement. Glen Hansard and Marketa
Irglova were hugely popular winners in the best original song category
for Falling Slowly from Once.
In the short film categories, Philippe Pollet-Villard won the live
action section for Le Mozart Des Pickpockets, Suzie Templeton and Hugh
Welchman took the animated prize for Peter & The Wolf and Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth's Freeheld took the documentary prize.
Overall the Oscar telecast was a good-humoured yet restrained affair.
Given that the writers strike that had threatened to derail this event
for so long finally came to a close two weeks ago, the show seemed
hastily put together.
There were numerous montages of past winners to fill the time, production values were elegant yet unremarkable and
host Jon Stewart's material was safe and rarely raised more than a