James Marsh (director) and Simon Chinn (producer)
“Man on Wire”
“Man on Wire,” part thriller, part existential mood piece, told the story of how French acrobat Philippe Petit walked on a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Director Marsh called Petit to the stage while accepting the award, and Petit duly sprinted up. After remarks by Marsh and producer Chinn, Petit announced “the shortest speech in Oscar history -- yes!” Continuing, he added, “I always break the rules, I break my own rules.”
Petit then pulled a coin from his pocket, which he said had been given to him by fellow documentary nominee Werner Herzog. “You were right, we won,” Petit noted, before making it seemingly disappear from his palm while adding, “so now it’s time to thank the academy for believing in magic.”
Rahman, composer of countless Bollywood scores, won for his transporting soundscape in “Slumdog Millionaire,” Danny Boyle’s crowd-pleaser that is part potboiler, part fairy tale.
Rahman started writing music for Indian TV ads in the early ‘90s, eventually switching to film and composing dozens of soundtracks a year. In 2002, Andrew Lloyd Webber commissioned him to write the music for the play “Bombay Dreams,” which ran in London’s West End. Rahman also collaborated with London musician M.I.A. on the film’s acclaimed soundtrack.
A.R. Rahman (music) and Gulzar (lyrics)
“Jai Ho” was one of two songs composed by Rahman that was nominated for original song from “Slumdog Millionaire.” It beat out the other song, “O Saya,” which was punctuated with stylish vocals from M.I.A., as well as Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman’s “Down to Earth” from “Wall-E.”
“Jai Ho” was the more accessible of the two “Slumdog” songs, an uplifting theme also threaded with tension. With lyrics by Sampooran Singh Gulzar, who often goes by the singular name Gulzar, “Jai Ho” was one of eight awards for “Slumdog Millionaire” and Rahman’s second Oscar of the night.
The little-seen Japanese film “Departures,” directed by Yojiro Takita, tells the story of a failed cellist (Masahiro Motoki) who finds a new lease on life when he accepts a job in the mortuary business.
Taking the stage with a number of collaborators, Takita said: “I am very, very happy. I am here because of films. This is a new departure for me.” On his way off, he added, “We will be back, I hope.”
Two other nominees, “The Class” from France and “Waltz With Bashir” from Israel, were among the most lauded films of the year after their respective premieres at the Cannes Film Festival last May.
Documentary short subject
“Smile Pinki” tells the story of children in India born with cleft palates who receive free plastic surgery. Accepting the award, filmmaker Mylan said, “Oh, to be in a room with all this talent -- lucky me. And to tell stories for a living -- lucky me.”
Mylan noted “documentary, like all filmmaking, is a complete team sport” before thanking her editor, cinematographer and producers. She concluded by singling out “our heroine, Pinki Kumari [Sonkar],thank you, thank you, thank you, for letting me tell your inspiring story. What a gift.”
The costume design nominations spanned many locations and time periods, including San Francisco in the ‘70s, 18th century England, the Jazz Age in New Orleans, suburban America in the ‘50s and Australia before World War II. But it was the ruffled, brocaded dresses and sky-high feathery hats of “The Duchess” that scored Englishman O’Connor his first Academy Award.
Keira Knightley, who had to have her trailer enlarged to house her 30 elaborate costumes, played Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, the 18th century “it” girl known as the Empress of Fashion. The film follows the rise and sad stumble of the style icon, who suffers the consequences of a loveless marriage in affluent society.
“The character is young and innocent in the beginning, but her confidence builds,” O’Connor told The Times in a recent interview. “We showed that through her clothes and hats.”
Spectacular pieces include a traditional Gainsborough hat in black velvet and vintage ribbons that cost $150 a meter, which couldn’t be stored in a regular hatbox. At the end of filming, Knightley took the hat home.
Anthony Dod Mantle
Arguably among the true mad wizards of modern world cinema, Mantle mixed conventional film cameras with small and light digital technology for “Slumdog Millionaire,” creating an essential ingredient to the film’s vibrantly colorful look and breakneck momentum. Hurtling through the street-level slums of Mumbai, India, to the high-rise construction sites that tower over the city, his work captured something elemental about the disorienting velocity of the city itself.
Though this was his first nomination for an Oscar, Mantle has been at the forefront of cinematography for more than a decade. Born in England, he has long lived in Denmark and, on films such as “The Celebration,” was a key technician behind the Dogme 95 film movement, among the first to bring digital filmmaking to the fore. He has worked often with director Lars von Trier, as well as “Slumdog Millionaire” director Danny Boyle.
Mantle and Boyle have previously collaborated on such films as “28 Days Later,” for which Mantle worked with converted consumer-grade cameras, and “Millions.”
In the run-up to this year’s Academy Awards, Mantle won a number of significant precursors, most notably the top award from the American Society of Cinematographers.
Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
The bold, boisterous sounds of a city teeming with life and the emotional music of Bollywood were brought together by the team of Tapp, Pryke and Pookutty with their sound-mixing work on “Slumdog Millionaire.”
This was the first Academy Award nomination for all three.
Backstage after accepting the award, Pookutty expressed pride not only for himself but also for the prolific and immensely popular native film industry in India when he noted, “No Indian technician has been nominated. I am the first to win one. It is glory to me and for myself to win for my country.”
“The Dark Knight”
The Batmobile’s roar and the shattered glass of Gotham City skyscraper windows were but two auditory elements designed by sound editor King, who won for sound editing on “The Dark Knight.”
Director Christopher Nolan’s vision for the film was more gritty drama than superhero flick, but Batman’s toys still had to sound commanding in the theaters. King told The Times in a recent interview that the Batmobile’s sound was achieved by recording big race boat engines, adding in large animal roars and growls for emphasis.
King previously won an Oscar for “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” in 2004 and was nominated for “War of the Worlds” in 2006.
Dustin Lance Black
In accepting his award, “Milk” screenwriter Black dutifully dispatched with the thank-yous and then -- in keeping with the spirit of the film about gay rights activist Harvey Milk -- got personal and political.
Black recalled being raised in a Mormon home and hearing Milk’s story around the time his family moved to California. “It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married,” said the first-time nominee and writer on HBO’s “Big Love.”
“I want to thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am . . . ,” he said. “But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures who have value. And that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you.”
A night of riches for “Slumdog Millionaire” began when Beaufoy won for adapted screenplay. Although the rags-to-riches story was heavily favored, he still seemed surprised by the moment.
“There are certain places in the universe you never imagine standing,” said Beaufoy, who also was nominated for 1997’s “The Full Monty.” “For me, it’s the moon, the South Pole and the Miss World podium and here. It’s a tremendous honor.”
After holding his golden statue for a few moments backstage, he added: “It’s a real shock to have this in your hands. It’s very heavy, and it’s an iconic image of cinema. ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ this little indie film that no one wanted, is in the hall of fame. It’s written on the walls of this place, which is just extraordinary!”
Jochen Alexander Freydank
The German movie, set in 1942, is about a young boy who believes his Jewish neighbors are going to “Toyland,” which is the film’s title translated into English.
“Whoa. This is almost a surreal moment for me because I grew up in East Germany, behind the wall, so West Germany was far away from me. Hollywood was really far away,” said Freydank, who wrote and directed the film. “I spent four years of my life on this 14-minute movie. . . . I hope this bald head here,” he said, referring to the Oscar statue, “is going to help all of us [“Spielzeug- land” collaborators] in our future career.”
When it was released in the summer, the film about a lonely robot that yearned for love amid the deserted trash heap of a futuristic Earth initially prompted talk of a best picture nomination. Although its early buzz eventually fizzled by the fall, “Wall-E” surprised few by beating out the well-received “Bolt” and “Kung Fu Panda,” and picking up the Oscar for animated feature.
The film drew comparisons to Charlie Chaplin’s finest work by its reliance in its first half-hour on stunning visuals, an almost complete lack of dialogue and the title character’s poignant emotional attachment (in Wall-E’s case, a videocassette of “Hello, Dolly!”).
Critically celebrated, the movie appealed perhaps even more to adults than the children it was marketed to, with its strong love story and environmental message.
“It’s been such an inspiration to spend time with a character who so tenaciously struggles to find the beauty in everything that he sees,” said Stanton, who has been nominated for five Academy Awards and whose “Finding Nemo” won in the same category in 2003. “It’s a noble aspiration to have at times like these.”
One of his other nominations came for writing 1995’s “Toy Story.”
Stanton thanked his high school drama teacher, Phil Perry, for casting him as Barnaby in “Hello, Dolly!” -- the film version of which entrances and inspires his animated robotic character to pursue his love.
“Creative seeds are sown in the oddest of places so,” he said in accepting his Oscar.
Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton
and Craig Barron
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Though the film had become the subject of some derision among late-night comedy television hosts for its stately storytelling, there was no denying that the visual effects in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” were groundbreaking and breathtaking. In creating the remarkable achievement of seeming to age Brad Pitt from an old man to a young baby (or is that the other way around?), the work done to place the actor’s head on a series of different-sized bodies was something that had simply never been seen before. The blending from practical makeup effects to digital trickery was practically seamless.
This was the first nomination for Barba, Preeg and Dalton. Barron had previously received one nomination.
In presenting the award, Will Smith noted that he specifically wanted to represent a category that included action films such as nominees “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man,” films that have explosions and car chases, and “what’s the other word I’m looking for? Fans.”
“La Maison en Petits Cubes”
The 12-minute film, which means “House of Small Cubes,” centers on an old man reflecting upon his life as floodwaters slowly rise at his home. It marked the first Academy Award nomination and win for Kato, who wrote and directed the piece.
“It’s so heavy,” said Kato of the award. A native of Japan, he struggled with his English in good humor before a star-studded audience. “Thank you very much. Thank you, my supporters. Thank you, all my staff. Thank you, academy. . . . Thank you, my company. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.”
Kato’s film career was not his first choice. As a child, he wanted to be a veterinarian but gave it up because of an allergy to cats.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
In a category often dominated by the horror genre -- and this year featuring fellow nominees “The Dark Knight” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” -- Cannom won for the period drama that has Brad Pitt aging in reverse.
Cannom has previously won Oscars for “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Dracula,” but Benjamin Button’s tale presented special challenges for Cannom, who used several silicone appliances, as well as hand-drawn lines, to create the appearance of age for Pitt and costar Cate Blanchett.
Dickens rode the wave of awards showered on “Slumdog Millionaire,” picking up the Oscar for film editing.
Dickens earned his first Academy Award nomination, and his first victory, by masterfully weaving together a kaleidoscope of spectacular scenery and complicated story lines about an 18-year-old from the slums of Mumbai who lands on the television game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
“Thank you so much for this,” said Dickens, who as a child wanted to be a scientist and later thought of becoming a sculptor and painter before settling on film editing. “I just want to say I had a fantastic time working on this film. I really didn’t want it to end.”
Donald Graham Burt (art direction) and Victor J. Zolfo (set decoration)
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
In the first win of the night for the film that entered with the most nominations, art director Burt and set decorator Zolfo won for “Benjamin Button,” a film that spans decades and jumps from Louisiana to Europe and back again. It was the first time both men had been up for an Oscar; the pair had also won a British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for their work on the film.
Burt thanked the various crews -- in New Orleans, Montreal, St. Thomas and Los Angeles -- as well as the producers, noting that “our producers were great because they did what every producer should ever do, and that’s leave us alone.”
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“The Dark Knight”
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Compiled by Martin Miller, Mark Olsen and Margaret Wappler