Meryl Streep, 62, won her first Oscar since 1983. Best supporting actor Christopher Plummer, 82, became the oldest actor ever to win. A French director's take on old Hollywood, The Artist, earned the ultimate prize — best picture. And a nine-time host, Billy Crystal, 63, returned to kudos for a job well done. "Oscar is 84," Crystal said. "But what does age matter, especially in this town?"
"You're only two years older than me, darling," said Plummer as he held his golden statue aloft. "Where have you been all my life?" He was honored for his brilliant performance in Beginners. And Streep, who won best actress for her portrait of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, told the crowd, "I look out here and I see my life before my eyes. I see my old friends, my new friends and the thing that counts with me is the friendships."
The Artist — a charming silent movie about a Hollywood star in the 1920s — won the top directing award as well as best picture of the year. And its star, Jean Dujardin, 39, was rewarded with the Oscar for best actor. In his speech he recalled Douglas Fairbanks, the original host of the Academy Awards. Octavia Spencer, 39, won the best supporting actress for her role in The Help, the readers' choice for AARP Movies for Grownups awards.
Other 50-plus winners:
Woody Allen, 76, won for his Midnight in Paris screenplay.
Roy Helland, 69, who has worked with Meryl Streep on her film hair and makeup for 37 years, was awarded an Oscar for makeup in The Iron Lady.
Oprah Winfrey, 58, was named the winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.
Children's book author William Joyce, 54, won best animated short film, with Brandon Oldenburg, for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Alexander Payne, 51, who directed The Descendants, won for best adapted screenplay and made a point to thank his mother.
Actor James Earl Jones, 81, and makeup artist Dick Smith, 89, were awarded honorary Oscars.
And director Martin Scorsese, 69, received kudos and thanks all evening from colleagues on his movie, Hugo, which won five Oscars.