LOS ANGELES » Flattery will get you everywhere.
"The Artist," a love letter to Hollywood, got hugs, kisses and the best-picture Oscar on Sunday at the 84th Academy Awards ceremony. The film also took the awards for best actor and best director, in a minisweep 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, I want to thank Billy Wilder and I want to thank Billy Wilder," said Michel Hazanavicius, the film’s 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 actor’s struggle with the end of silent film, said the achievement was dedicated to his father, 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 Melies, won a string of less prominent awards, and "Midnight in Paris," a comic time-trip to Paris in the 1920s, took the best original screenplay prize 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 hadn’t won since 1983, even though she reigns as the actor with the most nominations in Academy history, 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 Meryl 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!" Jean Dujardin shouted, 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.
» Picture: "The Artist"
Oscar winners previously presented this season:
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After a dry spell in the early evening, "The Artist" gained momentum as the major awards were presented, beginning with a prize for Hazanavicius, its director. 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." "You’re only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?" Plummer said, in picking up a statuette that was first given for films made in 1927 and 1928.
It was long-overdue recognition for Plummer, who appeared in dozens of films for more than 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 the host, Billy Crystal.
That was before Woody Allen, 76, won a best original screenplay Oscar for "Midnight in Paris," bumping the average age still higher. The film was another nostalgia trip, about literary Paris in the 1920s. In keeping with a personal tradition, moreover, Allen was a no-show, and left the Academy to accept its own prize in 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 to among the front-runners for best picture but seemed to falter as a grueling, months-long campaign season showered pre-Oscar prizes on "The Artist."
"Rango" was the animation winner, from director Gore Verbinski and Paramount Pictures. Both DreamWorks Animation, which had "Kung Fu Panda 2" in the running, and Walt Disney’s Pixar Animation, which had no nominee in the category, had watched their grip on the prize slip to Verbinski, who had never before made an animated film.
Elizabeth Taylor was the capper in an especially crowded memorial sequence that paid tribute to one after another among the film figures who died in the past year. Actor Ben Gazzara, movie executive John Calley and Oscar show producers Gil Cates and Laura Ziskin were among them.
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.
"Man or Muppet," Bret McKenzie’s composition for "The Muppets," won the best original song Oscar.
Backstage, McKenzie modestly allowed that his song couldn’t hold a candle to Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher’s "The Rainbow Connection," which has been Kermit the Frog’s theme song through the years.
That song was a classic, McKenzie said; his own, he contended, was nothing by comparison. Somewhere in that was a lesson for the night.
Sandler gets record Razzie nominations
SANTA MONICA, Calif. » When Adam Sandler’s bad, he’s really bad, according to voters for the Razzies, an Academy Awards spoof that singles out the worst movies of the year. Sandler received a record 11 nominations Saturday for the Razzies as star, producer or writer on three 2011 movies: "Jack and Jill," "Just Go with It" and "Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star."
That more than doubled the previous record of five nominations given Eddie Murphy for "Norbit" in 2007.
"It’s almost karmic for someone to have made that much razz-able stuff in one year," said Razzies founder John Wilson. "He has angered someone really powerful, I would say."
Along with "Bucky Larson" and "Jack and Jill," worst-picture contenders are "New Year’s Eve," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" and "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1."
Razzie winners are announced on April Fool’s Day.
On the Net
» www.razzies.com, for a complete list of nominees