The 81st Academy Awards ceremony was held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) to honor its selection of the best films of 2008 on February 22, 2009, at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, California. The ceremony was televised in the United States on ABC. Australian performer Hugh Jackman hosted the ceremony for the first time. Oscar-nominated Laurence Mark served as the event's producer, while Oscar-winning writer and director Bill Condon served as executive producer. The Academy hoped to revitalize the ceremony through an entirely new production team sworn to secrecy, and the telecast received mixed reviews from critics.
The nominees were announced on January 22, 2009, by AMPAS president Sid Ganis and Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in the Academy's Beverly Hills headquarters. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button led the nominations with a total of thirteen while Slumdog Millionaire received ten. The Dark Knight and Milk received eight nominations, and Doubt, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon each received five. WALL-E, the winner for Best Animated Feature, received six nominations, tying it with Beauty and the Beast for the most nominated animated film in Oscar history. In an Academy Award rarity, all five of the Best Picture nominees were also the five Best Director nominees. This has happened only four other times in Oscar history: 1957, 1964, 1981, and 2005.
Slumdog Millionaire won eight awards, the most of the evening, including Best Picture and Best Director (Danny Boyle). The Curious Case of Benjamin Button came in second with three awards, followed by both The Dark Knight and Milk with two awards. Jerry Lewis was honored with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. For the first time since the 60th Academy Awards (1987), no Honorary Award was presented.
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