And Jennifer Lawrence received the best actress Oscar for her head-spinning turn in Silver Linings Playbook, the Philly-centric romantic dramedy. Stumbling on the steps to the dais, Lawrence collected herself and graciously acknowledged her fellow nominees. Nominated in eight categories, including Bradley Cooper for best actor, the roller-coaster hit ended up with just the one prize. (However, at the Independent Spirit Awards two nights ago, Silver Linings Playbook dominated, winning in four of its five nominated categories, including best picture.)
Argo's Oscar victory makes it the first best picture winner since 1990's Driving Miss Daisy to take the top honor without its director being nominated. It's as though Ben Affleck, who also stars in Argo but wasn't nominated for best actor, either, had nothing to do with it.
If the ceremony, hosted by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, began in wincingly questionable taste (N-word jokes, a song called "We Saw Your Boobs"), it also began with a surprise.
The first award out of the gate - after almost 20 minutes of MacFarlane-engineered parodies, a time-traveling visit from an admonishing Star Trek Captain James T. Kirk, and another musical number that promised audiences "a telecast designed to put your patience to test" - went to Christoph Waltz, winning the supporting actor Oscar for his droll turn as a bounty hunter who joins forces with a freed slave in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The German star won the same award for the same director in 2009, for Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.
All five supporting actor nominees are previous Oscar winners, and the punditry consensus had Robert De Niro ( Silver Linings Playbook) and Tommy Lee Jones (Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln) neck and neck to win. So Waltz's kudo was unexpected. Tarantino also took the original screenplay Oscar - noting that he was neighbors with his presenter, Charlize Theron.
No surprise at all in the supporting actress category, however: Anne Hathaway, as forecast, took the Oscar for supporting actress, for her up-close performance (you can see her tonsils when she sings!) as Fantine, Victor Hugo's hard-luck prostitute, in Les Miserables. Hathaway had to lose weight - and lose her locks, in the famous haircutting scene - for the role.
Though not a seismic shocker, Brave, the Disney/Pixar tale of a feisty, flame-haired Scottish princess, captured the best animated feature prize. Frankenweenie and ParaNorman were considered front-runners in the category.
MacFarlane, doing his tuxedoed smoothie shtick, announced early on that "music in film" was a theme of the telecast. And there was a 50th anniversary tribute to the James Bond franchise, too. In a happy convergence, singer Shirley Bassey brought the decked-out Dolby Theatre crowd to its feet with a belting and brassy rendition of her 1964 Goldfinger title song. Gold- fingah, yes!
And Adele won the Oscar for original song for Skyfall - the first time a Bond theme song has won.
Life of Pi, Lee's meta-fable about an Indian boy and a Bengal tiger stranded together on a lifeboat, took two early awards - for cinematography and visual effects. Les Miserables also grabbed a pair of awards, for makeup and sound.
William Goldenberg, a Northeast High and Temple University alum, won the editing award for his work on Argo. Goldenberg was competing against himself - he was also nominated for his work as part of the editing team on the other CIA-based best picture nominee, Zero Dark Thirty. These were Goldenberg's third and fourth nominations, and his first win.
Also on the local front, "Innocente," about a homeless high schooler and art prodigy, scored the documentary short prize. Executive producers for the film included Philadelphia Eagles owners Christina Weiss Lurie, an indie producer, and her ex-husband Jeffrey Lurie.
Searching for Sugar Man, the remarkable story of an unknown singer/songwriter from Detroit who became a superstar in Apartheid-era South Africa, received the best documentary feature prize. Rodriguez, the film's preternaturally humble star, opted not to attend the ceremonies, so his filmmakers could have their moment of glory to themselves.
Michael Haneke, the Austrian auteur of enigmatic masterpieces, stepped to the podium to accept the foreign language Academy Award for Amour. The French language feature about an octogenarian Parisian couple - portrayed by French new wave icons Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignat, was also nominated for best picture, director, actress and original screenplay. It is on its way to being 2013's first big art house hit.
And presenters Mark Wahlberg and his talking plush toy pal, Ted, actually got to declare "It's a tie!" when they opened the envelope for sound editing. Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty had exactly the same number of votes. This is only the 6th tie in Academy history.
It was, as the awards kept being handed out, truly a year of equitability. And a year of MacFarlane wisecracks (a few of them even funny) about the show's stultifying length. Here's a suggestion: instead of making jokes about how long the telecast is, maybe next year they could just make it shorter.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or email@example.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies