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Big Oscar winners: “Slumdog,” Penn, Winslet & Ledger

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Heath Ledger as the Joker wins best supporting actor Oscar.


The late Heath Ledger, a talent that left us much too soon, was honored for his incredible performance as the “Joker” in the blockbuster, “The Dark Knight, ” at the 81st Academy Awards last night in Hollywood. Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment a year ago last month. Later officials would rule his death an accidental overdose due to prescription medications. He was only 28.

Last night at the Kodak Theatre, his parents and sister went up on stage to accept Ledger’s Oscar for best supporting actor. Ledger is only the second actor to win an Academy Award posthumously. The first time occurred when Peter Finch won the best actor Oscar for his work in the 1976 drama, “Network,” shortly after his death from a heart attack.

 As expected, the rags-to-riches story of an orphan who gets a shot at winning India’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” cleaned up with the major trophies at the Oscars. “Slumdog Millionaire” won eight Academy Awards including: best picture, best director, best adapted screenplay, and best cinematography.

However, the best actress Oscar went to Kate Winslet for “The Reader” and best actor to Sean Penn for his lead role in “Milk.” In his acceptance speech, Penn was both gracious and humble: “”I did not expect this, and I wanted to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often. But I am touched by the appreciation.” In keeping with the gay rights theme of the film Penn also, condemned the passage of Proposition 8, the California ban on same-sex marriage, calling for “equal rights for everyone.”

 My favorite film of 2008, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” received 13 Oscar nominations, but only won three: best art direction, best achievement in makeup, and best achievement in visual effects. This is a magical film that is beautifully acted and executed. I feel it will be enjoyed by movie lovers for many years to come.

I was disappointed that Taraji P. Henson, who played Brad Pitt’s mother in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” did not win the best supporting actress Oscar. Penelope Cruz took home the statuette for her performance in the Woody Allen film, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”

A complete list of the winners and nominees can be found over at the Oscar website run by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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