'The Hurt Locker' tops Oscars with six

Kathryn Bigelow, left, Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock (Getty)

Kathryn Bigelow wins best director; 'Avatar' takes home three

By reinstituting 10 best picture nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences set out to shake up its 82nd annual awards show and, in the process, ended up making history.

Summit's "The Hurt Locker," with just $14.7 million in domestic grosses, captured a leading six Oscars on Sunday night and defied the odds to emerge as best picture -- defeating five movies that had grossed more than $100 million each domestically, including Fox's "Avatar," the top-grossing movie of all time.

In fact, though the 10 nominees brought a number of studio movies to the party, the indies still ruled with Fox Searchlight's "Crazy Heart" and Lionsgate's "Precious" also winning key awards.

As part of "Locker's" triumphant night, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to receive a directing Oscar, which was presented to her by Barbra Streisand, who appeared to savor the envelope-opening since her own efforts to break down barriers for female directors had been ignored by the Academy in an earlier era.

"There is no other way to describe it, it's the moment of a lifetime," Bigelow said, drawing a deep breath as she accepted her trophy.

"Locker's" success was all the more dramatic given that Hollywood's previous efforts to portray the war in Iraq had drawn mixed critical responses.

Bigelow made a special point of dedicating her directing win to "the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. And may they come home safe."

Eleventh-hour controversies -- some real, some manufactured -- had surrounded "Locker." The Academy even took the unprecedented step of banning financier Nicolas Chartier from the awards after he sent out e-mails urging others to ignore "Avatar" and vote "Locker."


But Greg Shapiro -- who shared in the best picture producing honors along with Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal -- remedied that in his acceptance when he singled out "our intrepid financier and fellow producer, Nicolas Chartier, who bet on this movie when no one else would."

During the course of the 3 1/2-hour evening, masterminded by producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, the momentum seemed to swing back and forth between "Avatar" and "Locker."

An early indicator of "Locker" love came when Boal picked up the award for best original screenplay, snatching it away from Quentin Tarantino, whose "Inglourious Basterds" was considered a strong competitor.

"You honor me and humble me with this," Boal said. Returning from a reporting tour in Iraq, he had an idea that what he'd witnessed might translate to the big screen. But "the result wildly exceeded my expectations," he said -- a fact he attributed to the Bigelow's talent as a director.

"Avatar" quickly marked its turf, though, picking up the first of its three wins with a trophy for art direction, which went to art directors Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg and set decorator Kim Sinclair.

"Avatar" director James Cameron received his first shout-out of the evening when Carter said, "Jim Cameron, this -- this Oscar sees you. Clearly, your vision is so deep."

"Locker" regained territory as Paul N.J. Ottosson took the first of the two sound awards, for best sound editing. He was called right back to the stage when he also won the sound mixing award, along with Ray Beckett.

"Avatar" then rallied as it became the first 3D movie to be honored for its cinematography when that award went to Mauro Fiore. "I want to thank the visionary Jim Cameron for an amazing vision of the film," the Italy-born lensman said.

The technologically groundbreaking movie also claimed the Oscar for best visual effects. Said Joe Letteri, " 'Avatar' is a film about learning to see the world in new ways, and for that extraordinary inspiration I have to thank our director, James Cameron."

But then when a key award, best editing, went to "Locker's" husband-and-wife team of Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, the war movie's ultimate victory began to look preordained.

Said Murawski, "Thank you to the Academy for giving the award to this movie that was made without compromise."

While the unpredictable "Locker"-vs.-"Avatar" showdown played out, the four acting awards followed a more predictable path.

His fifth nomination proved to be the charm for Jeff Bridges, who was hailed as best actor for his performance as a weary country singer in "Crazy Heart."

The son of the late actors Lloyd Bridges and Dorothy Dean Bridges, he held his Oscar high as his peers rewarded him with a standing ovation. "Mom and Dad, yeah, look," he exclaimed. "Thank you, Mom and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession. Oh, my mom and dad, they loved showbiz so much. ... I feel an extension of them. This is honoring them as much as it is me."

By contrast, Sandra Bullock scored on her first nomination. Her turn in "The Blind Side" as a suburban mom who takes an interest in a homeless black student proved a hit with both the public and the Academy, which bestowed its best actress award on the performer previously known more for her light comedies.

"Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?" Bullock joked before turning more serious, offering lavish praise to her fellow nominees, while also acknowledging Leigh Anne Tuohy, whom she plays in the film and who was in the audience.

Finally, Bullock addressed her mother, Helga, thanking her "for not letting me ride in cars with boys until I was 18 because she was right: I would've done what she said I was gonna do. For making me practice every day when I got home. Piano, ballet, whatever it is I wanted to be. She said to be an artist, you had to practice every day. And for reminding her daughters that there's no race, no religion, no class system, no color, nothing, no sexual orientation that makes us better than anyone else."

As the awards show hit its halfway mark, Mo'Nique, the comic who turned dramatic actress in "Precious," was invited to the stage to accept the award for best supporting actress.

Her fierce performance as an abusive mother made her just the fourth black actress to win in the category; the first, Hattie McDaniel, won for 1939's "Gone With the Wind," and Mo'Nique paid tribute to her predecessor by wearing gardenias in her hair.

A number of awards-season commentators had criticized the actress for her refusal to visit every stop on the Oscar campaign trail, but she addressed that in her acceptance speech by thanking the Academy "for showing it can be about the performance and not the politics." She went on to acknowledge McDaniel "for enduring all that she had to so I would not have to."

She concluded with a special word of thanks to her husband, Sidney, "for showing me that sometimes you have to forgo doing what's popular in order to do what's right."

Christoph Waltz, as expected. picked up the night's first trophy when he was named best supporting actor for his performance as a cruelly seductive Nazi in "Basterds."

The Austria-born actor used his moment in the spotlight to pay tribute to Tarantino: "With his unorthodox methods of navigation," he said, "this fearless explorer took this ship ... and brought it in with flying colors. And that's why I'm here."

There were, however, several other surprises.

While Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's adapted screenplay for "Up in the Air" was viewed by many as the favorite, Geoffrey Fletcher earned the award for "Precious." In his emotional thank-you, he admitted to drawing a blank, and he did forget to mention the author whose name is encapsulated in the movie's full title, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." But before leaving the stage, he insisted, "this is for everybody who works on a dream every day, precious boys and girls everywhere."

The Argentine film "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" (The Secret in Their Eyes), directed by Juan Jose Campanella and distributed by Sony Pictures Classics, also pulled off something of an upset by beating out better-known titles including France's "A Prophet" and Germany's "The White Ribbon."

No surprise on the toon front, though, as Pixar's "Up" rose aloft with the prize for best animated feature film. Director Pete Docter thanked Pixar and Disney "for believing in this oddball film," the tale of an old man who hitches his house to a flotilla of balloons and just floats away.

The lilting music for "Up" also translated into a best score Oscar for Michael Giacchino. Recalling that when he first began making home movies, his parents never told him what he was doing was a waste of time, the composer addressed his remarks to "kid outs there who do not have a support system," telling them "if you want to be creative, go out there and do it. It is not a waste of time."

Meanwhile, Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett took home best song honors for their country tune "The Weary Kind (Theme From 'Crazy Heart' ").

With big commercial hits including "Avatar," "Up" and "Blind Side" battling it out with indie efforts such as "Locker," "Precious" and "Heart," this year's Oscar broadcast, which ABC aired live from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, was looking to rope in the widest possible audience.

There certainly was lots of emotion on display as eyes throughout the house grew moist. Boal looked to be tearing up when Bigelow accepted the first of her awards. "Precious" director Lee Daniels appeared equally moved by Fletcher's win. And Gabourey Sidibe had to brush away tears when Oprah Winfrey offered praise for her performance in "Precious."

As if to emphasize the star power on hand, the show's producers opened with all 10 nominees for best actor and best actress walking onstage together.

Neil Patrick Harris then kicked off the proceedings by leading a kick line of chorus boys and girls, who in turn gave way to a Ziegfeld-like entrance by the night's hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, who descended from the rafters.

At the Governors Ball afterparty, Academy president Tom Sherak said: "The producers did a great job. They took this show exactly in the direction the board of governors wants it to go. The highlight for me was the kid dancers segment. To see how Adam (Shankman) took the choreography from where it was when they started to what ended up on the show was just fantastic."

The full list of nominees (winners in bold):

Best picture

"The Blind Side"
"District 9"
"An Education"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"A Serious Man"
"Up in the Air"

Best actor
Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"
George Clooney, "Up in the Air"
Colin Firth, "A Single Man"
Morgan Freeman, "Invictus"
Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker"

Best actress
Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
Helen Mirren, "The Last Station"
Carey Mulligan, "An Education"
Gabourey Sidibe, "Precious"
Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia"

Best supporting actor
Matt Damon, "Invictus"
Woody Harrelson, "The Messenger"
Christopher Plummer, "The Last Station"
Stanley Tucci, "The Lovely Bones"
Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"

Best supporting actress
Penelope Cruz, "Nine"
Vera Farmiga, "Up in the Air"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Crazy Heart"
Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"
Mo'Nique, "Precious"

Best director
James Cameron, "Avatar"
Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Lee Daniels, "Precious"
Jason Reitman, "Up in the Air"

Best foreign-language film
"Ajami," Israel
"El Secreto de Sus Ojos," Argentina
"The Milk of Sorrow," Peru
"Un Prophete," France
"The White Ribbon," Germany

Best adapted screenplay
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, "District 9"
Nick Hornby, "An Education"
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche, "In the Loop"
Geoffrey Fletcher, "Precious"
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air"

Best original screenplay
Mark Boal, "The Hurt Locker"
Quentin Tarantino, "Inglourious Basterds"
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, "The Messenger"
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, "A Serious Man"
Bob Peterson, Pete Docter and Tom McCarthy, "Up"

Best animated feature film
"Fantastic Mr. Fox"
"The Princess and the Frog"
"The Secret of Kells"

Best art direction
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"Nine" "Sherlock Holmes"
"The Young Victoria"

Best cinematography
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"The White Ribbon"

Best sound mixing
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek"
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"

Best sound editing
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"
"Star Trek"

Best original score
"Avatar," James Horner
"Fantastic Mr. Fox," Alexandre Desplat
"The Hurt Locker," Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
"Sherlock Holmes," Hans Zimmer
"Up," Michael Giacchino

Best original song
"Almost There" from "The Princess and the Frog," Randy Newman
"Down in New Orleans" from "The Princess and the Frog," Randy Newman
"Loin de Paname" from "Paris 36," Reinhardt Wagner and Frank Thomas
"Take It All" from "Nine," Maury Yeston
"The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" from "Crazy Heart," Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Best costume design
"Bright Star"
"Coco Before Chanel"
"The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus"
"The Young Victoria"

Best documentary feature
"Burma VJ"
"The Cove"
"Food, Inc."
"The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers"
"Which Way Home"

Best documentary short
"China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province"
"The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner"
"The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant"
"Music by Prudence"
"Rabbit a la Berlin"

Best film editing
"District 9"
"The Hurt Locker"
"Inglourious Basterds"

Best makeup
"Il Divo"
"Star Trek"
"The Young Victoria"

Best animated short film
"French Roast"
"Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty"
"The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)"
"A Matter of Loaf and Death"

Best live-action short film
"The Door"
"Instead of Abracadabra"
"Miracle Fish"
"The New Tenants"

Best visual effects
"District 9"
"Star Trek"