Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’ Gets Early Oscars, Spencer Wins Best Supporting Actress

Martin Scorsese’s 3-D picture “Hugo” won Oscars for best cinematography, art direction, sound and visual effects, jumping to an early lead at the 84th Academy Awards in Los Angeles.

Christopher Plummer, 82, became the oldest Oscar winner for his role in the film “Beginners,” about a man who comes out as gay late in life. Octavia Spencer won the Oscar for best- supporting actress for her role as the sharp-tongued housemaid Minny Jackson in “The Help,” about the sometimes-tense relationship between black maids and the white women who employ them.

The nomination was Plummer’s second in more than 40 years of acting and his only win. It came for his portrayal of a man who comes to grips with his sexuality late in life. The film, from Universal Pictures’ Focus Features, stars Ewan McGregor and took in $14.3 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

“When I first emerged from my mother’s womb, I was already rehearsing my academy speech,” Plummer said.

The Oscars were the among first handed out today at the 84th Academy Awards, hosted by Billy Crystal and broadcast live on the ABC network from the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles. Crystal returned to host the show for the ninth time, and began the telecast with a comedic sketch of scenes from nominated films.

With their nominations, academy voters shunned the year’s top-grossing films in their best-picture nominations, focusing on lower-budget or less-seen pictures such as “The Artist,” which cost about $15 million to make, according to Box Office Mojo, a researcher. “Hugo” was the costliest in the running for best picture, with a budget estimated at $170 million, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Best-Picture Nominees

Of nine films nominated for best picture, “The Help” from DreamWorks Studios and Walt Disney Co. (DIS) leads with $206.7 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Its production budget was $25 million. “Hugo” has collected $115.8 million in worldwide ticket sales.

Scorsese’s first 3-D movie, “Hugo” tells the story of an orphaned boy who lives secretly within the walls and clock tower of a Paris train station. The film, from Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures, stars Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz and Ben Kingsley. Scorsese captured the Golden Globe award for directing for the film.

Crystal Returns

This year’s ceremony marked the return of actor Crystal as host, after Eddie Murphy and producer Brett Ratner quit in November amid criticism over controversial remarks Ratner made about gays.

The awards come against the backdrop of a tough 2011 at home for Hollywood, with theater attendance falling 5.3 percent to a 16-year low and spending on home-video shrinking 2.1 percent, according to Hollywood.com and the Digital Entertainment Group, a studio-backed trade association.

Best-picture nominations and the publicity that follows boost box-office and home-video sales for Oscar contenders. Ticket sales for last year’s winner, “The King’s Speech” rose 41 percent on the first weekend after its nomination.

The Oscar telecast attracted 37.9 million viewers last year to rank as the most-watched single, non-sports telecast, according to Nielsen.

With Hugo’s early wins, Paramount collected six awards, including one for best animated feature in “Rango.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cliff Edwards in San Francisco at cedwards28@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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