Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and "Les Miserables" won early Oscars Sunday at a musical show where the race for the top Academy Awards was on a knife-edge between frontrunners "Argo" and "Lincoln."
Austrian director Michael Haneke's Cannes-winning "Amour" won the best foreign language film award at the 85th Academy Awards, widely seen as the most unpredictable for years.
Best supporting actor went to Austrian Christoph Waltz, who played a dentist turned bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino's blood-spattered spaghetti western tribute "Django Unchained."
Midway through the show, Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress Oscar for her heart-wrenching turn in musical adaptation "Les Miserables," which had already won best makeup/hairstyling.
Taiwan-born Lee's spectacular 3D adventure "Life of Pi" had also taken two prizes by the half-way stage, albeit both of them technical: best cinematography and visual effects.
The best animated feature film award went to Scottish-themed "Brave," which beat fellow nominees including video game adventure "Wreck-It Ralph," which had been tipped as the marginal frontrunner.
The show included a tribute segment to the James Bond movies, with legendary diva Shirley Bassey belting out the theme tune from "Goldfinger" and British singer Adele singing the nominated theme from "Skyfall."
The show, hosted by "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, was preceded by a two-hour A-list fashion parade on the red carpet, with a healthy serving of old-school Hollywood glamour on display.
MacFarlane started with a joke about "Argo" director Ben Affleck, who was nominated for best picture but failed to win a best director nomination, quipping that he was "unknown to the Academy."
Among those talking on the Dolby Theatre red carpet was Jessica Chastain, nominated for best actress for Osama bin Laden manhunt movie "Zero Dark Thirty," who played down her hopes for the evening.
"I'm not going to win the Oscars tonight. I just don't think it's my year," Chastain, in a strapless beaded flesh-colored Armani gown, told CNN.
Chastain's main rival, "Silver Linings Playbook" star Jennifer Lawrence, strutted her stuff in a strapless cream Dior gown with a full puffy skirt.
"This was such a passion project for all of us," she told E! television, referring to the romantic comedy with an edge that earned a total of eight nominations, including one for best picture.
In a heavily musical show, legendary diva Barbra Streisand was to give her first Oscars performance for 36 years.
Affleck -- who would be the first person to win best picture without being nominated as director since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990 -- got a diplomatic boost Saturday when new US Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted best wishes.
Steven Spielberg, bidding for his first best picture Oscar since "Schindler's List" in 1994, tops the nominations with 12 nods for "Lincoln" -- but "Argo" has cleaned up in Hollywood's awards season so far, despite having only seven.
Although he started the season two months ago as the favorite, Spielberg may have to settle Sunday for the best director award -- one that Affleck cannot beat him to, having not been nominated in the category, in a perceived snub.
One near-certainty is that "Lincoln" star Daniel Day-Lewis will be named best actor, a record third for the British-Irish actor after wins in 1990 for "My Left Foot" and in 2008 for "There Will Be Blood."
For best actress the early favorite was Chastain, but the clever money is now on Lawrence -- barring an upset win by French star Emmanuelle Riva for her turn in "Amour," on her 86th birthday.
On the eve of the Oscars, "Silver Linings Playbook" got a publicity boost Saturday when it was named best film at the Independent Spirit Awards, as well as winning the best actress and best director prizes.