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Silence is golden: 'The Artist' wins 5 Oscars

Published February 27, 2012 12:12 am

Silent film's director and star also honored; Scorsese's 'Hugo' also wins five awards.
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In a night that bowed to tradition and Hollywood history, the Oscar for Best Picture fittingly went to the first silent movie to win the award since the first year they were handed out.

"The Artist," a black-and-white throwback to the dawn of the talkies, took five Academy Awards in a ceremony Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

"Sometimes life is wonderful, and today is one of those days," said the movie's French director, Michel Hazanavicius, upon winning the Oscar for directing.

Besides its wins for Best Picture and director, "The Artist" won for lead actor Jean Dujardin's portrayal of George Valentin, a silent-movie hero coming to grips with the changes in his industry.

The French actor Dujardin, in his acceptance speech, mentioned the inspiration of the silent swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks — who, he mentioned, was emcee of the first Oscar ceremony in 1929. (The Best Picture winner that year was the World War I flying drama "Wings," the only other silent movie to take Hollywood's top prize.)

"If George Valentin could speak, he would say, 'Wow!,' " said Dujardin, adding "Formidable!" and a few more French exclamations as he was dancing off the stage.

"The Artist" also won Oscars for its musical score and costume design.

The award for Best Actress went to the legendary Meryl Streep for her portrayal of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

It was Streep's third Oscar and her record 17th nomination, but her first win since winning for "Sophie's Choice" at the 1983 ceremony.

"When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear all of America go, 'Oh, no! Not her again,' " Streep said during her acceptance speech.

Streep also thanked her husband, the artist Don Gummer, and her make-up artist and hair stylist Roy Helland, who has worked with Streep on every movie since "Sophie's Choice." Helland and Mark Coulier shared the make-up Oscar for their work on "The Iron Lady."

An actor born a few months after the first Oscar ceremony, 84-year-old Christopher Plummer, won the supporting-actor award for his role as a septugenarian coming out of the closet and battling cancer in writer-director Mike Mills' "Beginners."

"When I emerged from my mother's womb, I was already rehearsing my Academy Award acceptance speech," Plummer said when accepting his Oscar.

Plummer thanked Mills, his wife ("Who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for coming to my rescue") and his co-star Ewan McGregor, "Who I would happily share this award with, if I had any dignity. But I don't."

Octavia Spencer, a comparative newcomer, won the supporting-actress honor for her role as feisty maid Minny Jackson in the Southern period drama "The Help."

A somewhat flustered Spencer thanked what she called "all her families" — "My family in Alabama, the state of Alabama, my family in Los Angeles, and 'The Help' family."

In sheer numbers, Martin Scorsese's family fantasy "Hugo" tied "The Artist" for Oscars, with five. All were in the craft and technical categories: Cinematography, art direction, sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects.

The ceremony itself was often hearkening back to old Oscar traditions — like having last year's acting winners present the awards to this year's crop.

Billy Crystal returned for his ninth stint as host, launching with his customary montage in which he inserts himself into the Best Picture nominees. His opening monologue and musical number were plagued with sound problems, and Crystal's unfortunate habit of laughing at his own jokes.

Crystal seemed to sense his worldwide audience crying out "Get on with it!" — or maybe he was reading the Twitter traffic. The telecast raced to finish in three hours and 14 minutes, a minute shorter than last year's show, and tying with the 2005 ceremony as the shortest in a quarter-century. —

The winners

Best Picture • "The Artist"

Actor • Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"

Actress • Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"

Directing • Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"

Supporting Actress • Octavia Spencer, "The Help"

Supporting Actor • Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Cinematography • "Hugo"

Art Direction • "Hugo"

Animated Short Film • "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"

Animated Feature Film • "Rango"

Adapted Screenplay • Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"

Original Screenplay • Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"

Foreign Language • "A Separation," Iran

Supporting Actor • Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Original Score • "The Artist"

Sound Mixing • "Hugo"

Sound Editing • "Hugo"

Makeup • "The Iron Lady"

Costume Design • "The Artist"

Documentary (short subject) • "Saving Face"

Live Action Short Film • "The Shore"

Documentary Feature • "Undefeated"

Visual Effects • "Hugo"

Film Editing • "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"

Original Song • "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets"






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