There was, in the end, only one surprise at the Oscars: Departures winning the foreign language film category over Waltz with Bashir. Within an hour of the start, it was clear Slumdog was going to run straight through the tape without a stumble. The film's large contingent, seated together, hooted and hollered with each new award, while Benjamin Button's director David Fincher looked resigned, almost morose.
Freida Pinto came out to present the foreign film award. Walking to the mike, she clutched Liam Neeson's elbow, and didn't let go as they announced the nominations. Neeson had to disengage himself gently in order to tear open the winner's envelope. Pinto's Galliano gown looked like it might strangle her if she stepped on its hem.
Sean Penn was in a close race for best actor with Mickey Rourke and edged him in the end. I haven't seen the Wrestler, but caught Milk on Sunday morning. I think it's Penn's best role yet. He's always been a fine actor, but could never make his characters likeable enough. That was true even of the role in Mystic River that brought him his previous Academy Award. In Milk, he is effortlessly funny and endearing.
Of the Slumdog winners, Resul Pookutty seemed overwhelmed; A R Rahman stayed perfectly calm. His speech after he won for best score was heard politely, but with a distinct get-on-with-it undertone. Immediately after that, the three tunes nominated for best song were played live. Rahman had composed two of them, which he also sang, and sang pretty well. By the time he accepted his second award, for Jai Ho, audience members were thinking, wow, this chap is seriously talented, and gave him the ovation he deserved.