THE SPOILS of an epic Oscar war went to "The Hurt Locker," which won Best Picture last night by beating the world's most popular movie, "Avatar."

The movie won six awards in all (to "Avatar's" three). Kathryn Bigelow, who helmed the Iraq war drama "The Hurt Locker," became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director (an award presented by Barbra Streisand).

"There's no other way to describe it, it's the moment of a lifetime," said a tearful Bigelow, who dedicated the award "to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis."

"May they come home safe," she said.

The two movies had traded Academy Awards all night - each had won a handful of technical awards heading into the late-night showdown for director and picture, making it impossible to detect a favorite among the Academy's 6,000 voters.

Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for "The Blind Side," for her role as a wealthy suburban woman who adopts a poor, homeless football player.

"Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?" the long-time comedienne said of her Oscar, her first win and her first nomination.

Heavily favored Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for his role as a broken-down country singer in "Crazy Heart."

"Thank you mom and dad for turning me on to such a groovy profession," said Bridges, who talked of how his actor dad, Lloyd, taught him the basics of acting. Bridges said that the Oscar honored his parents as much as himself.

Mo'Nique won Best Supporting Actress for "Precious," as an angry, impoverished mother. She did not campaign for the award, and thanked the Academy for showing that the Oscar "can be about the performance and not the politics." She thanked Hattie McDaniel, Tyler Perry Oprah Winfrey, but not, curiously, director Lee Daniels.

Christoph Waltz, another favorite, won the Best Supporting Actor award for his role as a suave, sadistic Nazi in "Inglourious Basterds."

Waltz gave all credit to writer director Quentin Tarantino, whom he likened to a cinematic Columbus.

"Quentin, with his unorthodox navigating methods, this fearless explorer took this ship across and brought it in with flying colors, and that's why I am here," said Waltz, an obscure actor in German television before Tarantino cast him.

Pixar/Disney's "Up," another favorite, and another movie with a huge box-office take, won Best Animated Film.

"Never did I think making a flip book out of the 3rd-grade math book would lead to this," said writer/director Pete Docter. "Thanks to Disney and Pixar in believing in this oddball film."

New Jersey native Michael Giacchino won Best Original Score for his music for "Up." T. Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham won for Best Original Song, "The Weary Kind," from the country character study "Crazy Heart."

Mark Boal won Best Original Screenplay for "The Hurt Locker." Boal credited Bigelow for turning his idea for a movie about "men on the frontlines of an unpopular war" into reality. He dedicated the award to his late father, and to the "115,000 still in Iraq, 140,000 in Afghanistan, the 30,000 wounded, and the 4,000 who did not make it home."

Geoffrey Fletcher won the best adapted screenplay award for his "Precious" adaptation of Sapphire's novel "Push," and is the first African-American to win in this category.

Oscar organizers began the evening by immediately dashing any hope that the show would be crud-free - Neil Patrick Harris's opening number, full of jokes about cocaine and botox, was suitably bad.

Co-hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin then quipped their way through an introduction that highlighted the show's broad-based demographic appeal. They teased celebrities selected from a menu that covered virtually all ages, races, genders and several nationalities.

"The Cove" won best documentary feature, and Argentina's "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" won Best Foreign Language Film.