‘Argo’ Is Best Picture as Ang Lee’s ‘Pi’ Wins Four Oscars

Ben Affleck’s “Argo,” about the rescue of American hostages from Iran more than 30 years ago, won the Academy Award for best picture, beating eight other films including “Lincoln.”

Ang Lee was voted best director for his fantasy “Life of Pi” at the 85th Academy Awards last night in Hollywood. Daniel Day-Lewis got the Oscar for best actor, his third, for playing Abraham Lincoln, and Jennifer Lawrence captured best actress for her troubled character in “Silver Linings Playbook.” First Lady Michelle Obama announced the best-picture winner.

The Oscar for “Argo” marked Hollywood’s highest praise for Affleck, who didn’t get nominated for best director. Three historical pictures vied for best picture last night, including “Argo,” “Lincoln” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” All faced questions about accuracy and the artistic license the creators took with the stories.

“It’s tricky, you walk a fine line when you’re doing an historical movie,” Affleck said backstage afterward. “You try to honor the truth, the essence, the basic truth of the story you’re telling. It’s not an easy thing.”

Academy voters spread the honors around. “Life of Pi” distributed by News Corp.’s Fox, led with four awards, including best cinematography. The three for Time Warner Inc.’s “Argo” include best adapted screenplay. The musical “Les Miserables,” from Comcast Corp.’s Universal Pictures, also won three, including a supporting actress award for Anne Hathaway.

With his portrayal of the 16th U.S. president, Day-Lewis became the only actor to win Oscars for three leading roles. His past wins included “There Will Be Blood” and “My Left Foot.” Lincoln, with the most nominations at 12, won one other award, for production design.

‘Silver Linings’

Lawrence, collecting her first Oscar on her second nomination, made a plea to treat mental illness like other diseases. In “Silver Linings Playbook” she and co-star Bradley Cooper come together as they cope with demons.

“You have asthma, you take asthma medicine. If you have diabetes, you take diabetes medicine,” Lawrence said. “If you have to take medication for your mind, there’s such a stigma behind it.”

Last night’s show drew an audience of about 40.3 million viewers in the U.S., up 2.5 percent from 39.3 million a year earlier, ABC said today in a statement, citing Nielsen data.

It was the most-watched Oscars since March 2010, when 41.7 million tuned in and “The Hurt Locker” won best picture.

Young Viewers

The audience of 18-to-49-year-olds, the group targeted by advertisers, increased 11 percent, the Walt Disney Co. network said. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, hired as host to attract younger viewers, helped boost ratings by 20 percent among younger adults ages 18 to 34, ABC said.

“Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, was largely overlooked, sharing an Oscar in a tie vote for sound editing. The film, distributed by Sony Corp., was criticized in Washington and Hollywood for its portrayal of torture in the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader.

Collectively, the nine nominees for best picture have taken in $2.1 billion in theaters worldwide, with a little less than half from the U.S., according to Boxofficemojo.com, a movie research site. “Lincoln,” distributed by Disney, is the domestic leader with $178.6 million in sales. “Life of Pi” is the top grosser worldwide with $583.4 million in revenue.

The winners, chosen by the academy’s 6,000 members, helped propel domestic ticket sales to a record $10.8 billion last year.

Host’s Performance

“Studio accountants have never had to work harder to show that nothing made a profit,” MacFarlane joked during his opening monologue.

MacFarlane lived up to what was expected to be a polarizing first time as host. He introduced a tribute to the 2002 musical “Chicago” by saying the awards show “wasn’t gay enough.” His teddy bear character from the film “Ted” proclaimed he was Jewish so he could keep working in Hollywood, and he performed a musical number about women’s breasts.

“I doubt there will ever have been a more divisive Oscars host than Seth MacFarlane,” said CNN talk-show host Piers Morgan on Twitter.com. “I’m loving him, others are hating him.”

Supporting Roles

In the supporting category Hathaway won for her portrayal of the ill-fated Fantine in the musical “Les Miserables,” while Christoph Waltz won for playing the clever-tongued German bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino’s drama “Django Unchained.” Tarantino won for best original screenplay.

“I love this movie because it’s a fabulous, exciting piece of entertainment with a really deep message,” Waltz said backstage. “I’m happy that it’s popular.” He also won the supporting award for his role as a Nazi in the 2009 Tarantino film “Inglourious Basterds.”

Oscar statuettes promise even more revenue to studios that made and distributed the films. “Slumdog Millionaire,” 2008’s best film, took $43 million in U.S. ticket sales after winning best picture in 2009, adding to the $98.4 million generated before the victory, according to Hollywood.com Box-Office.

“The fact that we’re not making movies for teenagers is kind of a cool thing,” Tarantino said in an interview backstage.

The show included a tribute to musicals with dance numbers featuring Charlize Theron with Channing Tatum, and Daniel Radcliffe, joining MacFarlane and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It also marked the 50th anniversary of James Bond pictures.

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