'The Artist' triumphs at the 84th Oscars

 

As expected, The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius’s black-and-white silent film, took the Academy Award for best picture last night.

There was good news for the Irish with Terry George's The Shore securing the best live-action short prize.

Mr George who was raised in Belfast, said: "Our little film was inspired by the people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, who, after 30 years of war ... proved to the world the Irish are great talkers."

Speaking backstage, Mr George, who wrote the Guildford Four film In The Name of the Father, said he would celebrate by going back “to the little village" where  the film was shot.

“Already tonight they had an Oscar party at a place called The Anchor Bar, so I’m going to return with the prize, and then hopefully use it to promote, not just the peace process in northern Ireland, but tourism and everything that’s going on there. So I hope that this is just a reaffirmation that things have changed there and that we’re trying to move on and it’s a great place to be.”

Hazanavicius’s film won five Oscars in total, including awards for costume design and original score. Jean Dujardin, suave star of the silent flick, just slipped ahead of George Clooney, nominated for The Descendants, in the race for best actor.

Another ode to old Hollywood, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo also took five awards, but in technical categories including cinematography and art direction.

The Artist had been a favourite for the best picture award since its triumphant premiere at the Cannes Film Festival a full nine months ago.

The crowd swelled when Meryl Streep walked up to accept the best actress prize for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

"I could hear half of America saying: 'Oh no, not her again'," she said as she accepted the Oscar. In fact, it has been 30 years since Streep won her last Academy Award.

Octavia Spencer cried spectacularly while accepting the best supporting actress statuette for her turn as a plucky African-American maid in The Help.

Christopher Plummer, at 82, became the oldest actor ever to win an Oscar when he took the best supporting actor award for his role in Beginners. "You're only two years older than me," Plummer said to his award. "Where have you been all my life."

The award for adapted screenplay went to The Descendants.

Billy Crystal, returning for his ninth turn as presenter, headed up a reassuringly old-fashioned show.

The routines were hokey. The gags were broad.

One particularly ancient tradition was revived when Woody Allen, victorious in the best original screenplay category, failed to turn up to collect his award for Midnight in Paris - his tribute to the city in the 1920s when it was home to expat-American writers including F Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

Allen almost always shuns the ceremony so Angelina Jolie accepted his award on behalf of the academy.

The award for foreign-language film was presented by Sandra Bullock to the Iranian film A Separation, while best documentary feature was won by Undefeated - about an American football team.

Chris Rock gave the award for animated feature film to Rango, made by Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski.

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis presented the award for original song to Flight of the Conchords star Bret McKenzie for his song Man or Muppet from the latest Muppets film.

The award for documentary (short subject) went to Saving Face - about a London-based plastic surgeon who treats Pakistani women maimed in acid attacks while the Oscar for animated short film went to The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr Morris Lessmore.

The audience also saw a tribute to some of the names that have died in the last 12 months including Ken Russell, Whitney Houston and Elizabeth Taylor to the strains of What a Wonderful World performed by Esperanza Spalding.

Additional reporting: PA