Oscar 2008: Slumdog Millionaire Sweeps the Academy Awards

“Slumdog Millionaire” was the big Oscar winner, taking eight awards out of its 10 nominations.  The Mumbai-based rags-to-riches tale, which nearly wound up going direct to DVD, won best picture, director, screenplay, score, song, cinematography, sound mixing and film editing. 

The overall record bests “Shakespeare in Love,” the last British-produced picture to dominate the Oscars, which had 7 wins at the 1998 Oscars.

The awards are significant because “Slumdog's” dominance this year points to the increasing globalization of Hollywood and the Oscars.

The film's director, Danny Boyle, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, and producer Christian Colson are from Britain, it has a mostly Indian cast and it found its first success in the U.S.. About one-third of it is in Hindi and thus makes the first claim for a foreign-language film to take the best picture prize.

In addition to being the first Oscars for Boyle and Beaufoy, it's also the first major win for Fox Searchlight, which has had several best-picture nominations, such as “The Full Monty,” “Sideways,” “Little Miss Sunshine” and last year's “Juno.”

British actress Kate Winslet ended a losing streak, winning her first Oscar in her sixth nom for portraying a former Nazi prison guard in the Weinstein Co.'s Holocaust drama “The Reader.”

Sean Penn won for his portrayal of Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official, in Focus Features' biopic “Milk.” Mickey Rourke had been considered a favorite for his role as a washed-up grappler in “The Wrestler,” which industryites consider a career-resurrecting performance.

Penn, who had previously won the oscar for 2003's “Mystic River” and was nominated three other times, even acknowledged Rourke's role in his acceptance speech, saying “Mickey Rourke rises again and he is my brother.”

Despite their own attempts for a comeback to once again take over Oscar's top prizes, studio specialty labels dominated the 81st Academy Awards. Fox Searchlight won eight awards, followed by two for the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features, and one each for Paramount Vantage, Magnolia and Regent Releasing.

Warners' logo appears on “Slumdog,” but that's because its Warner Independent Picture had been affiliated with the picture before Fox Searchlight wound up eventually distribbing.

While Paramount and Warner received the most nominations for a single pic, with 13 nods for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the age-reversal drama ended up winning just three awards in technical categories, for art direction, makeup and visual effects.

Foreign influence over this year's kudocast was immediately evident with Australian thesp Hugh Jackman serving as host from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

In major categories, fellow Aussie Heath Ledger won posthumously for supporting actor as the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” His father, mother and sister took the stage to accept the honor.

Spanish-thesp Penelope Cruz won supporting actress for her role in Woody Allen's comedy “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” her first Oscar.

Indian composer and regular Bollywood contributor A.R. Rahman won the top two music awards for “Slumdog.” The French-themed Japanese-entry “La Maison en Petits Cubes” won for animated short; Germany's “Spielzeugland” won live-action short; and Brit helmer James Marsh won feature-length docu for “Man on Wire,” about French tightrope walker Philippe Petit.

Biggest surprise of the night easily went to Japanese entry “Departures,” which won the foreign film category, besting Israel's animated docu; “Waltz With Bashir” which had been considered by many to be the favorite. Set in Japan's funeral industry, the film has swept that country's awards season, with more than 60 trophies.

But this year's show proved mostly free of surprises, with many of the winners having already swept most of the top prizes handed out in the kudos race leading up to the Oscars.

“Slumdog,” itself, had made a clean sweep of those awards, winning the top Golden Globe, BAFTA, DGA, PGA and SAG awards, as well as virtually every major guild honor.

Also not surprising was Dustin Lance Black's win for penning “Milk” in the original screenplay category.

And Pixar Animation Studios continued its dominance over the toon category, with “Wall-E” winning animated feature, the Disney owned shop's fourth after “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.”

In other technical honors, costume design went to “The Duchess.”

Ledger's win for “The Dark Knight” wasn't the only win for the Batman sequel. It also won for sound editing. Altogether, the wins gave WB a combined tally of five Oscars for the night.

The Academy Awards were broadcast live on ABC, with Bill Condon serving as executive producer and Laurence Mark producing.