Austrian actor Christoph Waltz and animated movie "Brave" took home early Oscars on Sunday as Seth MacFarlane mocked both himself and Hollywood's A-listers in his debut as host of the movie industry's biggest night.
In one of the closest contests going into the ceremony, the Best Supporting Actor went to Waltz for his turn as an eccentric dentist-turned-bounty-hunter in Quentin Tarantino's slavery revenge fantasy "Django Unchained."
"We participated in a hero's journey, the hero here being Quentin. You scaled the mountain because you're not afraid of it," said Waltz, who has now won two Oscars for roles in Tarantino films.
Waltz beat veterans Robert De Niro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alan Arkin and Tommy Lee Jones.
Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway sang and starved her way to her first Oscar on Sunday with an emotionally raw portrayal of Fantine in "Les Miserables," the sweeping yet intimate film adaptation of the stage play based on French writer Victor Hugo's epic 1862 novel.
Hathaway, 30, was the favorite to win this year's Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She used a strict diet of dried oatmeal paste to shed 25 pounds, hacked off her long hair and spent six months perfecting the task of crying and singing at the same time for her heart-wrenching rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream."
"Brave," the Pixar movie about a feisty Scottish princess, took home the golden statuette for Best Animated Feature.
MacFarlane opened the show with three song and dance numbers, barbed quips about some of Hollywood's biggest stars and running jokes about his own suitability to host the Academy Awards.
"I honestly cannot believe I am here. It's an honor that everyone else said 'no'," said the creator of edgy animated TV series "Family Guy".
But his biggest laugh came in a reference to director Ben Affleck's snub in the directing race for his Iran hostage thriller "Argo."
"The story was so top secret that the film's director was unknown to the Academy!" MacFarlane quipped.
Presidential drama "Lincoln" went into Sunday's three-hour plus ceremony with a leading 12 nominations, including a directing nod for double Oscar winner Steven Spielberg.
But its front-runner Best Picture status has been dented by the six-week victory streak enjoyed at other Hollywood awards by "Argo."
The thriller, once considered an underdog when Affleck was overlooked in the Oscar directing category, is now thought to have the edge.
Best Picture, the top prize, will be announced at the end of the roughly three-hour live ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
If "Argo" does prevail, it will be the first movie to win Best Picture without its director even getting a nomination since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990.
Musical "Les Miserables," comedy "Silver Linings Playbook," shipwreck tale "Life of Pi," Osama bin laden thriller "Zero Dark Thirty," slavery Western "Django Unchained," indie film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," and "Amour" round out the contenders for the best film of 2012.
The Oscar winners were chosen in secret ballots by some 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
'Amour' wins best foreign language film
Austere Austrian drama "Amour" that tackles death and aging won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.The French-language film became the second Austrian movie to capture the Academy Award. World War Two drama "The Counterfeiters" won the Oscar for top foreign film in 2007.
The honor caps a year-long run of awards for the film by Austrian director Michael Haneke, whose period drama "The White Ribbon" was up for the same Oscar in 2010.
Haneke gave credit for the honor to the film's stars, veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.
"Thank you ... to my main actors, Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, because without them I (would not be standing) here," the director said as he accepted the award.
"Amour" won the Palme d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, the fest's top prize, and Best Foreign Film at Hollywood's Golden Globe Awards in January. It was also named Best Film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.
The unflinching take on devotion, old age and illness details the everyday struggles and indignities of elderly Parisian couple Anne and Georges as they confront Anne's slide toward death.
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