"Argo" stormed to Best Picture victory at the Oscars on Sunday on a night of surprises that ended in disappointment for frontrunner "Lincoln" and handed the most overall wins - four - to "Life of Pi."
It was the first time since "Driving Miss Daisy" in 1990 that a film won the top prize at the Oscars without its director also being nominated.
The honors for the Iran hostage drama marked a triumphant comeback into Hollywood's mainstream for director Ben Affleck, who failed to get a nomination in the directing category six weeks ago, and who struggled for years to rebuild his reputation after tabloid ridicule over his 2002-2004 romance with Jennifer Lopez.
"Argo" also won best film editing and best adapted screenplay for its gripping and often comedic tale of the CIA mission to rescue six U.S. diplomats from Tehran shortly after the Islamic Revolution.
"So many wonderful people extended their help to me when they had nothing to benefit from it ... you can't hold grudges. It's hard, but you can't hold grudges. It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life, because it happens.
All that matters is that you get up," the 40-year-old Affleck, who also produced the film, said in an emotional acceptance speech.
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Ang Lee was an upset choice for Best Director for his lavish shipwreck tale "Life of Pi," beating the respected Steven Spielberg, whose presidential drama "Lincoln" took home just two Oscars from a leading 12 nominations.
The other three wins for "Life of Pi" came for original score, visual effects and cinematography."
The Best Picture Oscar for "Argo" was announced in one of the best kept secrets in the history of Oscar telecasts when first lady Michelle Obama made an unprecedented video appearance from the White House to open the winning envelope.