As expected, Joel and Ethan Coen won the Academy Award for Best Picture for their film No Country for Old Man last night at the Oscar ceremony.

Joel and Ethan Coen accept 2008 Best Picture Oscar

The brothers also shared the award for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film picked up another award as Javier Bardem won for Best Supporting Actor.

The violent crime drama, which many critics have described as extremely grim, disturbing, amoral, and even nihilistic—meaning all of those terms as compliments, which may be the most disturbing thing of all—had earlier swept the awards from the major film talent organizations, including the Directors Guild. The film clearly captured the mood of Hollywood and the media, although as noted here yesterday, underneath the surface No Country for Old Men actually contradicts their values.

Audiences were far less impressed. Even with the Oscar hype, the film has been mediocre at the box office, earning $64 million in more than fifteen weeks—which the action film Jumper has nearly equaled in just eleven days—and seldom cracking the top ten.

An equally grim film, There Will Be Blood, grabbed the awards for Best Cinematography and Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis).

As expected, the teen pregnancy comedy Juno, the only reasonably optimistic film among the Best Picture nominees, picked up the award for Best Original Screenplay.

The film with the highest rating among critics last year, Ratatouille, won for Best Animated Feature Film. The Disney/Pixar film was a huge audience pleaser (earning more than $206 million in U.S. domestic gross and finishing eighth in U.S. box office last year) and although set in France, it offered classic American values such as self-discipline, hard work, community, and a strong desire to achieve.

Screen shot from Ratatouile

Some analysts have noted that the existence of the Best Animated Feature Film category probably cost Ratatouille a shot at a Best Picture nomination. That seems likely, but it seems extremely unlikely that Hollywood would have honored a film with such an optimistic, can-do attitude this year.

The makers of Ratatouille will thus have to settle for $617 million in worldwide ticket sales, $177 million in DVD sales (and counting), the highest critical rating, the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar, and knowing that they made a great movie that stands for what is good an right.