LOS ANGELES – Academy Awards voters have spoken up for The Artist, the first silent film to triumph at Hollywoods highest honors since the original Oscar ceremony 83 years ago.
The black-and-white comic melodrama took four prizes Sunday, including best picture, actor for Jean Dujardin and director for Michel Hazanavicius. Not since the World War I saga Wings was named outstanding picture at the first Oscars in 1929 had a silent film earned the top prize.
The other top Oscars went to Meryl Streep as best actress for The Iron Lady, Octavia Spencer as supporting actress for The Help and Christopher Plummer as supporting actor for Beginners.
The 82-year-old Plummer became the oldest acting winner ever for his role as an elderly widower who comes out as gay in Beginners.
Youre only two years older than me, darling, Plummer said, addressing his Oscar statue in this 84th year of the awards. Where have you been all my life? I have a confession to make. When I first emerged from my mothers womb, I was already rehearsing my Oscar speech.
The previous oldest winner was best-actress recipient Jessica Tandy for Driving Miss Daisy, at age 80.
Completing an awards-season blitz that took her from Hollywood bit player to star, Spencer won for her role in The Help as a headstrong black maid whose willful ways continually land her in trouble with white employers in 1960s Mississippi.
Spencer wept throughout her breathless speech, in which she apologized between laughing and crying for running a bit long on her time limit.
Thank you, academy, for putting me with the hottest guy in the room, Spencer said, referring to last years supporting-actor winner Christian Bale, who presented her Oscar.
Claiming Hollywoods top-filmmaking honor completes Hazanavicius sudden rise from popular movie-maker back home in France to internationally celebrated director.
I am the happiest director in the world, Havanavicius said.
Hazanavicius had come in as the favorite after winning at the Directors Guild of America Awards, whose recipient almost always goes on to claim the Oscar.
Martin Scorseses Paris adventure Hugo won five Oscars, including the first two of the night, for cinematography and art direction. It also won for visual effects, sound mixing and sound editing.
Another beloved big-screen bunch, the Muppets, finally got their due at the Oscars. The Muppets earned the best-song award for Man or Muppet, the sweet comic duet sung by Jason Segel and his Muppet brother in the film, the first big-screen adventure in 12 years for Kermit the frog and company.
Earlier Muppet flicks had been nominated for four music Oscars but lost each time, including the song prize for The Rainbow Connection, Kermits signature tune from 1979s The Muppet Movie.
Woody Allen earned his first Oscar in 25 years, winning for original screenplay for the romantic fantasy Midnight in Paris, his biggest hit in decades.
No fan of awards shows, Allen predictably skipped Sundays ceremony, where he also was up for best director and Midnight in Paris was competing for best picture.
Crystal got the show off to a lively start with a star-laden montage in which he hangs out with Justin Bieber and gets a nice wet kiss from George Clooney.
Back as Oscar host for the first time in eight years, Crystal also did his signature introduction of the best-picture nominees with a goofy song medley.