The Oscars are still the award to win. This year there were plenty of happy faces as no single film dominated the evening. Arts Editor ANDREW CLARKE looks at the winners and losers

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Six weeks ago when the Oscar short-list was announced it looked as if Steven Spielberg’s presidential bio-pic Lincoln was destined to sweep the board and walk away with all the major trophies.

After all, it ticked all Hollywood’s boxes – it was a respectful portrait of an American icon, it featured a powerhouse performance by a highly respected, heavyweight actor, it was made by Hollywood’s own living legend – how could it not become the latest multi-Oscar winner?

Well, something happened which restores your faith in the whole Oscar process. Argo, a smaller film – albeit from equally well-loved Hollywood insiders, George Clooney and Ben Affleck – quietly put its head above the parapet and started campaigning.

When it was released Argo got very good reviews but, because of its subject matter, didn’t attract huge audiences. A 1979 Iranian hostage crisis wasn’t deemed to be the perfect date movie by teenagers either in the US or the UK. As a result the film didn’t have a huge profile at the start of the awards season.

But, what happened was DVDs of the movie – or screeners as they are known – were sent out to the academy voters and they realised that here was a perfectly crafted, gripping thriller that just happened to be based on a real-life incident. And if there’s one thing that Hollywood loves more than a worthy bio-pic, it’s a movie that shows you that life is stranger than fiction.

Argo tells the story of a CIA operation to rescue US embassy staff in Tehran following the fall of the Shah. They send in a fake Canadian film unit who are supposed to be making a science fiction movie and hope to smuggle out the embassy personnel disguised as production crew.

The rise of Argo was first noticed when it picked up the Golden Globe for best picture swiftly followed by the Director’s Guild award and the BAFTA. Argo suddenly went from nowhere to being the one to beat.

At the start of the Oscar race Les Miserables and Silver Linings Playbook were considered to be Lincoln’s greatest rivals but two weeks ago they were essentially out of the race. The nominees for best film were introduced by first lady Michelle Obama from the White House, before she named Argo as the winner.

One of the most pleasing aspects of this year’s Oscars was the fact that the awards were not only fairly evenly spread but they actually went to the right people. There was no big outright winner but the Oscars did reward some thoughtful movies. Everyone came away with something.

The big story as far as Britain is concerned was the fact that Daniel Day-Lewis was rewarded for his tour-de-force performance as Abraham Lincoln and in so doing became the first actor to win three Best Actor Oscars.

Jack Nicholson has also won three acting Oscars but one of those was in the best supporting actor category. Accepting the Oscar from Meryl Streep, Day-Lewis said: “I really don’t know how any of this happened, I do know I’ve received more than my fair share of good fortune in my life.”

James Bond’s 50th anniversary was marked by Adele picking up a well-deserved Best Song Oscar for Skyfall, along with Essex-based composer Paul Epworth.

Jennifer Lawrence who starred in Silver Linings Playbook, the romantic comedy which tackles the tricky subject of mental illness. She brought the theatre to its feet after she took a tumble on her way to the stage. She told the great and the good of Hollywood: “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell over and that’s embarrassing.”

Anne Hathaway won the gong for best supporting actress for her role in Les Miserables, while Christoph Waltz was named best supporting actor for Django Unchained and praised the film’s director and his “hero” Quentin Tarantino for his work on the western. Tarantino then picked up the best original screenplay gong for the film.

Eclectic director Ang Lee carried off a well deserved best director Oscar for his stunning work on Life of Pi – the movie of the novel which was deemed to be unfilmable.

The Life of Pi is a technological wonder where one of the main characters is a truly believable CGI tiger and the action takes place on a computer generated set. Ang Lee is a director who never likes to repeat himself helming movies as diverse as Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and The Ice Storm.

The award for costume design went to British designer Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina and there was another UK win when the Oscar for make-up and hairstyling was won by Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell for Les Miserables.

Britain was also represented in the musical numbers with Shirley Bassey recreating her classic performance of Goldfinger and Catherine Zeta-Jones reliving her own Oscar glory with a number from Chicago.