‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ Kate Winslet, Heath Ledger, Sean Penn Win 2009 Academy Awards

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CHICAGO – Fox Searchlight’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was the huge winner at The 81st Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, February 22nd, 2009 taking home an amazing eight Oscars, including the trophies for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also won Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Song, and Best Sound Mixing.

“Slumdog” was easily the big winner of the night, followed by “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” with three trophies and “Milk” and “The Dark Knight” with two.

Penelope Cruz at the 2009 Oscars
Penelope Cruz at the 2009 Oscars.
Photo credit: Michael Yada/AMPAS

Acting winners started with Penelope Cruz taking the Supporting Actress trophy for “Amy Adams & Viola Davis for “Doubt,” Taraji P. Henson for “Benjamin Button,” and Marisa Tomei for “The Wrestler”. Cruz joked about possibly fainting and thanked Woody Allen for giving her a great role.

The Supporting Actor trophy went to Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight”. The deceased actor’s family accepted for him after a standing ovation from the audience. Ledger beat out Josh Brolin for “Milk,” Robert Downey Jr. for “Tropic Thunder,” Philip Seymour Hoffman for “Doubt,” and Michael Shannon for “Revolutionary Road”. The last posthumous winner was Peter Finch who won Best Actor for 1976’s “Network”. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after Ledger’s win.

The Actress award went, predictably, to the great Kate Winslet for “The Reader,” her first win after five previous nominations. A teary-eyed Winslet beat out Meryl Streep for “Doubt,” Anne Hathaway for “Rachel Getting Married,” Melissa Leo for “Frozen River,” and Angelina Jolie for “Changeling”.

The final acting award of the night was arguably the most nail-biting with Sean Penn taking the prize for “Milk” over Mickey Rourke for “The Wrestler”. The two were in a dead heat from most Oscar watchers, leaving Frank Langella for “Frost/Nixon,” Richard Jenkins for “The Visitor” and Brad Pitt for “Benjamin Button” to wait till next time.

Philippe Petit of Man on Wire at the 2009 Oscars
Philippe Petit of “Man on Wire” at the 2009 Oscars.
Photo credit: Michael Yada/AMPAS

Danny Boyle jumped up and down after winning for “Slumdog Millionaire,” clearly the emotional favorite of the evening. The last film to win at least eight awards was “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” five years ago.

Best Animated Film went to “WALL-E,” Best Documentary to “Man on Wire,” and, in one of the few surprises of the evening, Best Foreign Language Film went to “Departures,” over the more popular “The Class” and “Waltz With Bashir”.

The style of the Academy Awards this year was very different. Previous winners gave speeches about each of the acting nominees including presenters like Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Ben Kingsley, Tilda Swinton, Halle Berry, and Kevin Kline. Awards were also commonly given away in groups with both screenplays, sound and visual effects, and the music awards being given away at the same time.

Dustin Lance Black won Best Original Screenplay for his debut work on “Milk” and gave one of the most heartfelt and moving speeches of the night. Simon Beaufoy won Best Adapted Screenplay for “Slumdog Millionaire”.

On the technical ledger for awards that “Slumdog Millionaire” didn’t take home, “The Dark Knight” won Sound Editing, “Benjamin Button” won Visual Effects, Makeup, and Art Direction, and “The Duchess” won Costume Design.

The winning short films were “Smile Pinki,” “La Maison en Petits Cubes,” and “Toyland”. Hugh Jackman hosted the affair and while many will critique and praise him in the coming hours, he came off as likable and certainly gave it his all. Jerry Lewis won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

StarSee our 30-image red-carpet slideshow of the 2009 Oscars.
StarRead our full list of the 2009 Oscar nominees.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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