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‘The Artist’ is big winner at Academy Awards

Published: February 27, 2012 | 9:28 am
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It wins best picture, best actor and directing honors. Meryl Streep wins the best actress award.

The movie of the fewest words spoke the loudest at the Oscars this year.

On an evening suffused with nostalgia, “The Artist,” a nearly wordless, black-and-white romance celebrating Hollywood’s formative era, won five Academy Awards, including best picture, on Sunday night. The French production also took home directing honors for Michel Hazanavicius, the lead actor award for Jean Dujardin and trophies for costume design and score.

Producer Thomas Langmann dedicated his best picture Oscar to his filmmaker father, who died in 2009. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart … not only because we have received tonight a prize any filmmaker would dream to receive,” he said, “but because you are offering me the opportunity to pay tribute to the member of this academy who I miss so much, Claude Berri.”

PHOTOS: Red carpet | Quotes | Winners | Best & Worst

The night’s biggest surprise came in the best actress race, which Meryl Streep, 62, won for portraying Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady.” Many Oscar-watchers had expected that trophy would go to Viola Davis from “The Help.” It was the third Oscar victory for Streep — she won in 1980 for “Kramer vs. Kramer” and in 1983 for “Sophie’s Choice,” and has been nominated 12 times since then, but had not taken home a statuette.

“Oh, come on,” Streep said of the standing ovation she received. “When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America say, ‘Oh, no, not her again,’ ” Streep said. “But whatever.”

Davis’ “Help” castmate Octavia Spencer took home the best supporting actress statuette for her role as Minnie Jackson. She too received a standing ovation, and she thanked longtime friend and “The Help” author Kathryn Stockett, who imagined Spencer in the role when she wrote the novel. “Thank you for putting me with the hottest guy in the room,” Spencer said, looking at her statuette.

The wins for “The Artist” marked a fitting if unsurprising conclusion to a ceremony that paid homage to the history of show business. The more-than-three-hour broadcast was filled with skits and reminiscences about movie memories. The theater at Hollywood & Highland Center was fashioned as an old-styled movie house; costumed ushers handed out popcorn to the black-tied audience and a montage highlighted some of the best movies of the last several decades.

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