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Million Dollar day for Dirty Harry

Los Angeles, Feb. 28 (Reuters): The Oscars made Clint Eastwood's day, giving the former Dirty Harry star best director and best picture awards for his heart-breaking boxing drama Million Dollar Baby.

In doing so, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences dealt a body blow to esteemed director Martin Scorsese, who lost his seventh Oscar bid, despite making such celebrated films as Raging Bull and Taxi Driver.

His epic Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the visionary airline executive, claimed five Oscars, including the prize for best supporting actress for Cate Blanchett but no other major awards.

Hilary Swank won the second Oscar of her career for playing a young woman who persuades a grizzled boxing coach to reluctantly train her for a title shot in Million Dollar Baby. And Morgan Freeman was crowned best supporting actor for his performance as Eastwood's ageing sidekick.

It was Freeman's first Oscar victory after three previous nominations. He was one of two black actors who triumphed on Sunday night ' Jamie Foxx, as expected, won the best actor's award for his work as blind soul singer Ray Charles in Ray.

Eastwood, who became the oldest man to win a best director's Oscar at 74, said he was disappointed for Scorsese. 'I kind of was a little bit disappointed when they started building a competition between Marty and myself because I have the utmost respect for him.'

Eastwood also thought his last big Oscar contender, Mystic River, should have won the Academy Award for best picture last year but got 'hobbitised' ' a reference to runaway Oscar triumph of The Lord of Rings: The Return of the King.

He thanked his mother, who accompanied him to the Kodak Theatre event. 'So at 96, I'm thanking her for her genes,' he joked. 'I'm just lucky to be here, lucky to be still working,' he said, before adding that he still felt like 'just a kid' when he saw honorary Oscar winner Sidney Lumet up on stage.

He called Million Dollar Baby a 'wonderful adventure'. 'To make a picture in 37 days takes a well-oiled machine and that well-oiled machine is the crew, the cast ...'

In contrast to the small-budget feel to Eastwood's film, which cost an estimated $30 million, Scorsese's The Aviator is a classic blockbuster recreating Hollywood's golden age from the 1920s onward and cost around $110 million to make. Speaking to reporters on the famed red carpet before the awards ceremony, Scorsese was gracious before defeat, and described the nail-biting moments for nominees as the winners are announced.

'I've been coming to the Academy Awards since 1975, but you don't get used to it ... it's still scary when they open that envelope,' said the 62-year-old. 'It's a moment of real suspense, but you have to keep it in perspective ... the film won 11 nominations.'

The night's most emotional moment belonged to Foxx when he talked about the grandmother who raised him. Tears welled in his eyes when he said she was his first acting teacher. She taught him to 'stand up straight, put your shoulders straight, and act like you've got some sense,' he said.

Spain's The Sea Inside (Mar Adentro) was named best foreign language film.

Leading up to the Oscars, officials at ABC television that airs the show to tens of millions of viewers fretted over what show host, comedian Chris Rock, might say onstage and instituted a five-second delay. But while Rock lived up to his reputation, the delay did not appear to be needed.

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