2012 OSCARS: Meryl nets a hatrick
The Artist wins Best Picture, Best Score, Directing and Costume Design
Dujardin makes history by claiming top award for uttering just two words
3D children's fantasy Hugo ties with silent hit by securing five awards
Christopher Plummer becomes oldest winner at 82 for Beginners
Streep gets top honour for The Iron Lady 29 years after last win
OSCARS 2012: FULL LIST OF WINNERS:
Best Picture: The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Directing: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Art Direction: Hugo
Costume Design: The Artist
Makeup: The Iron Lady
Foreign Language Film: A Separation, Iran.
Film Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Sound Editing: Hugo
Sound Mixing: Hugo
Documentary Feature: Undefeated
Animated Feature Film: Rango
Visual Effects: Hugo
Original Score: The Artist
Original Song: Man or Muppet from The Muppets
Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Live Action Short Film: The Shore
Documentary (short subject): Saving Face
Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
Thirty three years after she grasped her first gold statuette, Meryl Streep has secured her hat-trick of Academy Awards.
It came on a night that saw a film with just two singular words of speech in its script sweep the board, as The Artist was named Best Picture, Jean Dujardin Best Actor and the Best Directing gong went to Michel Hazanavicius.
With awards for best score and best costume design, too, it was undoubtedly the Franco-American film's night. But it was an historical ceremony in more ways than one, as veteran actor Christopher Plummer became the Academy's oldest winner taking the Best Supporting Actor laurels for, ironically enough, film Beginners.
But not even their success could distract from Meryl's towering achievement.
Aptly, the Golden Lady of Hollywood earned her third honour for her performance of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. She won a supporting actress gong in 1979 and the top award in 1982 for Kramer Vs Kramer and Sophie's Choice respectively. She had lost 12 times in a row since then.
Looking more golden lady than iron in a draped metallic gown, Meryl thanked her husband after opening with the self-deprecating statement statement:
'When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America go, "Oh, no, why her again?" But whatever,' Streep said, laughing.
With the emotion clearly getting to her, Meryl said that standing at the winners podium she 'sees my life before my eyes,' and insisted that her friends are what she holds dear from her career, more than the prizes it brings.
She said: 'I really understand I'll never be up here again. I really want to think all my colleagues, my friends. I look out here and I see my life before my eyes, my old friends, my new friends.
'Really, this is such a great honor but the think that counts the most with me is the friendship and the love and the sheer job we've shared making moves together,' said Streep, who is the record-holder with 17 acting nominations.
The Iron Lady star is only the fifth performer to receive three Oscars. Jack Nicholson, Ingrid Bergman and Walter Brennan all earned three, while Katharine Hepburn won four.
'So thank-you to my friends. The ones that are departed and the ones that are here. Thank-you.'
It was a night that went as expected, with front-runners claiming key prizes. Streep's triumph provided a bit of drama, since she had been in a two-woman race with Viola Davis for The Help.
A new friend would surely be The Artist's Jean Dujardin, the first man to win an Oscar by uttering two words - and who had the Gallic temerity to beat All American boys, favourite George Clooney and his dear friend Brad Pitt.
He bounded to the stage, shaking his fist and beaming from ear-to-ear.
'I love your country,' he declared and then went on to thank director Hazanavicius, co-star Berenice Bejo, and his wife in the audience.
Dujardin says just two words in the film 'thank' and 'you,' which was handy for tonight as he repeated them vociferously while plunging the pewter repeatedly into the air.
He finished up by speaking for his alter-ego in the movie and yelled: 'If George Valentin could speak, he would say: Merci! Formidable!'
It got even better for Jean... and of course, Uggie the dog (arguably the real star of the show) as The Artist received the gong for Best Picture.
Octavia Spencer was one of the first big winners at tonight's Academy Awards, and if she was a predictable choice for Best Supporting Actress... she was also a popular one.
Billy Crystal's staid intro veered from mocking the recession to an awkwardly awful song and dance number: 'Nothing can take the sting out of the economic crisis like watching millionaires give each other gold statues,' he said to a squirming auditorium.
Then there was the wholly expected yet joyfully received win for Octavia Spencer, who was rewarded for her performance in The Help.
Resplendent in white sequins Octavia held her hand to her mouth as the great and the good of Hollywood jumped to their feet for her, led by Angelina Jolie - who could be seen heartily cheering for the actress from one of the front rows.
Horribly, after this wonderful moment, Crystal misfired with a gag that saw him say Octavia's performance made him want to hug the first black woman he found which 'from Beverly Hills is a 45 minute drive.'
The dubious joke was met with a weak laugh, but the actress's heartfelt speech ensured a better taste was left in the mouth.
Spencer wept throughout her breathless monologue, in which she apologised for her disarray between bursts of laughing and crying.
'Thank you, academy, for putting me with the hottest guy in the room,' Spencer said, referring to last year's supporting-actor winner Christian Bale, who presented her Oscar, the pair seemed to get on famously and later enjoyed a friendly kiss.
Before taking the stage, Spencer puckered up with The Help co-stars Viola Davis, a best-actress nominee, and Jessica Chastain, a fellow supporting nominee.
'I share this with everybody,' Spencer said.
The legendary Christoper Plummer matched Octavia in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Plummer is the oldest acting winner ever at 82.
'You're only two years older than me, darling, where have you been all my life?' Plummer said as he held aloft the statuette.
He joked that he has spent his life rehearsing his acceptance speech: 'I'm so proud to be in your company,' he said to his fellow nominees.
He also caused the audience to well up by thanking his wife 'for coming to my rescue every day of my life.'
Earlier, a nervous George Clooney was reassured by his friend, Sandra Bullock.
The motherly actress, who referenced her German heritage to great comic effect as she presented the award for best foreign language film which went to Iran's A Separation, tenderly wiped the actor's face as they chatted before the ceremony began.
His friends Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt seemed more relaxed, they mingled with fellow stars excitedly - chatting particularly at length with Meryl Streep.
First British triumph at the Oscars came when The Iron Lady won for best make-up design.
British prosthetic artist Mark Coulier who spent three hours each day transforming Meryl Streep into an older Margaret Thatcher shared the Oscar with hair designer J. Roy Helland, who has worked with Meryl for thirty years and was singled out in her speech as her 'other partner.'
Martin Scorcese's Hugo also got off to a running start with a win in the Art Direction category, and later picked up Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects.
Crystal had fun with Brangelina and Clooney, jokingly running a commentary on the thoughts in their heads Crystal imagined that Pitt was worrying about parent teacher meetings and that George was panicking: 'Billy didn't tell me that kiss was being filmed.'
Bret McKenzie won the award for best original song with Man or Muppet from The Muppets, after a hilarious skit from Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.
Rango won for best animated feature film.
'Please welcome the original girl with the dragon tattoo,' Billy Crystal said as he introduced Angelina Jolie.
With her lips painted red and her dress slit provocatively, she handed The Descendants the prize for best adapted screenplay. Director and co-writer Alexander Payne had brought his mother to the ceremony and, on her insistence, he dedicated the prize to her.
Original screenplay, went to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, but the director hadn't made the journey to his hated West Coast and was ensconced in New York.
'The Academy accepts this award on his behalf,' smiles Jolie.
Big hitter Michael Douglas was wheeled out to present the first big award of the night, Best Director.
The winner is Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. '
I am the happiest director in the world right now,' he said, before going on to thank a long list of people. 'I want to thank Uggie the dog,' before adding in a typical Gallic humourous aside: 'Uggie doesn't care. He doesn't understand maybe. He's not that good.'