|Winner for Best Director for The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius; (below) Uggie the dog celebrates the multiple Oscars for The Artist. (AFP pictures)
Los Angeles, Feb. 27: Flattery will get you everywhere.
The Artist, a love letter to Hollywood, got hugs, kisses and the best-picture Oscar at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony here. The film also took the awards for best actor and best director, in a mini-sweep that found the movie industry paying tribute to not just the movie but to its own roots as well.
I want to thank Billy Wilder (the legendary director), I want to thank Billy Wilder and I want to thank Billy Wilder, said Michel Hazanavicius, the films director, in keeping with a self-referential theme that ruled the evening.
Thomas Langmann, the producer, accepting his award for a mostly silent, black-and-white fable about an actors struggle with the end of silent film, said the achievement was dedicated to his father, the deceased French director Claude Berri.
Until Sunday, no silent film had won the top Oscar since Wings, at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. But nostalgia ruled the night, as Hugo, about another silent star, Georges Méliès, won a string of less prominent awards, and Midnight in Paris, a comic time trip to Paris in the 1920s, took the prize for original screenplay for Woody Allen.
Meryl Streep, a winner for her portrayal of a doddering Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, made her victory look like a shock. But she hadnt won since 1983, even though she reigns as the actor with the most nominations in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with 17 in all. Streep said she could imagine half of America gasping: Oh no! Oh, come on! Why her? Again? as her name was read.
When the only surprise is a victory by Streep, you know things are going by the script. Viola Davis, for her work in The Help, had been considered a strong candidate as the best-actress winner.
Merci, beaucoup, I love you! shouted Jean Dujardin, as he picked up his award as best actor for a movie that was conceived in France, but showered its adoration on the Hollywood of yore.
After a dry spell in the early evening, The Artist gained momentum as the major awards were presented, beginning with a prize for Hazanavicius. The winner unscrolled a long string of French-accented thank yous that included Uggie the dog.
Christopher Plummer, born in 1929, won his first Academy Award, as best supporting actor, for Beginners. Youre only two years older than me, darling — where have you been all my life? said Plummer, in picking up a statuette that was first given for films made in 1927 and 1928.
It was long overdue recognition for Plummer, who had appeared in dozens of films over more than 50 years, and finally won for his portrayal, in Beginners, of a father who in his final years acknowledges being gay.
Congratulations to Mr. Plummer; the average age of the winners has now jumped to 67, joked Billy Crystal, the evenings master of ceremonies.
That was before Woody Allen, 76, won a best original screenplay Oscar for Midnight in Paris, bumping the average age still higher. That film was another nostalgia trip, about literary Paris in the 1920s. In keeping with a personal tradition, Allen was a no-show, and left the Academy to accept its own prize on his behalf.
Closer to present time, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash had just won an adapted-screenplay Oscar for The Descendants. It was welcome recognition for a movie that once appeared among the front-runners for best picture, but seemed to falter as a gruelling, months-long campaign season showered pre-Oscar prizes on The Artist.
There was a dollop of drama to the proceedings.
As the show passed its midpoint, Hugo had made the only show of force. A 3-D tale, set in Paris, it had won five Oscars, for cinematography, art direction, sound editing, sound mixing and visual effects.
Finally, the show settled into its inevitable rhythm of presentation, thanks and congratulatory applause — in a typical Oscar broadcast, only a relatively small sliver goes to production numbers and pranks by the host. But the montage moments kept coming.