LOS ANGELES — Argo, a film about a daring escape from Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, took top honors at the Academy Awards, or Oscars, Sunday evening. Argo was named best picture, and Ang Lee took top directing honors for his adventure-fantasy Life of Pi.
First lady Michelle Obama announced the top award of the evening, the Oscar for best picture, in a surprise live announcement from Washington.
“Now for the moment we have all been waiting for. And the Oscar goes to Argo,” she announced.
Argo recounts the rescue of six American diplomats trapped in Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis. Canadian diplomats sheltered them, and helped them escape with assistance from agents with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
An excited Ben Affleck – who produced, directed and starred in the movie – thanked those involved in both the film and the operation.
“I thank everyone in the movie, on the movie, worked on the movie, did anything with this movie gets thanked,” he said. “I want to thank Canada, I want to thank our friends in Iran, living in terrible circumstances right now.”
Argo also won Oscars for its adapted screenplay and film editing.
Daniel Day-Lewis took the Oscar for best actor for his role as Abraham Lincoln, the American president who struggled to end slavery during the Civil War. The film also took top honors for its production design.
The actor thanked the people behind the drama, including the writer, the director, and the man whose life inspired the movie.
“At the apex of that human pyramid, there are three men to whom I owe this and a great deal more: Tony Kushner, our beloved skipper, Steven Spielberg, and the mysteriously beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln,” said Day-Lewis.
Spielberg lost out in the contest for best director to Ang Lee, whose Life of Piearned Oscars for directing, cinematography, visual effects and original score.
The film was a joint Taiwan-U.S. production that features an Indian boy trapped on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger. Lee thanked the motion picture academy, in three languages.
“Thank you Academy, xie xie, namaste,” he said.
Christoph Waltz won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Waltz plays a German bounty hunter in the story of slavery and vengeance.
He paid tribute to the character, and the film’s director.
“My unlimited gratitude goes to Doctor King Schultz,” he said. “That is, of course, to his creator and the creator of his awe-inspiring world, Quentin Tarantino.”
Tarantino won the Oscar for his original screenplay.
Jennifer Lawrence was named best actress for Silver Linings Playbook, a romantic comedy-drama. Anne Hathaway took the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as a prostitute in the musical Les Miserables.
She noted that it was a competitive year in the category.
“Thank you so much to the Academy for this, and for nominating me with Helen Hunt, Jacki Weaver, Amy Adams, and Sally Field,” she said. “I look up to you all so much, and it’s just been such an honor.”
The French-language film Amour, about an elderly couple’s struggle with illness, was named best foreign-language film.
British singer Adele shared the Oscar for best original song for Skyfall, from the James Bond spy thriller of the same name. She performed live in a telecast that honored the Bond film scores and other movie music.
Searching for Sugar Man, a Swedish-British production, won for best documentary, and Inocente, about a teenage artist from Latin America, was named best short documentary. Curfew, a tale of a depressed man who must care for his young niece, was named best short live-action film.
The Oscar presentation is the highlight of the year for the American movie business, and the telecast was seen in most countries around the world.