Political movies take top Oscars, but Michelle Obama steals the show

Political movies took home two of the biggest awards of the night at Sunday's Academy Awards ceremony, but it was first lady Michelle Obama who stole the show.

Obama appeared at the end of the star-studded event, announcing via satellite from the Diplomatic Room of the White House that "Argo" won Best Picture.

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That film was favored for the award, as was actor Daniel Day-Lewis's Best Actor win for his portrayal of the nation's 16th president in "Lincoln."

The Oscar telecast remained largely politics-free, however, despite the fact so many nominees made stops in Washington as part of the Oscar campaigns. Director Steven Spielberg made an especially big Washington pitch for "Lincoln," with showings at the White House and the Senate. Former President Clinton introduced the film at the Golden Globes earlier this month.

But the biggest surprise of the night came from Obama's appearance. She joined actor Jack Nicholson in announcing the award.

Obama, wearing a sparkly silver Naeem Khan dress, said: "I am so honored to help introduce this year's nominees for Best Picture." She had spent the evening hosting the nation's governors at a formal dinner at the White House.

Kristina Schake, communications director for the first lady, said in a statement: "The Academy Awards approached the First Lady about being a part of the ceremony. As a movie lover, she was honored to present the award and celebrate the artists who inspire us all — especially our young people — with their passion, skill and imagination."

Ben Affleck, who produced and directed "Argo," was joined on stage by co-producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney in accepting the film's award.

"I know what you're thinking: the three sexiest producers alive," Heslov joked before turning the mic over to Affleck.

Affleck, who was snubbed for a Best Director nomination, thanked Spielberg, who was up for Best Director but lost to Ang Lee for "Life of Pi."

He also referenced the Academy's decision not to nominate him for his directing.

"It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life. All that matters is that you gotta get up," said Affleck, who opted not to run in Massachusetts's special Senate election for former Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) seat.

Meanwhile, Day-Lewis became the first man to win three Best Actor trophies. Meryl Streep, the 2012 Best Actress winner for "The Iron Lady," presented him with the award.

"Three years ago, before we agreed to do a straight swap, I had actually been committed to playing Margaret Thatcher and Meryl was Steven's first choice to play Lincoln," Day-Lewis joked.

The most buzzed-about moments of the night, however, will likely be about host Seth MacFarlane. At one point in the evening MacFarlane made a joke about Lincoln's assassination that received boos from the audience.

"The actor that really got into Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth," he said and, in response to the boos, added: "Really — a 150 years and still too soon?"

As the show went on, many of the political movies found themselves passed by for other films.

"Zero Dark Thirty" actress Jessica Chastain lost to "Silver Linings Playbook" star Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress. "Lincoln" star Sally Field lost Best Supporting Actress to "Les Miserables"'s Anne Hathaway and Tommy Lee Jones lost Best Supporting Actor to "Django Unchained"'s Christoph Waltz.

"Zero Dark Thirty" screenwriter Mark Boal and "Lincoln" scribe Tony Kushner also found themselves going home empty-handed.

Chris Terrio took home the Best Adapted Screenplay for "Argo," beating Kushner's "Lincoln."

Kushner's script for "Lincoln" came under criticism from Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who wrote to Kushner, requesting a correction to the film’s depiction that two of his state’s three representatives voted against outlawing slavery in 1865.

Kushner responded via a letter to The Wall Street Journal, saying the changes were done for story-telling purposes.

“I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Boal and "Zero Dark Thirty" director Kathryn Bigelow came under criticism from several senators, who questioned the film's depiction of torture. That controversy was seen as hurting the film's chances at the Oscars. Quentin Tarantino beat Boal, winning Best Original Screenplay for his script for "Django Unchained."

The show also saw a rare moment when there was a tie.

"We have a tie. No BS, we have a tie," said Mark Wahlberg, who was announcing the award for Sound Editing. "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" shared the prize.

—This story was updated at 12:56 a.m.