The 84th Academy Awards ceremony had a distinct French accent as The Artist came out the big winner with five Oscars, including those for best picture, best director and best actor.
In a ceremony dominated by just two films, Hugo, which went into the event with 11 nominations to The Artist’s 10, also came away with five statuettes, though its wins were in below the line categories including cinematography and art direction.
Among other films with multiple nominations, The Descendants, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Help emerged with one Oscar each. Moneyball and War Horse, which each went in with six nominations, came away empty handed.
At the close of what was a fairly predictable and mostly non-controversial ceremony, the team from The Artist - including canine star Uggie - joined presenter Tom Cruise on the stage of the Hollywood & Highland Center to celebrate adding the best picture Oscar to the film’s recent top prizes at the Cesars and the Independent Spirit Awards.
Producer Thomas Langmann paid tribute to French industry giant Claude Berri and director Michel Hazanavicius thanked Billy Wilder - three times over.
Backstage, Hazanavicius was asked if he will now make a film in Hollywood. “I hope I will make a movie here,” he replied. But, he added, “It won’t be the next one.”
Star Jean Dujardin had earlier given a lively acceptance speech - and his thanks to silent movie star Douglas Fairbanks - when he accepted the Oscar for best lead actor. Backstage, Dujardin was asked if he planned to work in America. “I’m a French actor,” he said, joking that “If I could make another silent movie in America I’d like to.” He also admitted that his acceptance speech had included a French language expletive.
Other winners from the Artist team were Mark Bridges for costume design and Ludovic Bource for music.
One of the few serious notes of the night was struck when writer-director-producer Asghar Farhadi accepted the foreign language film Oscar for Iran’s A Separation. Farhadi said that Iranians around the world would welcome the award in part “because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”
Speaking backstage Farhadi said he did not know how news of the award would be taken by the Iranian government. “When this film was nominated,” he said, “some were very happy, some were excited and some were not as happy… To me what matters is that the people of Iran are happy.”
Accepting her best actress award for The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep, for whom this was a third acting Oscar, was more lighthearted. “When they called my name,” she said, “I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh no, why her again?’”
At 82, Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar when he took the best supporting actor award for Beginners. Looking at his trophy, he said: “You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all my life?”
Octavia Spencer got a big round of applause when she accepted the best supporting actress Oscar for her performance in The Help.
Woody Allen was not on hand to accept his original screenplay Oscar for Midnight in Paris but Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash from The Descendants stepped up for their adapted screenplay statuette.
Gore Verbinski’s Rango was named the year’s best animated feature and Undefeated, from T J Martin (who delivered the night’s only on-stage F-bomb), Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas, the best documentary feature.
Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall took the editing Oscar for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Mark Coulier and J Roy Helland won in the make-up category for The Iron Lady.
Hugo made a strong start to the evening as cinematographer Robert Richardson won the ceremony’s first award. Also for their work on Hugo, Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo took awards in the art direction category, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty won for their sound editing work, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley won for sound mixing and Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossmann and Alex Henning for visual effects.
Terry and Oorlagh George’s The Shore, from Northern Ireland, was named best live action short, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Saving Face best documentary short and William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore best animated short.
Backstage Terry George said he hoped The Shore would be used to promote “not just the peace process in Northern Ireland, but tourism and everything that’s going on there. So I hope that this is just a reaffirmation that things have changed there and that we’re trying to move on and it’s a great place to be.”
The ceremony was ably hosted (for the ninth time) by Billy Crystal, who stepped in to replace Eddie Murphy. At the start of the evening, Crystal welcomed the audience to “the beautiful Chapter 11 Theatre,” referring to the fact that Kodak recently pulled out of its naming deal for the theatre where the awards were presented after filing for bankruptcy.
The show included the traditional remembrance segment - which noted the passings of Elizabeth Taylor, Cliff Robertson, John Calley, Ken Russell, Bingham Ray, Laura Ziskin, Sidney Lumet, Sue Mengers and Steve Jobs, among others - as well as a musical number from Cirque du Soleil.
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Octavia Spencer, The Help
BEST ANIMATED PICTURE
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Midnight in Paris
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Iron Lady
Man or Muppet, The Muppets
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
LIVE ACTION SHORT
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT