This year's Oscars a celebration of the past


Beverly Hills, Calif. - Everything old was new again at Sunday night's Academy Awards.

The big winner was "The Artist," the first silent film to win Best Picture in 83 years.

There were more words spoken about last night's big winner than were actually said in the Best Picture itself.

It was expected that "The Artist" would take home that honor. And of those that followed, all seemed to one thing in common: the past.

Almost everything about this year's Oscars was about celebrating the longevity of film, which seemed fitting, given that a silent movie that charmed sometimes skeptical audiences took home the top prize.

Right from the start, last night's Academy Awards looked to be from another era.

Complete coverage: The 2012 Academy Awards

Even the stage looked like a movie theater of old - and Billy Crystal's vintage jokes fit right in.

"We've got Muppets, circus performers, we're a pony away from a bar mitzvah!" he cracked.

The French film "The Artist" took home five Oscars in all - including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, Jean Dujardin for his performance as George Valentin.

Said Dujardin in his acceptance speech, "If George Valentin could speak, he'd say, 'Merci Beaucoup!'"

The Best Actress Oscar also went for a throwback role, that of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, channeled by Meryl Streep. She's the most-nominated actress of all time, but until last night, hadn't won an Oscar since 1982's "Sophie's Choice."

"When they called my name (as the winner)," she told the audience, "I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no! Why her again?' But, whatever!"

Period films about Paris were big winners, too. "Hugo," set in the 1930s, tied "The Artist" with five Oscar wins. Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" won for Best Original Screenplay.

The nostalgia even stretched to the watch parties - like the one at the Roosevelt Hotel, where the Oscars began in 1929.

Those first Oscars lasted just 15 minutes - they didn't have awards for Best Supporting Actor or Actress back then. This year, those supporting awards went to two strong performances in two very different films.

A crying Octavia Spencer said in her speech, "I'm wrapping up, I'm sorry. I'm freaking out." It was the role of a feisty 1960s Mississippi maid in "The Help" that got Spencer her Best Supporting Actress nod.

And it was a man in his 70s who comes out as gay in "Beginners" that earned Christopher Plummer his long-awaited recognition. At 82, Plummer is the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar, on a night that seemed as much about the past as the present.

There were no big blockbuster movies this year - even "The Artist" didn't rock the box office, and that had some critics saying it wasn't a great year for films.

Tough times at the box office

There weren't a lot of upsets or surprises - but the Oscars still hold the title of the granddaddy of all the awards shows.

To see Lee Cowan's report, click on the video in the player above.