In a race lacking the frontrunner for Best Picture ("Argo" director Ben Affleck was left off the list by his fellow filmmakers in the Academy), Best Director boiled down to the visionary, watercolor vision of "Life of Pi" helmer Ang Lee.

"Thank you, movie God," Lee said upon receiving the award. "I really need to share this with all 3,000 [people' who worked with me on 'Life of Pi' and sharing this incredible journey with me…Suraj [Sharma], you're a miracle, carrying the movie. Everyone who worked on this, you are the golden statue in my heart. [And] I couldn't have made this film without Taiwan."

It was a contentious race with everyone from Steven Spielberg ("Lincoln") to David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook") in the hunt. In the end, however, it was the film with the most Oscars on the evening that reigned in the field.

But when 20th Century Fox gambled on the property, from a Yann Martel book that had openly been deemed "unfilmable," Lee and company have said they carried plenty anxiety with them. The film was budgeted at over $125 million, but it has pulled in box office receipts approaching $600 million worldwide.

"I thought 3D might pull it off," Lee told HitFix of his approach to the material upon the film's release in November. "That was four years ago, way before…Once I started thinking that way, there was no stop to it. I just got hooked. 'It has to be done.' So four years later, here we are."

Here we are indeed. With Lee's second Oscar to show for his work. (He previously won in 2006 for "Brokeback Mountain.")

"Life of Pi" received three other awards in total on the night, for Best Cinematography, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. It was nominated for 11 on the morning of January 10.