Defying the stereotype that Iraq War movies can't succeed, Kathryn Bigelow's "Hurt Locker" took home six of the nine Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including best picture and best original screenplay. By comparison, the movie's most hyped competitor, "Avatar," won three trophies.
Bigelow won best director, becoming the first woman in the more than eight decade-long history of the Oscars to score that award.
"I hope I'm the first of many," Bigelow said backstage of breaking the male lock on the director category. "I long for the day when the modifier can be a moot point, but I'm grateful if I can inspire a young, tenacious, intrepid male or female filmmaker."
Bigelow and her fellow female winners stole the spotlight backstage. Sandra Bullock, who beat perpetual favorite Meryl Streep to win the best actress award for "The Blind Side," and Mo'Nique, who took home the best supporting-actress Oscar for "Precious," relished their victories and offered insights into what inspires them.
"The reason I have on this royal blue dress is because it's the color that Hattie McDaniel wore when she accepted her Oscar," Mo'Nique said, adding that she put a gardenia in her hair for the same reason, to pay tribute to McDaniel, who became the first black performer to win an Oscar in 1940, for the role of Mammy in "Gone With the Wind."
"Ms. Hattie McDaniel, I have you all over me," Mo'Nique continued. "It's about time the world has you all over them."
Accepting her best actress award, Bullock offered a teary tribute to "Helga B.," her late mother. Behind the scenes, Bullock continued to draw on what she learned from her mom.
"Don't aspire to be in these shoes," Bullock said, offering advice to those aspiring to be in the movie industry. "Walk in your own. My mother beat it into our heads to be original and I didn't understand that until later on."
During the ceremony, the mood was more lighthearted.
Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin took no prisoners when they had the mic. They took a hit at every major nominee during their intro to the ceremony, calling their stint with Meryl Streep in "It's Complicated" a "memorable threesome," killing replicas of "Avatar's" "floating wood sprites" after saying hi to James Cameron, and choosing to ignore George Clooney outright.
They also jabbed Hollywood's rising stars, singling out Zac Efron and Taylor Lautner to say, "Take a good look at us, guys. This is you in five years."
The most LOL-worthy moment of the show came when Ben Stiller sauntered onto stage in a full-blown "Avatar" getup -- blue skin, tail and braid, yellow eyes -- and attempted a few Na'vi slurs before, fittingly, presenting the award for best makeup.