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Jean Dujardin holds Uggie and his Oscar statue after accepting the Oscar for best picture.
"The Artist," a black-and-white silent film from France, took five big awards at the Oscars Sunday, tying "Hugo" in number of wins but easily dominating the night's conversation and capping off a red-carpet season of success.
"I'd like to say a very, very important thing. I want to say this to my kids: It's six in the morning in Paris, you should go to bed in 30 seconds," said director Michel Hazanavicius in accepting the Best Picture award for "The Artist." "I want to say to my wife, Berenice Bejo, I love you… You inspired the movie, and you're the soul of the movie and the positive feeling of the movie," he said. (Bejo starred in the film.)
Earlier in the evening, the film had earned Best Director for Hazanavicius, as well as Best Score, Best Actor and Best Costume Design.
Best Actor Jean Dujardin was equally ebullient as he beat out George Clooney of "The Descendants," in what was maybe the only one of the major awards races thought to be in question. Dujardin had previously won Best Actor at Cannes and the Golden Globes, so the win was hardly a surprise.
"Thank you! Oui! I love your country. OK. Thank you to the Academy... Thank you, my wonderful partner, Berenice Bejo," said Dujardin. "And if [my 'Artist' character] George Valentin could speak, he'd say: 'Merci! Formidable! Merci beaucoup!'"
In a night filled with many predictable moments, the biggest surprise was Meryl Streep's win of Best Actress, an award many thought would go to Viola Davis of "The Help." Streep was honored for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."
"Thank you, thank you. When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh, c'mon — her again!' But whatever," chuckled Streep, who paused to embrace Davis on her way to the stage.
Streep has been nominated 17 times but hadn't won an Oscar since 1983's for "Sophie's Choice."
Favorites Christopher Plummer of "Beginners" and Octavia Spencer of "The Help" won Best Supporting Actor and Actress.
"I have to thank my families, my family in Alabama… my 'Help' family… I share this with everybody. Please wrap up, I'm wrapping up. I'm sorry, I'm freaking out!" said Spencer in accepting her award.
Plummer won for his work in "Beginners," in which he plays a 70-something man who tells his son that he's gay and has cancer. It was his first Oscar win in a career that goes back to 1953.
"You're only two years older than me, darling! Where have you been all my life?" Plummer asked his statuette. "I have a confession to make, when I first emerged from my mother's womb, I was already practicing my acceptance speech."
Oscar night is the finale of the traditional red carpet season. Each year the expectations for the big night get higher, yet the audience is harder to maintain.
Crystal, hosting for his ninth time, was brought in with the idea of giving audiences what they love.
The evening began with an energetic opening montage that put Crystal at the center of many of the major movies up for awards. He sang an opening bit, too. But many interludes between awards featured pre-recorded testimonies about the power of film, or tributes to blockbusters past, rather than comedy from the tried-and-true, if aging, host.
Crystal came aboard in November, replacing Eddie Murphy after the show's producing team changed. And Murphy came in to take over where James Franco and Anne Hathaway left off last year, with a show that was designed to attract younger viewers but turned off members of most every generation.
Other Oscar 2012 notables:
List of winners:
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
Best Supporting Actress
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
Best Adapted Screenplay
Nat Faxon, Alexander Payne and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Best Foreign Language Film
"A Separation" (Iran)
Best Documentary Feature
Best Animated Feature
Best Film Editing
"The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Live-Action Short
Best Animated Short
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore"
Best Documentary Short
Best Original Score
Best Original Song
"Man or Muppet" (“The Muppets”)
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Visual Effects
"The Iron Lady"