LOS ANGELES - On a night when so many changes were intended to shake up the Oscar ceremony, the winners themselves were pretty predictable, with "The Hurt Locker" taking six awards including best picture.
"Hurt Locker" director Kathryn Bigelow won the top directing honor for her intimate Iraq war drama, making her the first woman to take the prize - though as she's often said, she likes to think of herself as a filmmaker, period.
"I hope I'm the first of many," she said afterward backstage. "I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point."
But as fellow director Barbra Streisand put it in announcing Bigelow's victory, "Well, the time has come."
Indeed, her win seemed like a given, even though Bigelow was going up against James Cameron, director of the sci-fi juggernaut "Avatar," who happens to be her ex-husband. (Bigelow was abidingly diplomatic backstage, despite reporters repeatedly trying to coax her to dish about him.) "Avatar" entered the night tied with "The Hurt Locker" for the most nominations, nine, but ended up winning just three awards in technical categories: art direction, cinematography and visual effects.
The biggest surprise of the night came in the foreign language category, where Argentina's "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" won. "The White Ribbon" from Germany and "Un Prophete" from France were the favorites.
But predictability was the case in all the main categories, where the winners had been picking up statues and critics' accolades throughout this long awards season.
"The Hurt Locker" won best picture in a year where there were 10 nominees instead of the usual five - an effort to include more commercial, popular movies in the mix. Jeff Bridges won best actor for his portrayal of a boozy country singer in "Crazy Heart." Sandra Bullock took the best-actress prize as a brassy Southern mother in "The Blind Side." The Austrian-born Christoph Waltz won best supporting actor for his chilling performance as a Nazi colonel in "Inglourious Basterds." And Mo'Nique walked away with top supporting actress as a cruelly abusive mom in "Precious."
Even the choice of two hosts - Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin - instead of just one resulted in the same kind of lame gags and chummy faux insults we've seen in years past. The two masters of dry comedy played off each other at the top of the show with hit-and-miss results.
Martin: "Look, there's that damn Helen Mirren."
Baldwin: "Steve, that's Dame Helen Mirren."
The hosts themselves pretty much acknowledged from the start that Bridges was destined to win, mentioning that he was up for best actor but then jokingly struggling to name the other nominees in the category.
"Mom and dad, yeah, look!" Bridges yelled when he won, looking skyward and referring to his parents, fellow actors Lloyd Bridges and Dorothy Dean Bridges. "Thank you, mom and dad, for turning me onto such a groovy profession. ... This is honoring them as much as it is me."
One of Bridges' competitors was George Clooney, whose "Up in the Air" was an early favorite that ended up getting shut out.
Waltz was the only winner from multiple nominee "Inglourious Basterds," Quentin Tarantino's wildly revisionist World War II saga. The actor joked that winning an Oscar - and receiving it from presenter Penelope Cruz - was "uber bingo."
Unfortunately for the viewing audience at home, some of the best moments occurred backstage in the press room. Mo'Nique turned her charm on full-blast, addressing everyone as "sugar" and calling on reporters herself, rather than letting an academy representative do it for her. She also poignantly discussed how she chose her electric blue dress and the gardenia in her hair in honor of Hattie McDaniel, the first black performer to win an Academy Award, for supporting actress in "Gone With the Wind."
On the opposite extreme, art director Robert Stromberg, one of three Oscar-winners for "Avatar," spoke movingly of an illness that nearly killed him 13 years ago, and the newfound sense of purpose he's since experienced.
Composer Michael Giacchino talked backstage about his tear-jerking score for "Up," which also won best animated feature: "A lot of people have said to me, 'You made me cry,' and it was only because I cried myself when I watched that movie. ... Hopefully, I can express to you how I felt through the music."
But Bullock lightened up the room, naturally, looking like an Oscar herself in her glittering gold gown. The longtime comedian also earned an ignominious Razzie Award on Saturday for worst actress as a clingy crossword puzzle writer in "All About Steve" - and she showed enough grace and humor to accept that prize in person, as well.
"They're going to sit side-by-side, as they should," Bullock said of her two trophies. "We're in the entertainment business - you take the good with the not-so-good."