Argo was it in the end.
The Ben Affleck-directed drama about the Hollywood-aided CIA rescue of six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis was named Best Picture at the 85th Academy Awards, one of three Oscar wins for the film.
"Argo is so top secret, the film's director is unknown to the Academy...They know they screwed up," tonight's hit-and-miss host, Seth MacFarlane, said in his opening monologue, giving a few seconds for the accuracy of his joke to settle in.
It wasn't so secret, however, that Chris Terrio couldn't win for Best Adapted Screenplay, or William Goldenberg, for Achievement in Film Editing, to give Argo a neat trio of Oscars.
"I know what you're thinking: Three sexiest producers alive," Grant Heslov said in accepting the Best Picture honor along with Affleck and coproducer George Clooney.
"You have to work harder than you think you possibly can," Affleck said. "It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life because that's going to happen. All that matters is you have to get up."
So, we could sit around stewing over what could have been, but Ang Lee received a standing ovation when he was named Best Director for LIfe of Pi, based on a novel that was declared unfilmable by most of his peers—and we were fine with that.
"Thank you, movie god," said Lee, a previous winner for Brokeback Mountain. "I really need to share this with all 3,000, everybody who worked with me on Life of Pi. I really want to thank you for believing in this story and sharing in this incredible journey with me."
The rest of the CGI-dependent film's dominant slice of the Oscar pie came for cinematography (Claudio Miranda), visual effects (Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boerand Donald Elliott) and original score (Mychael Danna) to give it a leading four wins tonight.
As absolutely everyone predicted, Daniel Day-Lewis won his record third Oscar for Best Actor, this one for channeling the 16th president of the United States in Lincoln. His was half of a pair of wins out of a leading 12 nominations for Steven Spielberg's historical drama, the other coming for production design.
"Before we decided to do a straight swap, I had actually been committed to play Margaret Thatcher, and Meryl was Steven's first choice for Lincoln, and I'd like to see that version," Day-Lewis joked, nodding at presenter Meryl Streep, a winner last year for Iron Lady. "And Steven didn't have to persuade me to play Lincoln, but I had to persuade him that perhaps, if I was going to do it, Lincoln shouldn't be a musical."
Day-Lewis' other Best Actor triumphs came for My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood.
Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, was literally floored by her Best Actress win, the Silver Linings Playbook star tripping on her way up the stairs to accept her Oscar for playing an emotionally fired-up widow opposite Bradley Cooper's lease-on-life-seeking former mental patient.
"That's really embarrassing, but thank you," the 22-year-old said breathlessly. "This is nuts! Thank you to the Academy, and thank you to the women this year...You've been so nice and made this so enjoyable."
The fabulously awkward actress also remembered to wish fellow nominee Emmanuelle Riva happy birthday, the Academy Awards happening to fall on the Amour star's 86th.
Anne Hathaway capped off her stellar season with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as the prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold (and tongue of silver!) Fantine in Les Misérables, her honor the last of three notched by the epic musical tonight.
"It came true," said the beaming star and previous Best Actress nominee for Rachel Getting Married. "Thank you so much to the Academy for this and thank you so much for nominating me." She went on to thank her costars, crew, friends, family and personal team before ending with the wish that "someday, in the not too distant future, the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never more in real life."
Les Misérables' two other wins came for sound mixing and makeup & hairstyling.
Winning Best Supporting Actor for his role as a crafty, delightfully verbose bounty hunter in Django Unchained makes Christoph Waltz two-for-two when Quentin Tarantino is behind the camera.
"Mr. De Niro, Mr. Arkin, Mr. Hoffman and Mr. Jones, my respects," the Austrian actor began his acceptance speech by name-checking his fellow nominees. "My unlimited gratitude goes to Dr. King Schultz—that is, of course, to his creator and the creator of his awe-inspiring world, Quentin Tarantino.
"We participated in a hero's journey, the hero here being Quentin," continued Waltz, who won the same honor for Inglourious Basterds in 2010. "You scaled the mountain because you're not afraid of it, you slayed the dragon because you're not afraid of it and you crossed through fire because it's worth it. I borrowed my character's words, sorry, couldn't resist."
No apologies necessary, because the guy who put the words in Schultz's mouth was later the winner for Best Original Screenplay.
"That's cool, Charlize is my neighbor! How very nice to get this from you. Thank you, Mr. Hoffman," Tarantino laughed as he accepted his second Oscar from Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman. (Not to alarm anybody, but he won this award for Pulp Fiction 18 years ago.)
"Boy, oh boy," he said. "I've been saying things like, 'I want to thank the actors for what they've done when it comes to my script.' It's not just an easy thing to say, it really is why I'm standing here...I actually think if people are knowing my movies 30 or 50 years from now, it's going to be because of the characters that I created. And I really get only one chance to get it right, I have to cast the right people to make those characteristics come alive and hopefully live for a long time. Boy, this time, did I do it!"
Adele and Paul Epworth won Best Original Song for the theme from Skyfall, a coup that had Adele in tears onstage as she called the win "amazing!" and quickly added, "And my man—I love you, baby!" as she handed the mic over to Epworth.
The successful song mission was the second win for Skyfall, which, in a rare occurrence, tied with Zero Dark Thirty earlier in the night for Best Sound Editing.
As expected, Amour, which is set in France but officially serves as a win for director Michael Haneke's native Austria, was named Best Foreign-Language Film.
Best Animated Feature Film went to the box-office hit Brave, from Disney-Pixar, while Searching for Sugar Man, about the niche popularity that led to the rediscovery of 1970s rocker Rodriguez, won for Best Documentary. This was the second Oscar for Sugar Man producer Simon Chinn, who also won in 2009 for Man on Wire.