The producers of the 81st Academy Awards promised us a different sort of Oscars ceremony this year, and they delivered... sort of. The usually prim-and-proper festivity undid its top button Sunday night, loosening up a tad with some fun but still trotting out the typical here's-your-award-now-make-a-speech formula.
The most exciting part of the night wasn't even finding out who won. For all the major acting awards, five previous winners of the award--unannounced to be presenting--welcomed the pledges to their League of Extraordinary Actors, almost secret society style--all that was missing were ceremonial robes and chanting.
Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner in a night of non-surprises, taking home best picture, best director (Danny Boyle), and a slew of other prizes. Other anti-shockers included Sean Penn for best actor, Kate Winslet for best actress, Heath Ledger for best supporting actor, and Penelope Cruz for best supporting actress.
Overall, the evening was a success because of several smart decisions from the producers. Hugh Jackman was perfectly tolerable as the evening's host, bouncing back and forth between Broadway-style numbers and flashing his suave Aussie smile. The Kodak Theater was intimate enough to feel like we were snooping in on a private ceremony. The best picture nominees were all shown alongside past winners with a common theme. But most of all, it was great that no one got their speech cut off by that buzzkill orchestra.
A partial list of winners is below, for a full list, head over to the official Web site of The Oscars.
Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (Overture Films)
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (Universal)
Sean Penn in Milk (Focus Features)
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in Milk (Focus Features)
Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (Miramax)
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
Angelina Jolie in Changeling (Universal)
Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax)
Kate Winslet in The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in Doubt (Miramax)
Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
Viola Davis in Doubt (Miramax)
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)
Best animated feature film of the year
Kung Fu Panda
Best director of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.) David Fincher
Frost/Nixon (Universal) Ron Howard
Milk (Focus Features) Gus Van Sant
The Reader (The Weinstein Company) Stephen Daldry
Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Danny Boyle
Best picture of the year
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button