Heath Ledger won best supporting actor for his performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight" at the 81st annual Academy Awards on Sunday.
His parents and sister accepted the award for the actor, who died in January 2008. “This award tonight would have humbly validated Heath’s quiet determination to be truly accepted by you all here — his peers — within an industry he truly loved,” said Ledger’s father, Kim. Ledger is only the second actor to win a posthumous actor. Peter Finch won best actor for 1976’s “Network” two months after he died in early 1977. List of winners, nominees Penelope Cruz won the first Oscar of the night, a best supporting actress honor for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” “Has anybody ever fainted here Because I might be the first one,” she said, before paying tribute to writer-director Woody Allen, who oversaw “Vicky Cristina,” and writer-director Pedro Almodovar, who gave her some of her best roles. She then thanked “everyone who has helped me from the beginning.” Gallery: See what the stars are wearing » “Slumdog Millionaire” got on the board early, with screenwriter Simon Beaufoy winning best adapted screenplay. The film also won Oscars for cinematography, sound mixing and film editing. “Slumdog,” which has dominated this awards season, is considered the favorite to win best picture. Dustin Lance Black, who won original screenplay for “Milk,” gave an impassioned speech in favor of gay rights. “If Harvey [Milk, the subject of the film] had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by the churches, by the government, by their families,” Black said, “that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.” “Milk” concerns Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major public office. The film has also been in the spotlight because of Proposition 8, the California law against gay marriage that was the subject of a contentious campaign last year.
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Two of the best-reviewed films of the year — “WALL-E” and “Man on Wire” — won Oscars. “WALL-E” won best animated feature, and “Man on Wire” won best documentary feature. Philippe Petit, the star of “Man on Wire,” about Petit’s tightrope crossing between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, concluded his speech by balancing the Oscar upside-down on his chin. True to the producers’ promise to give the Academy Awards more of a “party” tone, Hugh Jackman led off the show with cracks about downsizing — “Next year,” said the “Australia” star, “I’ll be starring in a movie called ‘New Zealand’ ” — then segued into a song-and-dance number he said he assembled in his garage. Performing songs about each best picture nominee in various musical styles, with “homemade” backgrounds behind him, at one point he reached into the audience and physically lifted Anne Hathaway on stage to play Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon.” Blog: Behind the scenes Then the gregarious host paid tribute to various celebrities in the audience as if pointing out VIPs in a nightclub. Jackman also did a musical number with Beyoncé, the two performing a medley of songs from Hollywood’s musical golden era, as well as more recent films such as “Grease,” “Moulin Rouge” and “Mamma Mia.” At another point in the show, Ben Stiller parodied Joaquin Phoenix’s recent “Late Show with David Letterman” appearance, wearing a thick beard and lazily chewing gum. He cracked up his co-presenter, Natalie Portman, by wandering around the stage. Some of the nominees have said they’re surprised to even be at the Oscars. Melissa Leo, nominated for best actress for “Frozen River,” said nothing has compared with the Oscar experience.
“[The film] has given me an extraordinary year,” she told CNN. “But to be here tonight … it’s so humongous.” Oscar outfits were generally elegant and classic, with most men wearing tuxedos (including the young members of the “Slumdog” cast) and women in beautiful, sometimes muted, gowns. Viola Davis (“Doubt”) wore gold; Freida Pinto (“Slumdog Millionaire”) opted for a rich blue. Anne Hathaway wore a glittery — and snug — Armani mermaid gown.