Cate Blanchett wins best actress Oscar for Blue Jasmine

HOLLYWOOD - Cate Blanchett won the best actress Oscar on Sunday for her turn in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine," as the final prizes at the 86th Academy Awards show were handed out.

Blanchett, who was the clear frontrunner for the award, beat fellow nominees Amy Adams ("American Hustle"), Sandra Bullock ("Gravity"), Judi Dench ("Philomena") and Meryl Streep ("August: Osage County").

The 44-year-old Australian actress, who perfectly portrayed a New Yorker who suffers a riches-to-rags turn when her husband's financial scheme unravels, made a point of thanking Allen for choosing her for his "extraordinary screenplay."

"Thank you so much, Woody, for casting me. I'm truly appreciative," she said.

Allen rarely attends awards ceremonies and was not at Sunday's Oscars.

The legendary but controversial director made headlines last month when he wrote a lengthy column in The New York Times to again deny that he molested his daughter, and launched a furious attack on his ex-partner Mia Farrow, blaming her for the abuse allegations.

Blanchett also said it was especially poignant to win the award this year, given the "extraordinary performances by women."

"Perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences: they're not," she said.

"Audiences want to see them. And in fact, they earn money."