‘Slumdog’ wins big at Oscars

Film takes eight trophies at Academy Awards

“Slumdog Millionaire” capped its winning streak with Hollywood’s top prize.

Pic took home eight statues, with the Mumbai-based rags-to-riches tale — that nearly wound up being distribbed direct to DVD — winning best picture, director, screenplay, score, song, cinematography, sound mixing and film editing. It had received 10 nominations.

Overall tally bests “Shakespeare in Love,” the last British-produced pic to dominate the Oscars, which had seven wins at the 1999 kudocast.

The awards are significant because “Slumdog’s” dominance this year points to the increasing globalization of Hollywood — and the Oscars.

Pic’s director, Danny Boyle, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, and producer Christian Colson hail from Britain, it has a mostly Indian cast and it found its first success in America. One-third of it is in Hindi and thus makes the first claim for a foreign-language film to take the best pic prize.

In addition to being the first Oscars for Boyle and Beaufoy, it’s also the first major win for Fox Searchlight, which has had many best-pic noms over the years — “The Full Monty,” “Sideways,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and last year’s “Juno.”

Among other firsts, British thesp Kate Winslet ended a losing streak, winning her first Oscar in her sixth nom for portraying a former Nazi prison guard in the Weinstein Co.’s Holocaust drama “The Reader.”

Sean Penn won for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, in Focus Features’ biopic “Milk.” Mickey Rourke had been considered a favorite for his role as a washed-up grappler in “The Wrestler,” which industryites consider a career-resurrecting performance.

Penn, who had previously won for 2003’s “Mystic River” and was nominated three other times, even acknowledged Rourke’s role in his acceptance speech, saying “Mickey Rourke rises again and he is my brother.”

Despite their own attempts for a comeback to once again take over Oscar’s top prizes, studio specialty labels dominated the 81st Academy Awards, with Searchlight winning eight awards, followed by two for the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features, and one each for Paramount Vantage, Magnolia and Regent Releasing.

Warners’ logo appears on “Slumdog,” but that’s because its Warner Independent unit had been affiliated with the pic before Fox Searchlight wound up eventually distribbing.

While Paramount and Warner Bros. received the most nominations for a single pic, with 13 nods for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the age-reversal drama ended up winning just three awards in technical categories, for art direction, makeup and visual effects.

Foreign influence over this year’s kudocast was immediately evident with Australian thesp Hugh Jackman serving as host from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

In major categories, fellow Aussie Heath Ledger won posthumously for supporting actor as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” His father, mother and sister took the stage to accept the honor.

Spanish-thesp Penelope Cruz won supporting actress for her role in Woody Allen’s comedy “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” her first Oscar.

Meanwhile, Indian composer and regular Bollywood contributor A.R. Rahman won the top two music awards for “Slumdog.” The French-themed Japanese-entry “La Maison en Petits Cubes” won for animated short; Germany’s “Spielzeugland” won live-action short; and Brit helmer James Marsh won feature-length docu for “Man on Wire,” about French tightrope walker Philippe Petit.

Biggest surprise of the night easily went to Japanese entry “Departures,” which won the foreign film category, besting Israel’s animated docu; “Waltz With Bashir” which had been considered by many to be the favorite. Pic, set in Japan’s funeral industry, has swept that country’s awards season, with more than 60 trophies.

But this year’s show proved mostly free of surprises, with many of the winners having already swept most of the top prizes handed out in the kudos race leading up to the Oscars.

“Slumdog,” itself, had made a clean sweep of those awards, winning the top Golden Globe, BAFTA, DGA, PGA and SAG awards, as well as virtually every major guild honor.

Also not surprising was Dustin Lance Black’s win for penning “Milk” in the original screenplay category.

And Pixar Animation Studios continued its dominance over the toon category, with “Wall-E” winning animated feature, the Disney owned shop’s fourth after “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.”

In other tech honors, costume design went to “The Duchess.”

Ledger’s win for “The Dark Knight” wasn’t the only win for the Batman sequel. It also won for sound editing. Altogether, the wins gave WB a combined tally of five Oscars for the night.

The Academy Awards were broadcast live on ABC, with Bill Condon serving as executive producer and Laurence Mark producing.

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