LOS ANGELES – The Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker” won best picture and five other prizes Sunday at the Academy Awards, its haul including best director for Kathryn Bigelow.
Bigelow is the first woman in the 82-year history of the Oscars to earn Hollywood’s top prize for filmmakers.
“There’s no other way to describe it. It’s the moment of a lifetime,” Bigelow said. “It’s so extraordinary to be in the company of my fellow nominees, such powerful filmmakers, who have inspired me and I have admired, some of them for decades.”
Among those Bigelow and “The Hurt Locker” beat are ex-husband James Cameron and his sci-fi spectacle “Avatar.” Bigelow and Cameron were married from 1989 to 1991.
Cameron was seated right behind Bigelow at the Oscars and joined a standing ovation for her, clapping vigorously and saying, “Yes, yes” after she won.
First-time winners took all four acting prizes: Sandra Bullock as best actress for “The Blind Side”; Jeff Bridges as best actor for “Crazy Heart”; Mo’Nique as supporting actress for “Precious”; and Christoph Waltz as supporting actor for “Inglourious Basterds.”
The Oscar marks a career peak for Bridges, a beloved Hollywood veteran who had been nominated four times in the previous 38 years without winning. Bridges, who played a boozy country singer trying to clean up his act, held his Oscar aloft and thanked his late parents, actor Lloyd Bridges and poet Dorothy Bridges.
“I feel an extension of them. This is honoring them as much as it is me,” Bridges said.
Bullock, an industry darling who had never before been nominated, won for her role as a wealthy woman who takes in homeless future NFL star Michael Oher, who was living on the streets as a teen.
The award wraps up a wild year for Bullock, who had box-office smashes with “Blind Side” and “The Proposal” and a flop with “All About Steve,” which earned her the worst-actress trophy at the Razzies the night before the Oscars.
“Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?” Bullock asked the Oscar crowd. Bullock gushed with praise for her fellow nominees, including Meryl Streep, who she joked is “such a good kisser.”
The supporting-acting winners capped remarkable years – Mo’Nique startling fans with dramatic depths previously unsuspected in the actress known for lowbrow comedy, and the Austrian-born Waltz leaping to fame with his first big Hollywood role.
“I would like to thank the academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics,” said Mo’Nique, who plays the heartless, abusive welfare mother of an illiterate teen in the Harlem drama “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.”
“Precious” also won the adapted-screenplay Oscar for Geoffrey Fletcher.
“This is for everybody who works on a dream every day. Precious boys and girls everywhere,” Fletcher said.
Though a veteran stage and TV actor in Europe, Waltz was unknown in Hollywood before Quentin Tarantino cast him as the prattling, ruthless Jew-hunter Hans Landa in his World War II saga.
“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.”
“Avatar” won three Oscars, for visual effects, art direction and cinematography, beating “The Hurt Locker” for the latter. “The Hurt Locker” also won out over “Avatar” for film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.
With nine nominations each, “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” came in tied for the Oscar lead.
“Hurt Locker” screenwriter Mark Boal, who won the Oscar for original screenplay, and dedicated his Oscar win to the troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with those who did not make it home.
Joining Bigelow to collect the best-picture Oscar were her fellow “Hurt Locker” producers Boal and Greg Shapiro. A fourth producer – financier Nicolas Chartier – was barred from attending as punishment for violating awards rules by sending e-mails to Oscar voters urging them to back “The Hurt Locker” over “Avatar.”
Oscar overseers said Chartier still will receive his Oscar, but at a later time.
With just $12.6 million domestically, “The Hurt Locker” is the lowest-grossing film to win best picture in this modern era of detailed box-office bookkeeping.
“Up” earned the third- straight feature-animation Oscar for Disney’s Pixar Animation.
“Crazy Heart” also won for original song with its theme tune “The Weary Kind.”