Host Steve Martin set the tone for the evening, early in the show, reports Jess Cagle,The Early Show entertainment contributor and People Magazine senior editor.
"You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That will send them a message," Martin said.
As expected, the musical "Chicago" was the night's big winner filling its dance card with a total of six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Married to two-time Oscar winner Michael Douglas, Zeta-Jones says she already knows where she's going to put her award.
"I'll put it between Michael's two awards, only in front," she said.
The night's other big winner was "The Pianist," a surprise on two counts. The film took home the best director Oscar for exiled filmmaker Roman Polanski. And Adrien Brody provided the night's emotional high point, beating-out some tough competition as "Best Actor" and giving his own award to presenter Halle Berry –- a big kiss.
Backstage, Brody and others talked about their mixed emotions about celebrating during wartime.
"I'm happy I won," he said, "but I'm sad for all the suffering that exists in the world," he said.
Nicole Kidman, who brought home the Best Actress Oscar for "The Hours", was the model of modesty backstage.
"I mean, I don't think that there is any sort of confidence in relation to winning an award. But I don't have that confidence in relation to even the next role that I do. I mean, just because I won this now, I still go back thinking, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm going to get fired,'" she said
But the winners had more on their minds than awards. Many made heartfelt pleas for peace.
"In light of all the troubles in this world, I wish us all peace," said Best Supporting Actor Chris Cooper.
"Whether you believe in God or Allah, may he watch over you and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution," said Brody.
But winner for best documentary, filmmaker Michael Moore, drew a mixed reaction with his anti-war comments.
"We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons," he said.
But no one objected when Steve Martin wrapped up the night with a message to the troops: "To our young men and women who are watching overseas we are thinking of you. We hope you enjoyed the show. It is for you! Good night."