In a mild surprise, the film adaptation of Brian Selznick's book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" won the night's first award, for cinematography, with Robert Richardson beating out Guillaume Schiffman ("The Artist") and Emmanuel Lubezki ("The Tree of Life").
"Hugo" also won for art direction, sound mixing, sound editing and visual effects — triumphing over the favored "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
For best feature animation, Gore Verbinski's "Rango," starring Johnny Depp, topped two DreamWorks Animation films— "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "Puss in Boots"—and two independently financed movies. "It helps when you're friends with Johnny Depp," explained Verbinski, backstage after winning the Oscar, of his lead "Rango" voice.
"Undefeated," a look at an underdog high school football coach in Tennessee, was honored for documentary feature. "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" won for best animated short film. "Saving Face," which tracks the quest for justice and medical care from Pakistani women whose faces have been disfigured by acid attacks, won in the documentary short category.
The prize in the live-action short category went to "The Shore," by "Hotel Rwanda" screenwriter Terry George, which recounts a father's return to Ireland as he mends a damaged childhood friendship.
Crystal stepped in as a replacement host in November, after comedian Eddie Murphy left the emcee job when producer Brett Ratner stepped aside after making an anti-gay remark and talking in detail about his sex life on a radio show.
Times staff writer Deborah Vankin contributed to this report