Oscar winners spoiler alert: best supporting-actor, best animated film
By DAVID GERMAIN
AP Movie Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Christoph Waltz won the supporting-actor Academy Award on Sunday for his role as a sociable fiend of a Nazi in “Inglourious Basterds,” while the blockbuster “Up” was named best animated feature.
The first award of Oscar night went to Austrian-born Waltz, a veteran stage and television actor in Europe who had been virtually unknown in Hollywood before Quentin Tarantino cast him as the prattling, ruthless Jew-hunter Hans Landa in his World War II saga.
His award was presented by last season’s supporting-actress winner, Penelope Cruz, who gave Waltz a kiss as he took the stage.
“Oscar and Penelope. That’s an uber-bingo,” Waltz said.
The Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker” won its first category of the night, original screenplay for Mark Boal, who spun a story about the perils and pressures of a U.S. bomb unit in Iraq.
With nine nominations, “The Hurt Locker” tied for the Oscar lead with the science-fiction epic “Avatar.” The competition between the front-runners does not heat up until later in the night, the two films nominated in categories that mostly come in the second half of the Oscar show.
The evening’s last two categories, best director and picture, mark the two films’ main rivalry, which is spiced up by a personal connection between “Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow and “Avatar” director James Cameron. They were married from 1989-91.
Cameron took the directing prize at the Golden Globes, but Bigelow earned the top honor from the Directors Guild of America, whose recipient almost always wins the same award at the Oscars.
If it happens, Bigelow would be the first woman in the 82-year history of the Oscars to win best director.
Screenwriter Boal thanked Bigelow, calling her an “extraordinary and visionary filmmaker,” and dedicated his Oscar win to the troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with those who did not make it home. Boal also affectionately recalled his father, who died a month ago.
For Waltz, an Oscar seemed a foregone conclusion since last May, when “Inglourious Basterds” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and won him the acting prize there.
Waltz delivers a virtuoso performance as charming but deadly opportunist Landa, expertly flinging about Tarantino’s manic dialogue in four different languages.
The actor creates one of the great screen heavies, a lovably loathsome psycho who gets an agonizing comeuppance at the hands of Brad Pitt, playing the leader of a band of Allied Jewish commandos that terrorizes the enemy, collecting German scalps and carving swastikas into Nazis’ foreheads.
“Quentin with his unorthodox methods of navigation, this fearless explorer, took this ship across and brought it in with flying colors, and that’s why I’m here,” Waltz said. “This is your welcoming embrace, and there’s no way I can ever thank you enough.”
“Up” earned the third-straight Oscar award for Disney’s Pixar Animation, which now has won five of the nine awards since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences added a category for animated features.
The film features Ed Asner providing the voice of a crabby widower who flies off on a grand adventure by lashing thousands of helium balloons to his house.
“Never did I dream that making a flip-book out of my third-grade math book would lead to this,” said “Up” director Pete Docter.
Pixar has a likely contender in the wings for next Oscar season with this summer’s “Toy Story 3,” reuniting voice stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
The country-music tale “Crazy Heart” won for original song with its theme tune “The Weary Kind.”
The song category typically comes late in the show, after live performances of the nominees that have been spaced throughout the ceremony. Oscar producers tossed out those live performances this time in favor of montages featuring the songs and footage from the films they accompany.
“The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” lead an expanded field of 10 best-picture nominees.
Either movie would represent a first at the Oscars. Cameron’s “Avatar” would be the only science-fiction film ever to take home the best-picture prize. While war films have done well at the Oscars, Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” would be the first winner centered on the war on terror, a subject that has stirred little interest among movie audiences shell-shocked by news coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The other eight films competing for best picture: the football drama “The Blind Side,” the sci-fi thriller “District 9,” the British teen tale “An Education,” the World War II saga “Inglourious Basterds,” the Harlem story “Precious: Based on the Novel ’Push’ by Sapphire,” the Jewish domestic chronicle “A Serious Man,” the animated adventure “Up,” and the recession-era yarn “Up in the Air.”
Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin opened the show with playful ribbing of nominees, including Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Woody Harrelson, Mo’Nique, Cameron and Bigelow. They also made note of Oscar organizers’ decision to double the best-picture category from five films to 10.
“When that was announced, all of us in Hollywood thought the same thing. What’s five times two?” Martin said.
Leaders of the Academy widened the best-picture category from the usual five films to expand the range of contenders for a ceremony whose predictability had turned it into a humdrum affair for TV audiences.
Oscar ratings fell to an all-time low two years ago and rebounded just a bit last year, when the show’s overseers freshened things up with lively production numbers and new ways of presenting some awards.
The overhaul continues this season with a show that farmed out time-consuming lifetime-achievement honors to a separate event last fall and hired Martin and Baldwin as the first dual Oscar hosts in 23 years.
Four first-time winners are expected to triumph in the acting categories.
Audience darling Bullock is the best-actress favorite for “The Blind Side,” which brought her the first Oscar nomination of her career. Jeff Bridges, nominated four times previously without a win, looks like a lock for best actor for the country-music tale “Crazy Heart.”
Both Bullock and Bridges already had won other awards this weekend. At Friday’s Spirit Awards honoring independent film, Bridges earned the best-actor prize for “Crazy Heart.”
On Oscar eve Saturday night, Bullock won the worst-actress prize at the Razzies for her romantic comedy flop “All About Steve.” A good sport about her worst-actress nomination throughout awards season, Bullock was a rare winner who showed up to accept her Razzie, tugging a little red wagon full of DVDs of “All About Steve” for the Razzies audience.