Accepting the directing honor alongside his brother, Ethan, Joel Coen recalled how they got their start in a career that has seen them advance from oddballs with a devoted cult following to broader audiences. He noted they have been making films since childhood, including one at the Minneapolis airport called "Henry Kissinger: Man on the Go."
"What we do now doesn't feel that much different from what we were doing then," Joel Coen said. "We're very thankful to all of you out there for continuing to let us play in our corner of the sandbox."
With a domestic box office take of $64 million, "No Country" is the biggest box office hit for the Coens, whose tales often are an acquired taste appealing to narrow crowds. Their films include the modest hits "Fargo" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and such lesser-known yarns as "The Hudsucker Proxy" and "The Man Who Wasn't There."
As expected, actor Daniel Day-Lewis, born in London, but now an Irish citizen, won best actor for his powerful performance as a ruthless oilman in "There Will Be Blood," which also won best cinematography.
"That's the closest I'll ever come to getting a knighthood, so thank you," he quipped as he accepted his award from Helen Mirren, who won best actress last year for her turn as Queen Elizabeth I.
It was the second Oscar for Day-Lewis, who won in the same category for 1989's "My Left Foot."
"I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this," said Swinton, fondly looking at her Oscar statuette.
"Really, truly, the same shape head, and it has to be said, the buttocks. And I'm giving this to him, because there's no way I'd be in America at all, ever, on a plane if it wasn't for him," said the actress who, like Day-Lewis, hails from the U.K.
French actress Marion Cotillard won for her tour de force performance as legendary singer Edith Piaf in "La Vie En Rose."
"Thank you life, thank you love and - it is true, there (are) some angels in this city. Thank you so, so much," Cotillard said tearfully as she accepted her best actress trophy, the first ever for a French-language performance.
Cotillard beat out Julie Christie, who was expected to win her second Oscar for her portrayal of a woman succumbing to Alzheimer's in "Away From Her."
Best original screenplay winner, Diablo Cody, also got teary-eyed during her acceptance speech for "Juno."
"Most of all I want to thank my family for loving me exactly the way I am," said Cody, a former exotic dancer.
The lone Oscar for "Atonement" went to Dario Marianelli, who composed the brilliant typewriter-inspired score for the tragic romance.