'Avatar' is big loser in historic night for women
Kathryn Bigelow secured her place in Oscars history yesterday, becoming the first woman to win Best Director and doing so at the expense of her former husband.
Bigelow's nail-biting Iraq War drama, 'The Hurt Locker', also won Best Picture and set another, less welcome record: it is the lowest-grossing winner of all time.
Academy voters delivered a resounding snub to 'Avatar', James Cameron's 3D blockbuster. It was the night's biggest loser, nominated for nine awards but winning only three in technical categories.
Cameron and Bigelow were once married to each other, a fact which added a unique element to this year's awards race. Mischievous ceremony organisers seated Cameron directly behind his former wife in the Kodak Theatre, ensuring that the cameras caught his increasingly forced smile as Bigelow's film took prize after prize.
'The Hurt Locker' won six in all -- a remarkable feat for a film that cost just $15m (€11m) to make and which few cinema-goers have seen. It barely caused a ripple at the box office, taking only $13m (€9.5m) in the US.
'Avatar', on the other hand, is the highest-grossing film of all time, with takings of $2.5bn (€1.8bn). Only weeks ago, it was a front-runner for Best Picture winner, but a Hollywood backlash against Cameron saw its chances nosedive.
Bigelow (58) appeared stunned by her success. "There's no other way to describe it, it's the moment of a lifetime," she said.
The film follows a US Army bomb-disposal team and features a cast of unknowns. Bigelow dedicated it to all military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Her film is poised is to make history as the first winner of the Best Picture Oscar to amass more in DVD sales than it did in the cinema.
Recognition by the Academy has now given Bigelow's film a new lease of life. Since it began creating buzz on the awards circuit at the beginning of the year, it has sold more than one million copies on DVD and Blu-Ray. Sales are expected to increase sharply this week on the back of the film's Oscar success.
Aside from the Best Picture category, it proved to be one of the most predictable Oscar ceremonies in recent memory.
Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges won the acting prizes, for 'The Blind Side' and 'Crazy Heart' respectively.
It was Bullock's first nomination in a career that has scored several box-office hits but rarely troubled the critics.
"Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?" she joked on stage during a tearful acceptance speech.
Bridges, widely seen as one of the best actors never to win an Oscar, succeeded at his fifth attempt.
"Thank you Mom and Dad for turning me on to such a groovy profession," he shouted after picking up his gong.
As expected, Christoph Waltz took the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as an SS colonel in 'Inglourious Basterds', while Mo'Nique won Best Supporting Actress for 'Precious'.
Besides Richard Baneham's Special Effects award, Ireland went home empty-handed.
Animations 'Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty' and 'The Secret Of Kells' and short film 'The Door' lost out in their categories at the ceremony.
The event was co-hosted by actors Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. The pair traded punch- lines and barbs as they gently teased this year's nominees.
"There's that damn Helen Mirren," said Martin at one point, to which Baldwin replied: "Steve, that's Dame Helen Mirren."
The one unexpected moment was provided by Elinor Burkett, co-producer of the Best Documentary Short Film winner, 'Music by Prudence'.
Ms Burkett left the project in acrimonious circumstances and decided to register her protest by invading the stage to interrupt director Roger Ross Williams' acceptance speech.