Robert Richardson won the night's first trophy for Best Cinematography and Tom Hanks also handed director Martin Scorsese's longtime production designer Dante Ferretti and set designer Francesca Lo Schiavo the Art Direction honour.
The 3D film led all nominations, going into the 2012 Oscars with 11.
Funnyman Billy Crystal kicked off his ninth stint as Oscars host with one of his famous movie montages, playing The Artist's George Valentin in a silent torture scene and George Clooney's comatose partner in The Descendants.
The odd couple shared a kiss as the movie hunk and Oscar nominee woke the sleeping comic and told him he had to host the ceremony, joking, "The Academy has got the youngest, hippest writers in town."
Crystal also placed himself in scenes from The Help, Bridesmaids, The Adventures of Tin Tin, Moneyball and Midnight in Paris, where he doubled up as Sammy Davis Jr. opposite Justin Bieber.
There was also a cameo for Tom Cruise in a brief Mission: Impossible skit.
In his opening monologue, Crystal joked, "The movies have always been there for us... so tonight, enjoy yourself because nothing can take the sting out of the world's economic problems like watching millionaires present each other with golden statues."
He then broke into song to poke fun at the nine nominated Best Film Oscars.