Oscars: And the first awards go to …
LOS ANGELES — Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won the supporting-acting Academy Awards on Sunday for the boxing drama “The Fighter,” while “Toy Story 3” claimed the prize for feature animation.
Network censors bleeped Leo for dropping the F-word during her speech. Backstage, she jokingly conceded it was “probably a very inappropriate place to use that particular word.”
“Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend. There is a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular,” Leo said.
Bale joked that he was keeping his language clean.
“Melissa, I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like she did,” Bale said. “I’ve done that plenty of times before.”
But the Oscars, being a global affair, were telecast elsewhere in the world with Leo’s words uncensored. Viewers who watched the show on Star Movies, a major channel available throughout Asia, heard the F-word loud and clear.
Leo’s win capped an unusual career surge in middle age for the 50-year-old actress, who had moderate success on TV’s “Homicide: Life on the Street” in her 30s but leaped to big-screen stardom in her late 40s, a time when most actresses find good roles hard to come by.
In disbelief when she took the stage, Leo said, “Pinch me.” Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, who presented her award, obliged with a little pinch on her arm.
“I’m just shaking in my boots here,” Leo said, accepting the prize for her role in “The Fighter,” also nominated for best picture. “Yeah, I am kind of speechless.”
Bale earned the same prize his Batman co-star, the late Heath Ledger, received posthumously two years ago for “The Dark Knight.” At the time, Bale had fondly recalled a bit of professional envy as he watched Ledger perform on set like a whirlwind as the diabolical Joker while the film’s star had to remain clenched up as the stoic, tightly wound Batman.
“The Fighter” gave Bale his turn to unleash some demons as Dicky Eklund, a boxer whose career unraveled amid crime and drug abuse. Bale delivers a showy performance full of tics and tremors, bobbing and weaving around the movie’s star and producer, Mark Wahlberg, who plays Eklund’s stolid brother, boxer Micky Ward.
Best-picture front-runner “The King’s Speech,” a tale of Britain’s stammering King George VI that led contenders with 12 nominations, won only one of the first seven prizes for which it was competing, best original screenplay for writer David Seidler.
The win capped a lifelong dream for Seidler, a boyhood stutterer born in London in 1937, a year after George took the throne. Seidler, who overcame his own stutter at age 16, had long vowed to one day write about the monarch whose fortitude set an example for him in childhood.
Seidler thanked Queen Elizabeth II, daughter of King George, “For not putting me in the Tower of London for using the Melissa Leo F-word.” The film includes two scenes where the king spouts profanity in anger to help force out his syllables.
The Oscar for adapted screenplay went to Aaron Sorkin for “The Social Network,” a chronicle of the birth of Facebook based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires.” “The Social Network” also won for musical score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
While “The King’s Speech” came in as the best-picture favorite, “The Social Network” was considered a potent prospect for an upset win.
The two films have led a strong and varied field of best-picture contenders since they debuted nearly six months ago. “The Social Network” was the early leader, grabbing key critics’ honors and winning best drama at the Golden Globes. Momentum shifted to “The King’s Speech” as the film dominated on Oscar nominations morning and swept top awards from influential actors, directors and producers guilds.
“Toy Story 3,” last year’s top-grossing release and a contender for best picture, won the fourth-straight animated-feature Oscar for Disney’s Pixar Animation unit. Pixar has produced six of the 10 Oscar recipients for animation since the category was added, including “Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E” and last year’s winner, “Up.”
It was an odd backdrop for a Pixar win, the Oscar ceremony using visual effects to present the award in front of a re-creation of Far Far Away, the fairy-tale realm of Disney rival DreamWorks Animation’s “Shrek” movies. The original “Shrek” won the first Oscar for feature animation, but unlike the durable “Toy Story” franchise, the “Shrek” series finished with a critical dud, last year’s “Shrek Forever After.”
Reuniting voice stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, “Toy Story 3” was the latest follow-up to the 1995 film that launched today’s era of feature-length computer animation.
“Toy Story 3” director Lee Unkrich called Pixar the “most awesome place on the planet to make movies.”
The Oscar for foreign-language film went to Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier’s “In a Better World,” a saga of two broken families that centers on two teenage boys struggling with violence at school and plotting revenge.
The Lewis Carroll update “Alice in Wonderland” won the first prize of the night, claiming the art direction Oscar.
“Alice in Wonderland” production designer Robert Stromberg had warm words for the film’s director, Tim Burton.
“Meet me with a saw, because half of this is yours,” Stromberg told Burton, holding up his Oscar.
The show opened with co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco inserted into a montage of scenes from best-picture nominees, built as a series of dream sequences reminiscent of Oscar contender “Inception.” The footage included such guests as Morgan Freeman and last year’s Oscar co-host Alec Baldwin.
Franco started off telling Hathaway how beautiful she looked. Hathaway shot back, “You look very appealing to a younger demographic, as well.”
Also up for best picture: the psychosexual thriller “Black Swan”; the sci-fi blockbuster “Inception”; the lesbian-family tale “The Kids Are All Right”; the survival chronicle “127 Hours”; the Western “True Grit”; and the Ozarks crime story “Winter’s Bone.”
With TV ratings on a general decline over the last few decades, Oscar organizers doubled the best-picture category from five to 10 films last year, hoping to spice up the show and bring in a broader range of films. Academy overseers also have tried to liven up the show with fresh hosts, new routines and different ways of presenting awards.
It paid off last year, when the low-budget Iraq War drama “The Hurt Locker” beat sci-fi behemoth “Avatar” for best picture. TV viewers totaled 41.7 million, up 15 percent from the previous year and the biggest Oscar audience in five years.
This time, Oscar planners cast youthful hosts Hathaway and Franco (also a best-actor nominee for “127 Hours”) and promised exotic visuals as backdrops to the ceremony. They also stepped up pressure for winners to keep speeches short and sharp, rather than intone long thank-you lists.
Still, a fair number of winners used much of their time thanking agents, managers and other industry colleagues.