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'The Hurt Locker' lands on top at Academy Awards

James Cameron's groundbreaking science-fiction/fantasy "Avatar" is now the biggest film of all time. A little film that made about $700 million less than it did at the box office put a hurting on both Cameron and his mega-blockbuster Sunday night, though.

The big winner at the 82nd Academy Awards was "The Hurt Locker," a film that, ironically, was directed by Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow.

Her Iraq war thriller won Best Picture, she was named Best Director, and the Best Original Screenplay statue was given to journalist-turned-screenwriter Mark Boal.

Cameron and Avatar went head-to-head with Bigelow and her film in several of the biggest categories. And unlike 1998, when the so-called "King of the World" dominated (his movie "Titanic" won 11 Oscars), this time he had to settle for a handful of awards, in mostly technical categories.

So perhaps it was no wonder that Bigelow — the first female filmmaker to win Best Director — seemed a little overwhelmed by her "moment of a lifetime."

While accepting the Best Picture trophy, Bigelow was nearly speechless, despite giving praise to men and women in uniform.

Still, for a night that saw independent productions like "Hurt Locker" take home some of the biggest prizes, there were a few big-name winners as well.

Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar, for Best Actress. She played a real-life woman, Leigh Anne Tuohy, in the blockbuster sports drama "The Blind Side."

"Did I win this, or did I just wear y'all down?" Bullock joked.

(The win was actually Bullock's second over the weekend. She was awarded a Golden Raspberry — an infamous bad-movie trophy — for her performance in the stalker comedy "All About Steve," and was on hand to accept that on Saturday.)

And veteran Jeff Bridges finally took home an Oscar on his fifth try. He was honored as Best Actor for his performance as a broken-down country-western singer in the downbeat character drama "Crazy Heart."

He thanked his late parents, including actor Lloyd Bridges "for turning me on to this groovy profession."

Meanwhile, a pair of newcomers won first-time gold in Oscar's supporting actor categories. Comedienne Mo'Nique was named Best Supporting Actress, for her role as an abusive mother in "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

Mo'Nique praised members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "for showing that (Oscars) can be about the performance and not about the politics."

And Austrian actor Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor, for his turn as a scheming Nazi officer in Quentin Tarantino's revisionist World War II thriller "Inglourious Basterds."

Waltz revisited one of his character's most quotable lines from that film, saying "Penelope and Oscar, that's an uber-bingo!"

(He received the award from last year's Best Supporting Actress winner, Penelope Cruz.)

This year's telecast boasted a pair of co-hosts, "It's Complicated" stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. They were more jokey than last year's host, Hugh Jackman, who eschewed jokes in favor of singing and dancing.

Despite organizers' promises that the show's opening would be the "most dynamic" in Oscar's history, though, it was dull — Martin and Baldwin's gentle "ribbing" of the various nominees was unfunny.

Also, it still took 3½ hours to pass out the six major awards — and two dozen of them in all.

In keeping with the past few years, the broadcast was preceded by a Barbara Walters interview special — supposedly the veteran newswoman/interviewer's final one, which featured Oscar winners Mo'Nique and Bullock, as well as clips from previous interviews. A Red Carpet event also preceded the Oscars telecast. (Sherri Shepherd, Kathy Ireland and Jess Cagle may have been the worst, most shamelessly fawning co-hosts in this Red Carpet program's history.)

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com