Hollywood turned its attention from 3-D spectacle to the harsh realities of modern warfare by naming The Hurt Locker as 2009's best film, at Sunday night's 82nd annual Academy Awards.Set in Iraq among U.S. soldiers assigned to disable terrorist bombs, the movie won six Oscars, including an historic best director prize for Kathryn Bigelow. The film's neck-and-neck rival in nominations (9), the sci-fi epic Avatar, won three technical prizes. ∂ Bigelow dedicated her prize and, later, the best picture award to "the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. May they come home safe." ∂ Bigelow made Oscar history when she was named best director, the first woman ever to win that distinction. ∂ "This really is, um, there's no other way to describe it; it's the moment of a lifetime," Bigelow said.
The Dude has style
"The Dude" abided in style when Jeff Bridges was named best actor of 2009 for Crazy Heart, a character study of a boozy country music has-been regaining his character.
Bridges, 60, a Hollywood darling since his father Lloyd made the TV series Sea Hunt, cashed in his fifth Oscar nomination and accepted with the kind of laid-back affability he showed in the cult favorite, The Big Lebowski.
Bridges' triumph is the culmination of a strange trip for Crazy Heart, even by Hollywood standards. Expected to be a straight-to-video release, the low-budget movie was picked up by Fox Searchlight and selected for a late-2009 release, hoping Bridges' performance could be recognized.
Bridges received a long standing ovation while he looked to the heavens and waved his statuette to his deceased parents.
"Thank you, Mom and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession," he said.
Sandra Bullock couldn't resist stopping by to see fellow nominee Meryl Streep on her way to picking up the best actress Oscar. This time, they didn't kiss. Streep shooed Bullock off to receive the prize she has been doing everything possible to win over the past month.
Bullock thanked the academy and praised her competition, singling out each woman for praise, and alluded to a moment at the People's Choice Awards when she and Streep comically locked lips.
"Meryl, you know what I think of you, and you're such a good kisser."
Hosts keep it bouncing
Sunday night's broadcast of the 82nd annual Academy Awards may have dragged here and there, but it can't be blamed on co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, who descended from above the stage after a bouncy, suggestive song-and-dance bit by Neil Patrick Harris. Martin and Baldwin, who co-starred with best actress nominee Meryl Streep in the holiday hit It's Complicated, made her the brunt of several jokes only buddies can crack, including a reference to her "collection of Hitler memorabilia." It was the first time the Oscars have relied on more than one host since 1987, when Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan had the gig.
Best supporting actor
Christoph Waltz won the award in his first trip to the Oscars, playing the bilingual Nazi "Jew Hunter" in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. His award was presented by last year's best supporting actress (and nominee for Nine this year), Penelope Cruz. "Oscar and Penelope, that's an uber-bingo," Waltz said, in a callback to a line his character gleefully delivers in the offbeat World War II drama.
Homage to Hughes
The longest segment of the show's first hour was a tribute to filmmaker John Hughes, who died in 2009 of a heart attack. The creator of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and other models of 1980s teen movies was saluted by several actors he directed, including Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer, Judd Nelson, Macauley Culkin, and Matthew Broderick. Each spoke of their admiration for the filmmaker who essentially launched their careers. Broderick then introduced members of Hughes's family in attendance, and signed off with the title of one of Ferris' favorite songs: Danke Schoen.
On their shoulders
Mo'Nique used her acceptance speech for best supporting actress to praise a cultural trailblazer, whose movie career inspired hers:
"First, I would like to thank the academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics. I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she had to, so that I would not have to."
Mo'Nique is reportedly in negotiations to portray McDaniel — the first African-American to ever win an Oscar, for supporting actress in Gone with the Wind — along with Precious director Lee Daniels, a nominee Sunday night.
Mo'Nique then turned her attention to husband Sidney Hicks, who supported her early resistance to Oscar campaigning, which included skipping the traditional nominees luncheon/photo-op to tape her TV show. She also reportedly demanded compensation for appearances to promote the movie, which she denied. That could have been a rumor planted in step with the very politicking Mo'Nique resisted.
"Sometimes you have to forgo doing what's popular in order to do what's right," Mo'Nique said to Hicks, "and baby, you were so right."
Dedicated to the troops
Keeping the show front-loaded with key categories, Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. presented the best original screenplay Oscar to Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker. Boal was an embedded journalist in Iraq, where he found the inspiration for his script. Currently, a member of the platoon Boal worked with is suing the writer and others for using his experiences without compensation. That didn't come up in Boal's acceptance speech.
"You honor me and humble me with this, more than you know," Boal said onstage. "I was a reporter back from Iraq with the idea for a story about these men on the front lines of an unpopular war. I thought it might make a movie. The results have wildly exceeded my wildest expectations. … I'd like to dedicate this to the troops: the 115,000 who are still in Iraq, the 120,000 in Afghanistan, the 30,000 wounded, and the 4,000 who have not made it home."
Hero to all species
The Cove was named best documentary feature of 2009. Director-producer Louis Psihoyos gave a hearty shout-out to marine conservation activist Ric O'Barry, whose intrepid investigation of dolphin herding and slaughters in Japan inspired the movie. "My hero, Ric O'Barry, who is not only a hero to this species but to all species, and the man who came up with the idea." O'Barry was onstage, holding a placard for his cause: "Text DOLPHIN 44144."