By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire February 22, 2009 at 9:47AM
"Slumdog Millionaire" won the Oscar for best picture tonight at the 81 Academy Awards in Los Angeles, nabbing seven other trophies, including a best director prize for filmmaker Danny Boyle.
"Slumdog," an unlikely contender back in September when it debuted at the Telluride Film Festival, was the heavy favorite for best picture in a recent poll of writers, bloggers and friends who were asked to predict the victor. But asked who they would like to win the top award, the group chose Gus Van Sant's "Milk," the bio pic about slain San Francisco politician/gay-rights activist Harvey Milk.
"Oh my god," proclaimed "Milk" writer Dustin Lance Black, before beginning a stirring speech in which he spoke out for gay rights and marriage equality. "This was not an easy film to make," Black began, elaborating on the film and then relating his experience growing up as a Mormon kid, recalling when he first learned about Harvey Milk at age 13. "It gave me hope," he said of Milk's life. "I want to thank my mom who has always loved me for who I am, even when there was pressure not to." Finally, speaking to gay and lesbian kids watching the telecast at home, Black said, "You are beautiful...God does love you...and very soon, I promise, you will have equal rights Federally across this great nation of ours."
"You commie, homo-loving sons of guns!" exclaimed Sean Penn near the end of the evening, accepting the best actor Oscar for his performance in "Milk." Later speaking of the shame of those who supported the ban on gay marriage and criticizing protestors outside the Kodak Theater, Penn added, "We've got to have equal rights for everyone."
Members of Heath Ledger's family accepted his posthumous Oscar for his performance in "The Dark Knight." His dad thanked the Academy, filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and Steve Alexander, Ledger's mentor and agent, saying the prize would have "humbly validated his determination," while Ledger's mother spoke of being overwhemed by the respect for her son's work.
"I'd be lying if I hadn't made a version of this speech when I was 8 years old, staring into the bathroom mirror," Kate Winslet said, accepting the best actress Oscar for "The Reader." Looking at her Oscar statue, she noted, "And this was a shampoo bottle [then]. But it's not a shampoo bottle now..."
"Has anybody ever fainted here," asked Penelope Cruz, accepting the best supporting actress Oscar while fighting back tears with her voice cracking at times, "Because I might be the first one." She was presented the prize by five previous Oscar winners: Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Angelica Huston, Eva Marie Saint, and Tilda Switon. Thanking "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" director Woody Allen, as well as family, friends, and the industry, in English and Spanish, Cruz praised art, calling it a "universal language" and asking that we do "everything we can to protect its survival."
Philippe Petit, who once walked on a tight rope strung between New York's former World Trade Center towers, drew loud laughs accepting the documentary feature Oscar with the filmmakers of "Man on Wire." He promised the shortest speech in Oscar history by exclaiming, "Yes." Then, breaking his own rule, he turned the trophy upsidedown and balanced it on his chin before making it bow to the audience.
Full list of winners:
Picture: "Slumdog Millionaire"
Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Actress: Kate Winslet, "The Reader"
Actor: Sean Penn, "Milk"
Supp. Actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Supp. Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Animated feature: "Wall-E"
Foreign Language: “Departures” (Japan)
Documentary feature: “Man on Wire” (James Marsh)
Original Score: A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Original Song: “Jai Ho” (Slumdog Millionaire)
Editing: Chris, Dickens, “Slumdog Millionaire”
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Art Direction: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
Costume Design: “The Duchess,” Michael O’Connor
Visual Effects: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
Sound Editing: “The Dark Knight,” Richard King
Sound Mixing: “Slumdog Millionaire,” Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
Makeup: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” Greg Cannom
Documentary Short: “Smile Pinki,” Megan Mylan
Animated Short: “La Maison de Petits Cubes,” Kunio Kato
Live Action Short: “Spielzeugland” (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydan