his is your welcoming embrace, and there's no way I can ever thank you enough."
"Avatar" won three Oscars, for visual effects, art direction and cinematography, beating "The Hurt Locker" for the latter. "The Hurt Locker" also won out over "Avatar" for film editing, sound editing and sound mixing.
With nine nominations each, "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" came in tied for the Oscar lead.
"Hurt Locker" screenwriter Mark Boal, who won the Oscar for original screenplay, thanked Bigelow, calling her an "extraordinary and visionary filmmaker," and dedicated his Oscar win to the troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with those who did not make it home. Boal also affectionately recalled his father, who died a month ago.
Bigelow also added a prayer for the troops.
"I'd just like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world," Bigelow said. "And may they come home safe."
Joining Bigelow to collect the best-picture Oscar were her fellow "Hurt Locker" producers Boal and Greg Shapiro. A fourth producer - financier Nicolas Chartier, a key money man behind the film - was barred from attending as punishment for violating awards rules by sending e-mails to Oscar voters urging them to back "The Hurt Locker" over "Avatar."
Oscar overseers said Chartier still will receive his best-picture Oscar, but at a later time.
With just $12.6 million domestically, "The Hurt Locker" is the lowest-grossing film to win best picture in this modern era of detailed box-office bookkeeping.
The best-picture category was loaded with smash hits, "Avatar" at $720 million domestically and climbing and the animated blockbuster "Up" and "The Blind Side" topping $200 million.
"Up" earned the third-straight feature-animation Oscar for Disney's Pixar Animation, which now has won five of the nine awards since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences added the category.
The film features Ed Asner providing the voice of a crabby widower who flies off on a grand adventure by lashing thousands of helium balloons to his house.
"Never did I dream that making a flip-book out of my third-grade math book would lead to this," said "Up" director Pete Docter, whose film also won for best musical score.
Pixar has a likely contender in the wings for next Oscar season with this summer's "Toy Story 3," reuniting voice stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
Argentina's "The Secret in Their Eyes" pulled off a surprise win for foreign-language film over higher-profile entries that included Germany's "The White Ribbon" and France's "A Prophet."
"Crazy Heart" also won for original song with its theme tune "The Weary Kind."
The song category typically comes late in the show, after live performances of the nominees that have been spaced throughout the ceremony. Oscar producers tossed out those live performances this time in favor of montages featuring the songs and footage from the films they accompany.
"The Cove," an investigation into grisly dolphin-fishing operations in Japan, was picked as best documentary.
Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin opened the show with playful ribbing of nominees. They also made note of Oscar organizers' decision to double the best-picture category from five films to 10.
"When that was announced, all of us in Hollywood thought the same thing. What's five times two?" Martin said.
Leaders of the Academy widened the best-picture category from the usual five films to expand the range of contenders for a ceremony whose predictability had turned it into a humdrum affair for TV audiences.
Oscar ratings fell to an all-time low two years ago and rebounded just a bit last year, when the show's overseers freshened things up with lively production numbers and new ways of presenting some awards.
The overhaul continued this season with a show that farmed out time-consuming lifetime-achievement honors to a separate event last fall and hired Martin and Baldwin as the first dual Oscar hosts in 23 years.