Oscar Night Belongs To ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ Kate Winslet, ‘Milk’

Penélope Cruz and Sean Penn were among night's surprise winners.

On Sunday night (February 22) at the 81st annual Academy Awards, the film about an impoverished Mumbai orphan living out a fairy tale continued its charmed life, as [movie id="364450"]“Slumdog Millionaire”[/movie] took home eight statues, including wins for Best Picture and Best Director.

After nabbing four awards at the Golden Globes in January, “Slumdog” made good on its front-runner status, winning in all but one of the nine categories in which it was nominated (it had two nominations in the Best Original Song category).

In the night’s biggest upset, [movieperson id="93819"]Sean Penn[/movieperson] ([movie id="374161"]“Milk”[/movie]) beat out comeback kid Mickey Rourke ([movie id="371022"]“The Wrestler”[/movie]) for Best Actor. “You commie, homo-loving sons-of-guns!” Penn declared after winning for his role as gay activist Harvey Milk.

The Best Actress Oscar went to [movieperson id="166088"]Kate Winslet[/movieperson] as a former concentration-camp guard in [movie id="362766"]“The Reader,”[/movie] a role for which she was honored with a Best Supporting Actress award at the Globes.

(Check out the full Oscar winners list here.)

To no one’s surprise, heavy favorite Heath Ledger won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor statue for his turn as the Joker in [movie id="306605"]“The Dark Knight.”[/movie] Accepting on his behalf along with his mother and father, Ledger’s sister Kate said, “Heath, we both knew what you had created in the Joker was extraordinarily special and had even talked about being here on this very day. We really wish you were, but we proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful [daughter] Matilda.”

The first award of the night brought the first of the evening’s surprises, as [movieperson id="155673"]Penélope Cruz[/movieperson] won out over [movie id="345180"]“Doubt”[/movie] star Viola Davis, taking home the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in Woody Allen’s smoldering sexual holiday, [movie id="339070"]“Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”[/movie] “Has anybody ever fainted here?” she asked. “Because I might be the first one.”

While it secured 13 total nominations, including ones for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, [movie id="280659"]“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”[/movie] had to settle for wins in lower-profile categories such as Art Direction, Makeup and Visual Effects.

Host [movieperson id="234610"]Hugh Jackman[/movieperson] opened the show with a musical number whose conceit was a faux-low-budget production, the result of budget cuts in light of the struggling economy. He carried [movieperson id="257378"]Anne Hathaway[/movieperson] onto the stage for a [movie id="324234"]“Frost/Nixon”[/movie] duet and engaged in a “Sprockets”-esque dance number for [movie id="362766"]“The Reader.”[/movie]

Jackman returned around the halfway mark — along with Beyoncé, [movieperson id="438080"]Zac Efron[/movieperson] and [movieperson id="318323"]Vanessa Hudgens[/movieperson] — for a musical tribute to musicals, including golden oldies like “The Sound of Music,” “Grease” and “West Side Story.”

Best Original Screenplay winner Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”) gave perhaps the most moving speech of the evening, touching on his personal connection to the life of Harvey Milk and sending out a message of hope to gay and lesbian youth.

Though the three-plus-hour ceremony dragged at times, the night did include some funny and memorable moments. Philippe Petit, the star of Best Documentary winner “Man on Wire,” balanced an Oscar statue upside down on his chin. In a short film from Judd Apatow, [movieperson id="264077"]James Franco[/movieperson] and [movieperson id="262582"]Seth Rogen[/movieperson] — reprising their [movie id="330674"]“Pineapple Express”[/movie] characters — chilled on their couch and looked for the comedy in even the most serious of films, like Holocaust drama “The Reader.” For all those [movie id="369195"]“Twilight”[/movie] maniacs out there, pouty vampire Robert Pattinson appeared with [movieperson id="346182"]Amanda Seyfried[/movieperson] ([movie id="334542"]“Mamma Mia!”[/movie]) to introduce a montage of 2008′s cinematic romances. And [movieperson id="99943"]Ben Stiller[/movieperson] came onstage dressed as a bearded [movieperson id="166907"]Joaquin Phoenix[/movieperson], who recently made an, er, memorable appearance on David Letterman’s show . Said his co-presenter [movieperson id="165263"]Natalie Portman[/movieperson]: “You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab.”

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