ON OSCAR night, the unworldly violence of The Hurt Locker trumped the other-worldly civilization of Avatar. Which only goes to show that a taut, well-acted drama about bomb defusers in Iraq can dazzle the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences more than the biggest-grossing movie of all time - blue creatures and 3-D glasses notwithstanding.
It's debatable which of the two movies will hold up better over time, so conventional was the one and so fantastic was the other. But their stark differences exemplified the diverse range of this year's 10 Best Picture nominees, the largest crop since 1943.
In another twist, all four acting awards went to first-time recipients - Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Mo'Nique (Precious) and Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) - each in turn besting some of the biggest names in the business, including Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Stanley Tucci, and Penelope Cruz.
One of the six Oscars claimed by The Hurt Locker made history. This year's best director was Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win the prize. As if the result were scripted by Hollywood (and, in a way, it was) one of the nominees she defeated was her ex-husband, James Cameron, the director of Avatar.
As usual, the telecast was long - and, despite the efforts of co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, short on laughs. Even so, glitz and glamour won the night. Isn't that why we watch the Oscars?