Even though she seemingly had a lock on the Supporting Actress Oscar, Mo'Nique triggered a welcome jolt that reverberated through Hollywood's Kodak Theatre when her name was announced. She first thanked the Academy "for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics."
She then paid tribute to Gone with the Wind Supporting Actress Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American ever to win an Oscar (in 1940), and "for enduring all she had to, so I wouldn't have to."
In her red-carpet appearance earlier Sunday, Mo'Nique told emcee Ryan Seacrest that when it came to singling out the work of which she was proud, she felt just as thrilled to have been a part of Soul Place as she was Precious – though she especially appreciates the beauty of Precious's message: "Change our lives."
The stark drama, directed by Lee Daniels and featuring a standout performance by Best Actress nominee Gabourey Sidibe, was a decided change of pace for the mostly comedic Mo'Nique, whose other movies also include Phat Girlz and Beerfest. The Maryland native, whose resumé includes a stint as a phone-sex operator, is married to actor-producer Sidney Hicks – whom she thanked in her acceptance speech for the advice he gave her. That was, "Sometimes you have to forgo doing something that's popular in order to do what's right."
Precious's Adapted Screenplay also picked up an Oscar for its writer, Geoffrey Fletcher, whose tearful acceptance caused even Morgan Freeman's eyes to well up as the Invictus nominee sat in the audience.
The first Oscar to go to the war thriller The Hurt Locker (which, like Avatar, received nine nominations) was presented to its writer, Mark Boal, for Original Screenplay. Besides the studio and his co-workers, including director Kathryn Bigelow, Boal said, "I would also like to thank and dedicate this to the troops, the 115,000 who are still in Iraq, the 120,000 in Afghanistan and the more than 30,000 wounded and 4,000 who have not made it home. And to my father, who didn't live to see this, but inspired me and got me up here. He passed away a month ago. He would've really liked this a lot. Thanks, Dad. Thank you."
For Crazy Heart, which stars Jeff Bridges, Oscars went to Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, for the Original Song "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)."
Other highlights included a tribute to the late filmmaker John Hughes, introduced by Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald, whose careers were launched by his movies. Ben Stiller also managed to bring down the house as a blue Na'vi creature, to present the Best Makeup. The winner was Star Trek. (Avatar wasn't nominated.)