The 82nd Academy Awards began with cheeky aplomb before hitting a series of familiar notes.
And then making a little bit of history. Some of it with local ties.
Kathryn Bigelow, director of the raw, rattling war movie "The Hurt Locker," became the first woman to win an Oscar for directing. "The Hurt Locker" also beat James Cameron's technological masterwork and box office behemoth "Avatar" for best picture.
Still, the old saw "It was great just to be nominated" turned out to be woefully true for a number of the nominees in the best picture category, which was doubled this year to 10. The expanded field, ironically, made it a night of more losers than usual as well — and highlighted that maybe this wasn't Hollywood's best year ever. The George Clooney starrer "Up in the Air" was the most surprising shutout of the night.
Locally based producers Sarah Siegel Magness and Gary Magness and documentary director Louis Psihoyos, of Boulder, were victorious. The Magnesses' and director Lee Daniels' "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" won two awards. Psihoyos won for his gripping-as-any-thriller documentary "The Cove."
Bookmakers didn't make much on Jeff Bridges, who won his first Oscar, as expected, for his portrayal of a hard-drinking country-western singer- songwriter in "Crazy Heart." And in the end, the pendulum did not swing back toward Meryl Streep but stayed with Sandra Bullock for her turn as Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side." "Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?" said Bullock, who might also have won the night's best gown award.
Penelope Cruz handed the first statuette of the evening to longtime front- runner for best supporting actor Christoph Waltz, who portrays an SS colonel in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds."
In short succession, "Up" won for best animated feature. T. Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham won for their song "The Weary Kind" from "Crazy Heart."
When "The Hurt Locker" scribe Mark Boal was singled out for best original screenplay, the win made it clear that rumors about a late surge from "Inglourious Basterds" were simply that — rumors, meant to keep Oscar watchers guessing right up to the telecast.
After thanking Bigelow, Boal said, "I thank and dedicate this to the troops, the 115,000 who are still in Iraq, the 120,000 in Afghanistan and the more than 30,000 wounded and 4,000 who have not made it home." It was an expected nod but especially rich given recent news that a soldier has brought a lawsuit against the writer for stealing his life story.
Arguably the night's biggest surprise also came in the writing category when "Precious" screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher won for adapted screenplay.
No doubt a roar filled Boulder's Mateo restaurant, where Sarah Siegel Magness' sister Megan Siegel Jansen was hosting a party for "Precious" and "The Cove."
A few minutes later, "Precious" won again. Like Waltz, Mo'Nique has had months to work on her thank-you. There was no one as sure a thing as the comedian who went scarily cruel as an abusive mother.
"First, I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics," began the comedian and talk-show host.
The comment was directed at those who have begun deriding her success as another example of the Academy rewarding black performers for negative characters, such as Halle Berry and Denzel Washington.
There were moments both light and tender. Ben Stiller arrived onstage in bright blue make-up and spouting Na'vi dialect from "Avatar." Molly Ringwald and Ferris Bueller, ahem, Matthew Broderick, introduced a clip- reel tribute to writer-director John Hughes, auteur of indelible 1980s teen flicks, who died of a heart attack in August. Music from "Ghost" cued Demi Moore's arrival to introduce an "in memoriam" montage, which included Patrick Swayze, her co-star in the 1990 megahit romance.
Stanley Tucci was especially charming in his introduction of friend and "Julie & Julia" costar Meryl Streep, who holds the record for most-nominated actor.
Still, it was Bullock who sounded the sweetest grace note.
She dedicated her award to "the moms who take care of the babies and the children, no matter where they come from."