After losing out five times, director Martin Scorsese was awarded his first Oscar on Sunday for his mob informer movie "The Departed."
And moments after Scorsese walked offstage, clutching his Oscar, "The Departed" was named best picture.
Scorsese, 64, was up against Clint Eastwood, who beat him two years ago and went up against him again this year having directed two critical favorites (though he was nominated for only one, "Letters From Iwo Jima").
"Could you double-check the envelope?" Scorsese said when accepting his award.
Scorsese's first directing nomination was in 1981 for "Raging Bull." His other nominations included "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Goodfellas" and "Gangs of New York."
Earlier, former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson took the award for best supporting actress for her role as "Effie" in "Dreamgirls" at the 79th Academy Awards. It was her first film acting role.
The 25-year-old Hudson tearfully thanked her grandmother, whom she described as her "biggest inspiration."
Alan Arkin won the best supporting actor Oscar for his role as Grandpa in "Little Miss Sunshine."
It was the first Oscar win for the 72-year-old veteran actor. He beat out Eddie Murphy, whom many had considered the frontrunner for his role as James "Thunder" Early in "Dreamgirls."
And in one of the least surprising wins of the evening, Helen Mirren took the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in the days after the death of Princess Diana in "The Queen."
"For 50 years and more, Elizabeth Windsor has maintained her dignity, her sense of duty and her hairstyle," Mirren said.
The other favorite of the evening, Forest Whitaker, took home the best actor Oscar for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland."
Former vice president Al Gore, the star of the global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," saw the film pick up an Oscar. Although Gore wasn't a nominee, he spoke along with the film's director, Davis Guggenheim.
"People all over the world, we need to solve the climate crisis. It's not a political issue. It's a moral issue," Gore said while holding the Oscar during his speech.
In the press room, Gore was asked how it feels to be a rock star.
"(American Idol reject) William Hung was a rock star. I just had a slide show," he said.
The documentary also won best song for Melissa Etheridge's "I Need to Wake Up."
Host Ellen DeGeneres had promised a kinder, gentler show than those of the previous two years, when Jon Stewart and Chris Rock hosted the event.
She ribbed the nervous nominees and talked about the emerging theme of the evening: the international tone of the nominated work.
"Spain is in the house. Japan is representing. I think I see a few Americans as well, of course I'm talking about the seat fillers," DeGeneres said. "No one can fill a seat like an American."
Among the non-American actors nominated for awards were Adriana Barraza from Mexico and Rinko Kikuchi from Japan in "Babel." Cate Blanchett, who's up for her performance in "Notes on a Scandal," is from Australia. Other Oscar nominees hail from Spain (Penelope Cruz, "Volver"), Benin (Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond") and, of course, Britain (Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children"; Mirren, "The Queen," among others).
For all the talk about "Babel' and "Little Miss Sunshine," it was "The Departed" with best picture and the most awards -- four.
"Little Miss Sunshine," because of its broad-based popularity, may be one of the few nominees to draw attention to this year's awards show. That's important to Oscar broadcaster ABC. The network was hoping for big ratings for show that ran for three hours and 50 minutes.
The locks and the Arkin upset
Another concern ABC and the Academy had was the seeming lack of drama in most of the major categories.
Whitaker, Mirren, Hudson and Murphy had won most of the major awards leading up to the Oscars, giving their races a preordained feeling.
However, as Arkin's win points out, Oscar can be full of surprises.
Mirren was seen as the closest thing to a lock this year.
"This is the biggest and best gold star I have ever had in my life," Mirren said while holding her Oscar, purse and an earring that fell off while she was walking to the stage.
Earlier she told CNN's Brooke Anderson that she would feel "wonderful" whether or not she wins.
"This whole process is fun, it's extraordinary, it's surreal, it's dramatic. It's everything you can wish for, and it's over in a flash," Mirren said from the red carpet.
- "The Lives of Others," a look at the totalitarian powers wielded by East German secret police, won best foreign language film.
- "Pan's Labyrinth," an adult fairytale set in fascist Spain, has won three Oscars, for cinematography, art direction and makeup.
- The dancing penguins of "Happy Feet" beat out "Cars" for feature-length animation.
- The sound-editing Oscar went to the "Letters From Iwo Jima" team of Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman. Murray's father was an Iwo Jima survivor.
• William Monahan, the screenwriter for Martin Scorsese's crime epic "The Departed," picked up an Oscar for best adapted screenplay.