Martin Scorsese's mob epic "The Departed" won best picture at the Academy Awards and earned the filmmaker the directing prize that had long eluded him. Helen Mirren won best actress for playing the British queen, and Forest Whitaker earned best actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
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"Could you double-check the envelope?" said Scorsese, who arguably had been the greatest living American filmmaker without an Oscar.
In an evening when no one film dominated as the Oscars shared the love among a wide range of movies and the nominees showed an international flair, three of the four acting front-runners won: best actress Mirren as British monarch Elizabeth II in "The Queen"; best actor Whitaker as Amin in "The Last King of Scotland"; and supporting actress Jennifer Hudson as a soul singer in "Dreamgirls."
The other front-runner, Eddie Murphy of "Dreamgirls," lost to Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine."
"For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," said Mirren, who has been on a remarkable roll since last fall, winning all the major film and television prizes for playing both of Britain's Queen Elizabeths.
"She's had her feet planted firmly on the ground, her hat on her head, her handbag on her arm and she's weathered many many storms. ... If it wasn't for her, I most certainly wouldn't be here. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen," Mirren said, holding her Oscar aloft.
The soft-spoken Whitaker won for an uncharacteristically flamboyant role as the barbarous yet mesmerizing Amin.
"When I was a kid the only way I saw movies was from the back seat of my family's car at the drive-in movie," Whitaker said. "It wasn't my reality to think I would be acting in movies, so receiving this honor tonight tells me it's possible. It is possible for a kid from east Texas, raised in south-central L.A. and Carson, who believes in his dreams, commits himself to them with his heart, to touch them and to have them happen."
Arkin played a foul-mouthed grandpa with a taste for heroin in "Little Miss Sunshine," a low-budget film that came out of the independent world to become a commercial hit and major awards player, including a nomination for best picture.
"More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection," said Arkin.
Hudson won an Oscar for her first movie, playing a powerhouse vocalist who falls on hard times after she is booted from a 1960s girl group. The role came barely two years after she shot to celebrity as an "American Idol" singing finalist.
"Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win," Hudson said through tears of joy. "If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration."
Germany's "The Lives of Others," about a playwright and his actress-girlfriend who come under police surveillance in 1980s East Berlin, won the foreign-language Oscar.
On stage, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck thanked his actors and crew and had a special word of thanks for fellow native German speaker Arnold Schwarzenegger, "for teaching me that the words `I can't' should be stricken from my vocabulary,"' von Donnersmarck said.
The nonfiction hit "An Inconvenient Truth," a chronicle of former vice president Al Gore's campaign to warn the world about global warming, was picked as best documentary.
"People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue," Gore said, joining the film's director, Davis Guggenheim, on stage.
"An Inconvenient Truth" also won original song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up."
Argentinean composer Gustavo Santaolalla won his second straight Oscar for original score for "Babel," a film "that helped us understand better who we are and why and what we are here for," he said. He won the same prize a year ago for "Brokeback Mountain."
"Little Miss Sunshine" also won the original screenplay Oscar for first-time screenwriter Michael Arndt.
"When I was a kid, my family drove 600 miles in a VW bus with a broken clutch," Arndt said, describing a road trip that mirrored the one in the film. "It ended up being one of the funnest things we did together."
"The Departed" won best adapted screenplay for William Monahan. It was based on the Hong Kong crime thriller "Infernal Affairs."
"Pan's Labyrinth," the savage fairy tale that took the first two Oscars, for art direction and makeup kicked off an Oscar evening stuffed with contenders from around the globe. The film also took the cinematography Oscar, winning for the first three of its six nominations.
"To Guillermo del Toro for guiding us through this labyrinth," said art director Eugenio Caballero, lauding the Mexican writer-director of "Pan's Labyrinth," the tale of a girl who concocts an elaborate fantasy world to escape her harsh reality in 1940s Fascist Spain.
The dancing-penguin musical "Happy Feet" won the Oscar for feature-length animation, denying computer-animation pioneer John Lasseter ("Toy Story") the prize for "Cars," which had been the big winner of earlier key animation honors.
"I asked my kids, `What should I say?' They said, `Thank all the men for wearing penguin suits,"' said "Happy Feet'"s Australian director George Miller.
Italian film composer Ennio Morricone won an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar. The 78-year-old has been nominated five times - for "Days of Heaven," "The Mission," "The Untouchables," "Bugsy" and "Malena" - but had never won. On Sunday, Morricone delivered his remarks in Italian, and presenter Clint Eastwood translated.
Once an evening of backslapping and merrymaking within the narrow confines of Hollywood, the Academy Awards this time look like a United Nations exercise in diversity, the AP reports.
The 79th annual Oscars Sunday feature their most ethnically varied lineup ever, with stars and stories that reflect the growing multiculturalism taking root around the globe.
Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres summed up the night's international flavor, noting that "Japan is in the house and Mexico is in the house - and I think I see a few Americans as well."
"No one knows who's going to win, unless you're British, and then you know you have a good shot," she joked.
Also competing for best picture was Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Babel," a sweeping ensemble drama that earned a passel of other nominations, including best supporting actress for Adriana Barraza from Mexico and Rinko Kikuchi from Japan.
Also in the running were Stephen Frears' classy British saga "The Queen," a portrait of the royal family in crisis, and Eastwood's Japanese-language war tale "Letters From Iwo Jima."