84th Academy Awards

Presenting the golden moments of the 84th Oscars – USATODAY.com

LOS ANGELES – Some of the most intriguing Oscar action isn't captured by the broadcast. USA TODAY shares the unscripted moments that unfolded Sunday night in the wings of the Hollywood & Highland Center.

  • Colin Firth presents the best-actress Oscar to Meryl Streep, who won for her role in 'The Iron Lady.'

    By Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

    Colin Firth presents the best-actress Oscar to Meryl Streep, who won for her role in 'The Iron Lady.'

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A 'wow' moment for Streep

One of the night's most emotional moments arrives when Meryl Streep takes best actress for, topping favored Viola Davis (for The Help) and collecting her third Oscar in 17 nominations. She's so flustered heading backstage that she simply gasps, "I can't even believe it."

A stage manager asks if she needs to sit down to collect her thoughts before she's whisked to the media room. As the best-picture nominees roll, Streep sips bottled water and occasionally exclaims "Wow!" and "I'm just so shocked!"

Finally, she walks with a flushed face to the thank-you cam, which allows winners to express gratitude to all the people they couldn't fit into their onstage speeches. At the end, she promises, "I'm going to drink a lot."

Presenter Colin Firth hands her the gold envelope that signals her win. "You don't want forget this, " he says. "Do you want me to hold onto it?"

She replies emphatically: "Yes, I do."

A 'bowwow' moment for Dujardin

Before Streep's upset, best-actor winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist) strides backstage, pumping his fist in the air, Oscar in hand. He's greeted by canine co-star Uggie (and Uggie's handler) and allows the Jack Russell terrier to lick his face. "Thank you, Uggie. Thank you, boy, " he says.

When The Artist wins best picture, a celebration of the entire cast convenes backstage. After Missi Pyle and Penelope Ann Miller welcome Tom Cruise, who presented the award, Miller tells him, "We're going all night tonight."

"You guys enjoy. Congratulations!" he says.

Bullock approves

Sandra Bullock watches the Academy Awards' supporting-actress presentation on the backstage monitor, holding her hands almost prayer-like below her chin as the names are read off. She laughs especially hard as a clip of Bridesmaids' Melissa McCarthy rolls.

Video highlights from the red carpet, the ceremony, backstage and the parties.

Spencer heads somewhat unsteadily toward the thank-you cam.

"Oh, God, " the first-time Oscar winner says out loud, as if the moment is just starting to hit, as Bullock reassures her, "Don't worry, I've got your (gown's) train."

She calmly thanks her agent and her family, then loses her composure and has to walk away, overwhelmed. "I don't want to cry, I want to look pretty, " Spencer says.

Presenting is quite a 'feet'

Speaking with Melissa Leo, last year's supporting-actress winner, Downey asks, "How do you feel about relinquishing your title?" Leo explains that she gets to keep her Oscar. "I'm just not sure how this all works, " Downey jokes.

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