81st Academy Awards

81st Academy Awards

Official promoting the 81st Academy Awards in 2009.

Official poster
Date February 22, 2009 (2009-02-22)
Site Kodak Theatre
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States
Hosted by Hugh Jackman[1]
Preshow host(s)
Produced by Bill Condon
Laurence Mark[3]
Directed by Roger Goodman[4]
Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire
Most awards Slumdog Millionaire (8)
Most nominations The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13)
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Duration 3 hours, 30 minutes[5]
Ratings 36.94 million
20.88% (Nielsen ratings)[6]

The 81st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 2008 and took place on February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles beginning at 5:30 p.m. PST / 8:30 p.m. EST. During the ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Academy Awards (commonly referred to as Oscars) in 24 categories. The ceremony was televised in the United States by ABC, and produced by Bill Condon and Laurence Mark. Actor Hugh Jackman hosted the show for the first time.[7] Two weeks earlier in a ceremony at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California held on February 7, the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement were presented by host Jessica Biel.[8]

Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards, the most of the evening, including Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle.[9][10][11] Other winners were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with three awards, The Dark Knight and Milk with two awards, and Departures, The Duchess, La Maison en Petits Cubes, Man on Wire, The Reader, Smile Pinki, Toyland, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and WALL-E with one. The telecast garnered almost 37 million viewers in the United States.

Winners and nominees

The nominees for the 81st Academy Awards were announced on January 22, 2009, at 5:38 a.m. PST (13:38 UTC) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California, by Sid Ganis, president of the Academy, and the actor Forest Whitaker.[12] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button received the most nominations with thirteen (the ninth film to garner that many nominations); Slumdog Millionaire came in second with ten.[12][13]

The winners were announced during the awards ceremony on February 22, 2009.[14] Slumdog Millionaire was the eleventh film to win Best Picture without any acting nominations.[15] Sean Penn became the ninth person to win Best Lead Actor twice.[16] Best Supporting Actor winner Heath Ledger became the second performer to win a posthumous acting Oscar. The first actor to receive this distinction was Peter Finch who posthumously won Best Actor for Network two months after his death in January 1977.[17] With its six nominations, Best Animated Feature Film winner WALL-E tied with 1991's Beauty and the Beast as the most nominated animated film in Academy Awards history.[13]


Photo of Danny Boyle at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival.
Danny Boyle, Best Director winner
A picture of a man with wavy brown and grey hair is seen wearing a black suit, shirt, tie, and coat.
Sean Penn, Best Actor winner
A young woman with blonde hair wears earrings and a black strapless dress.
Kate Winslet, Best Actress winner
A close-up image of a blond haired man wearing a grey and orange sweater.
Heath Ledger, Best Supporting Actor winner
A close-up image of a Hispanic female wearing a pink dress and a pair of gold earrings with pink opals.
Penélope Cruz, Best Supporting Actress winner
Profile of a man with medium brown hair at a red carpet event. He is seen wearing a white collared shirt and black tuxedo accented with a black bowtie.
Dustin Lance Black, Best Original Screenplay winner
A photo of a middle aged man with red hair. He is wearing glasses, a white collared shirt, and a black coat.
Andrew Stanton, Best Animated Feature winner
A photo of a middle aged man with brown hair. He is wearing a black suit with a black long tie.
Simon Chinn, Best Documentary Feature co-winner
A photo of a middle aged Japanese man who is surrounded by microphones.
Kunio Katō, Best Animated Short Film winner

Winners are listed first, highlighted in boldface'..[18]

  • Toyland (Spielzeugland) — Jochen Alexander Freydankdouble-dagger
    • On the Line (Auf der Strecke) — Reto Caffi
    • Manon on the Asphalt — Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
    • New Boy (Ireland) — Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
    • The Pig (Grisen) — Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

Films with multiple nominations and awards

The following 15 films received multiple nominations.

Nominations Film
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
8 The Dark Knight
5 Doubt
The Reader
3 Changeling
Revolutionary Road
2 The Duchess
Frozen River
Iron Man
The Wrestler

The following four films received multiple awards:
Awards Film
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
2 The Dark Knight

Presenters and performers

The following individuals presented awards or performed musical numbers.[20][21][22]


Name(s) Role
Tuttle, GinaGina Tuttle Announcer for the 81st annual Academy Awards
Goldberg, WhoopiWhoopi Goldberg
Goldie Hawn
Anjelica Huston
Eva Marie Saint
Tilda Swinton
Presenters of the award Best Supporting Actress
Fey, TinaTina Fey
Steve Martin
Presenters of the awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
Aniston, JenniferJennifer Aniston
Jack Black
Introducers of the Animation 2008 montage
Presenters of the awards for Best Animated Short Film and Best Animated Feature
Craig, DanielDaniel Craig
Sarah Jessica Parker
Presenters of the awards for Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup
Pattinson, RobertRobert Pattinson
Amanda Seyfried
Introducers of the Romance 2008 montage
Portman, NatalieNatalie Portman
Ben Stiller
Presenters of the awards for Best Cinematography
Biel, JessicaJessica Biel Presenter of the segment of the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement and Gordon E. Sawyer Award
Franco, JamesJames Franco
Seth Rogen
Janusz Kamiński
Presenters of the awards for Best Live Action Short Film
Arkin, AlanAlan Arkin
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Joel Grey
Kevin Kline
Christopher Walken
Presenters of the award for Best Supporting Actor
Maher, BillBill Maher Presenter of the awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Documentary Short
Smith, WillWill Smith Presenter of the awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, and Best Visual Effects
Murphy, EddieEddie Murphy Presenter of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award
Efron, ZacZac Efron
Alicia Keys
Presenters of the awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song
Introducers of the special song and dance number performing the Best Original Song nominees
Pinto, FreidaFreida Pinto
Liam Neeson
Presenters of the award for Best Foreign Language Film
Latifah, QueenQueen Latifah Presenter of the In Memoriam tribute
Witherspoon, ReeseReese Witherspoon Presenter of the award for Best Director
Berry, HalleHalle Berry
Marion Cotillard
Nicole Kidman
Sophia Loren
Shirley MacLaine
Presenters of the award for Best Actress
Brody, AdrienAdrien Brody
Michael Douglas
Robert De Niro
Anthony Hopkins
Ben Kingsley
Presenters of the award for Best Actor
Spielberg, StevenSteven Spielberg Presenter of the Best Picture segment and the award for Best Picture


Name(s) Role Performed
Giacchino, MichaelMichael Giacchino Musical Arranger Orchestral
Jackman, HughHugh Jackman
Anne Hathaway
Performers Opening Number
Jackman, HughHugh Jackman
Beyoncé Knowles
Zac Efron
Vanessa Hudgens
Amanda Seyfried
Dominic Cooper
Spirit of Troy

"Top Hat, White Tie and Tails" from Top Hat
"Singin' in the Rain" from Singin' in the Rain
"Big Spender" from Sweet Charity
"Maria" from West Side Story
"You're The One That I Want" from Grease
"Maria" from The Sound of Music
"All That Jazz" from Chicago
"Lady Marmalade" from Moulin Rouge!
"One Night Only" from Dreamgirls
"You Can't Stop The Beat" from Hairspray
"I Don't Know How To Love Him" from Jesus Christ Superstar
"At Last" from Orchestra Wives
"Last Chance" from High School Musical 3: Senior Year
"Mamma Mia" from Mamma Mia!
"Don't Cry For Me Argentina" from Evita
"Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz
"Somewhere" from West Side Story

Rahman, A. R.A. R. Rahman Performer "O Saya" from Slumdog Millionaire
Legend, JohnJohn Legend
Soweto Gospel Choir
Performers "Down to Earth" from WALL-E
Rahman, A. R.A. R. Rahman
Mahalaxmi Iyer
Performers "Jai Ho" from Slumdog Millionaire
Latifah, QueenQueen Latifah Performer "I'll Be Seeing You" during the annual In Memoriam tribute

Ceremony information

Photo of Hugh Jackman at the X-Men Origins: Wolverine premiere in 2009
Hugh Jackman hosted in 81st Academy Awards.

Due to the declining viewership of the recent Academy Awards ceremonies, AMPAS had contracted an entirely new production team in an attempt to revive interest surrounding both the awards and festivities. In September 2008, the Academy selected producers Bill Condon and Laurence Mark to co-produce the telecast.[23] Nearly three months later, actor Hugh Jackman, who had previously emceed three consecutive Tony Awards ceremonies between 2003 and 2005, was chosen as host of the 2009 gala.[24] Jackman expressed his anticipation of the awards in the few days preceding, and had commented that he was thrilled with preparations for the ceremony.[25][26]

Notable changes were introduced in the production of the telecast. In an attempt to build suspense and curiosity leading up to the awards, Condon and Mark announced that they would not reveal any of the presenters or performers who would participate in the Oscarcast.[27] Another unique feature of the ceremony was that the orchestra performed onstage instead of being relegated to a pit.[28] In a break from previous presentations, five previous Oscar-winning performers presented each of the acting categories as opposed to only one or two.[29] In addition, the Academy announced that for the first time since Oscar began broadcasting on television, film studios would be able to televise advertisements promoting their upcoming films.[30] Furthermore, a montage of upcoming 2009 films was shown over the ceremony's closing credits.[31]

Several other people participated in the production of the ceremony. Chris Harrison hosted "Road to the Oscars", a weekly behind-the-scenes video blog on the Oscar ceremony website.[32] David Rockwell designed a new set and stage design for the ceremony.[33] Film historian and author Robert Osborne greeted guests entering the festivities at the Hollywood and Highland Center.[34] Film director Judd Apatow filmed a comedy montage which featured Seth Rogen and James Franco reprising their roles from Pineapple Express.[35] Director Baz Luhrmann produced a song and dance number saluting movie musicals.[36]

Peter Gabriel, who was originally scheduled to perform his nominated song "Down to Earth" from WALL-E during the live broadcast, declined to perform after learning that he would be allowed to sing only 65 seconds of the song during the ceremony's Best Original Song nominee performances.[37] Gabriel still attended the ceremony but singer John Legend, backed by the Soweto Gospel Choir, performed the song in place of Gabriel.[38]

Box office performance of nominated films

Continuing a trend in recent years, the field of major nominees favored independent, low-budget films over blockbusters.[39][40] However, one of the nominees for Best Picture had grossed over $100 million before the nominations were announced (compared with none from the previous year).[41] The combined gross of the five Best Picture nominees when the Oscars were announced was $188 million with an average gross of $37.7 million per film.[42]

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the highest earner among the Best Picture nominees with $104.4 million in domestic box office receipts.[41] The film was followed by Slumdog Millionaire ($44.7 million), Milk ($20.7 million), Frost/Nixon ($8.8 million), and finally The Reader ($8.3 million).[42] Among the rest of the top 50 releases of 2008 in U.S. box office before the nominations, 33 nominations went to nine films on the list. Only The Dark Knight (1st), WALL-E (5th), Kung Fu Panda (6th), Bolt (19th), Tropic Thunder (20th), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (21st) were nominated for directing, acting, screenwriting, Best Picture or Animated Feature.[43] The other top-50 box office hits that earned nominations were Iron Man (2nd), Wanted (16th), and Hellboy II: The Golden Army (41st).[43]

Faked winners leak

Shortly after the voting polls were closed for the awards, a purported list of winners was posted online. The list, which bore a purported signature from Academy president Sid Ganis, stated that Mickey Rourke won for Best Actor, Kate Winslet won for Best Actress, Amy Adams won for Best Supporting Actress, Heath Ledger won for Best Supporting Actor, and Slumdog Millionaire won for Best Picture.[44] AMPAS spokeswoman Leslie Unger later revealed that the list was "a complete fraud", and that PricewaterhouseCoopers had just begun to count the ballots.[45]

Critical reviews

The show received a mixed reception from media publications. Some media outlets received the broadcast more positively. Television critic Robert Bianco of USA Today gave Jackman an average review but extolled producers Condon and Mark saying that the broadcast felt "faster and more intimate without sacrificing Hollywood glamour."[46] Vanity Fair columnist Julian Sancton gave high marks for Jackman's hosting performance stating "After several years of glamour-deflating wisecracks from blasé hosts like Jon Stewart, Ellen DeGeneres, and Steve Martin, the new producers hired an M.C. who was willing to break a sweat."[47] Film critic Roger Ebert lauded Jackman's performance noting that he "would be a charmer as host, and he was." Of the show itself, Ebert added, "It was the best Oscar show I've ever seen, and I've seen plenty."[48]

Other media outlets were more critical of the show. Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara lamented that host Jackman surely "obliterated all memory of the Uma-Oprah thing", in reference to the negative reception David Letterman received when hosting the 67th ceremony held in 1995.[49] Time television critic James Poniewozik wrote that Jackman was "charming and game and I bet he absolutely killed in the room. But he didn’t really project beyond the room, nor did he much seem to be trying to." He also noted that while there were some entertaining moments, "the broadcast overall had problems of pacing."[50] Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune remarked, "The whole thing was driven by a manic desire to bring some old-school glamor to the proceedings." She added that the long introductions praising the acting nominees slowed down the proceedings.[51]

Ratings and reception

The American telecast on ABC drew in an average of 36.94 million people over its length, which was a 13% increase from the record lows of the previous year's ceremony.[52][53] An estimated, 68.48 million total viewers watched all or part of the awards. The show also drew higher Nielsen ratings compared to the previous ceremony, with 20.88% of households watching over a 32.44 share.[54] In addition, the program scored a 12.43 rating over a 30.61 share among the 18–49 demographic, which was a 13 percent increase.[54]

In July 2009, the ceremony presentation received ten nominations at the 61st Primetime Emmys.[55] Two months later, the ceremony won four awards including Outstanding Choreography (Rob Ashford), Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics (Hugh Jackman Opening Number: William Ross, John Kimbrough, Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab, Ben Schwartz), Outstanding Short Form Picture Editing, (Best Motion Picture Montage: Kyle Cooper, Hal Honigsberg), and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Or Music Series Or Special.[56][57]

In Memoriam

The annual In Memoriam tribute was presented by actress Queen Latifah. She performed the song "I'll Be Seeing You" during the segment.[58][59]

See also


A^ :Following talks with his family in Australia, the Academy determined that Ledger's daughter, Matilda Rose Ledger, would own the award. However, due to Matilda's age, she will not gain full ownership of the statuette until her eighteenth birthday in 2023.[60] Until that time, her mother, actress Michelle Williams, will hold the statuette in trust for Matilda.[61] Ledger's family attended the ceremony. His parents and sister accepted the award on stage on his behalf.[17]


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