Iran rescue drama 'Argo' wins Academy Award for best picture

Oscar snub? What Oscar snub?

Like the six Americans spirited out of Iran in early 1980, Ben Affleck made it out of Oscar season alive -- and clutching the golden statuette for best picture for "Argo." Any perceived or real slights about his directing skills were lost in the Hollywood hoopla Sunday night at the Dolby Theatre.

Mr. Affleck, talking in double or triple time as the clock struck midnight on the East Coast, said, "I never thought I would be back here," but "Argo" took the top honor at the 85th Academy Awards where "Lincoln" star Daniel Day-Lewis entered the record books and best actress Jennifer Lawrence learned the meaning of "Silver Linings Playbook."

Mr. Day-Lewis, the actor who wore the title role of Abraham Lincoln like a custom stove-pipe hat, became the only man in Hollywood history to win three best actor Oscars. The son of an English poet laureate, Mr. Day-Lewis was born in London but is now an Irish citizen.

He seemed humbled by the wave of adoration lapping onto the stage of the Dolby Theatre.

"Three years ago, before we decided to do a straight swap, I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher," he quipped about the role that won presenter Meryl Streep her third Academy Award a year ago. "Steven [Spielberg] didn't have to persuade me to play Lincoln, but I had to persuade him that perhaps if I was going to do it that 'Lincoln' shouldn't be a musical."

He works infrequently, but when he is on screen -- and off, he stays in character -- he is exacting, whether portraying the 16th president of the United States, an oil prospector or an Irishman with severe cerebral palsy who learned to write and paint with his toes.

"Since we got married 16 years ago, my wife, Rebecca, has lived with some very strange men. They were strange as individuals and probably even stranger if taken as a group, but luckily she's been the versatile one in the family, and she's been the perfect companion to all of them."

Even over Skype, director David O. Russell knew he had found his Tiffany for "Silver Linings Playbook" in Ms. Lawrence. She's been a comic charmer on the awards and interview circuit, joking about her weight and Spanx, weathering pneumonia while sitting through fancy galas and quoting "The First Wives Club" when she beat Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes.

Ms. Lawrence, looking more glamorous than ever on the night she was crowned best actress, was dressed in a pale pink strapless gown by Dior Haute Couture accessorized with diamond earrings and a necklace, which had the long loop draped down her back.

She hugged her co-star Bradley Cooper and mother and then tripped on the way to the stage but received a standing ovation and promptly said, "You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell, and that's really embarrassing, but thank you."

Ms. Lawrence thanked women, nominated and otherwise, for being so "magnificent" this year and took care to wish fellow nominee Emmanuelle Riva from "Amour" a happy 86th birthday.

The Kentucky-born actress, who is 22, spent three seasons on TBS's "The Bill Engvall Show" and came to most moviegoers' attention with her Oscar-nominated performance in "Winter's Bone" and as "The Hunger Games" heroine Katniss Everdeen.

First Ang Lee made a 3-D movie out of the "unfilmable" novel, "Life of Pi" by Yann Martel. Then his film earned 11 Oscar nominations (one fewer than "Lincoln") and $113 million at the box office in North America.

On Sunday, he finished his movie magic act by winning the best directing prize for his folk parable about faith and spirituality. He was nominated for directing and producing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and won for directing "Brokeback Mountain" the year "Crash" prevailed as top picture.

"Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, movie god. I really need to share this with all 3,000, everybody who worked with me on 'Life of Pi,' " and for believing in the story and accompanying him on the journey of bringing it to screen.

His gratitude extended to Taiwan, his Indian crew, his Canadian crew, his wife of nearly 30 years and -- in a line that brought a laugh -- his agent. He punctuates his list with "I love you" after each person, country or group.

Anne Hathaway's winning streak continued with a supporting actress Oscar for playing the singing, starving, closely shorn unwed mother turned dying prostitute in "Les Miserables." Fantine is booted from her factory job and ends up selling her precious locket, hair, some of her teeth and, finally, herself.

Clad in an icy pink Prada gown, which she chose three hours before the red carpet, the newlywed kissed her husband, Adam Shulman, and singled him out in her speech. "By far and away, the greatest moment of my life was when you walked into it."

She had started her thank-you somewhat breathlessly, by staring at the 8.5-pound statue in her arms and acknowledging, "It came true."

After a string of acknowledgements, including to co-star Hugh Jackman, she said, "Here is hoping that some day in the not too distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and nevermore in real life."

After years of turning girls and their moms into speechless, quivering admirers thanks to "Princess Diaries," Ms. Hathaway turned the corner with adult fare such as "Rachel Getting Married" and "Love and Other Drugs." Not to mention a sexy Catwoman costume.

If Austrian-born actor Christoph Waltz were playing a real-life version of "What Have You Become?" as on "Saturday Night Live" when he hosted, he could answer "two-time Oscar winner."

Previously honored for his Nazi colonel in "Inglourious Basterds," Mr. Waltz reunited with director Quentin Tarantino and walked away a supporting actor winner for "Django Unchained" in which he is a bounty hunter and onetime dentist.

He started by bowing to his competitors and thanked his co-stars Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington along with the character and its creator, Mr. Tarantino.

"We participated in a hero's journey, the hero here being Quentin. You scale the mountain because you're not afraid of it. You slay the dragon, because you're not afraid of it, and you cross through fire because it's worth it," Mr. Waltz said, apologizing for borrowing his bounty hunter's words.

It was two hours and five minutes in a slow-moving show before "Argo" took its first Oscar, for film editing. Chris Terrio took the second for his adapted screenplay for "Argo" and dedicated his award to CIA exfiltration expert Tony Mendez (played on screen by Mr. Affleck) for "using nothing but his creativity and intelligence" to help rescue the Americans trapped in Iran after the 1979 takeover of the Tehran embassy.

Quentin Tarantino, his tie loosened three hours into the ceremony, picked up the original screenplay for "Django Unchained" and credited his actors for shaping his legacy.

"I actually think if people are knowing about my movies 30 or 50 years from now, it's gonna be because of the characters that I created. I only have one chance to get it right, I have to cast the right people to make those characters come alive and hopefully live for a long time. And boy, this time, did I do it."

It was two hours and 20 minutes before "Lincoln" got on the big board for production design.

Halle Berry, who rocked one of the most famous Bond girl bikinis in "Die Another Day," introduced a tribute to the "sights, sounds and music" of James Bond in the past half-century. Dame Shirley Bassey, in a golden gown and fingertip gloves, belted out "Goldfinger" as if she were 36 instead of 76 years old and received the first standing ovation of the night.

In a night with far more music and dance than usual, Catherine Zeta-Jones injected razzle-dazzle into "All That Jazz" and Jennifer Hudson delivered a knockout "Dreamgirls" number which earned her the second standing ovation of the night and gave way to a rousing "Les Miserables" medley and the third standing O.

It took 36 years to lure Barbra Streisand back to the stage of the Oscars as a singer. The reason was a mournful one: She sang the Academy Award-winning theme song from "The Way We Were" as a tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, who died last August. She added a personal note by closing the song with "the way you were."

It was a new powerhouse in music, Adele, who shared the Academy Award for original song for "Skyfall" with Paul Epworth, who called his collaborator "the best person I ever worked with."

The Academy love affair with "Amour" swept Michael Haneke to the stage to accept the Oscar for best foreign film while Ms. Riva -- looking far younger than her 86 years -- watched from the audience at the Dolby Theatre as he thanked her and co-star Jean-Louis Trintignant.

"Life of Pi" also picked up the awards for original score, visual effects and cinematography while Jacqueline Durran won her first Oscar for the costume design of "Anna Karenina," and Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell took the makeup and hairstyling honor for "Les Miserables."

The Oscar for best animated feature, given far earlier than usual in the ceremony, went to "Brave," accepted by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews, appropriately clad in a kilt. Their appearance was a sign that awards shows make for strange bedfellows; Ms. Chapman, inspired by her daughter, originated the project, which was later handed over to Mr. Andrews.

She has called the period afterward devastating and "heartbreakingly hard" but told reporters backstage the Academy Award helped to make up for that.

As expected, "Searching for Sugar Man" (back on screen at the Harris Theater, Downtown) was named best documentary. In one of the more emotional moments of the night, the once-homeless girl from "Inocente" joined the makers of the documentary short subject about her on stage.

Winners Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine made a plea to help artists such as Inocente, a formerly illegal Mexican-American who landed a solo art show thanks to a nonprofit San Diego program. Rick Witkowski of Weirton, W.Va., and Vanessa Campagna of Beaver Falls were part of the team contributing original music to "Inocente."

"Paperman," an elegant love letter to romance, took the animated short honor while "Curfew" won for best live action short film. In an Oscar rarity, "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty" tied in the sound editing category.

Ties, by the way, are rare but not unheard of, as when Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied for best actress of 1968 for, respectively, "Funny Girl" and "The Lion in Winter."

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Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: First Published February 25, 2013 5:45 AM


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