OK, we got all negative a little while ago, complaining about the five worst parts of this year's Oscars and even picking on America's Favorite Gay Man Neil Patrick Harris in the process. Sorry, but we had to get that out! Now to make up for it, let's take the positive angle. Because while there were a ton of gaffes and straight-up embarrassments during this year's ceremony, there was plenty to celebrate as well-- historic wins, perfectly timed zingers, and expert rambler Jeff Bridges. Join me, won't you, in further stroking Hollywood's ego.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Sure, their opening set of jokes ran on too long, and they seemed to spend more time onstage apart than together. But the Snuggie gag, the constant ribbing of Meryl Streep, the arrival on the bedazzled swing-- the two of them played brilliantly off one another, like your two favorite uncles riffing back and forth, but with better jokes. Martin seemed more comfortable with the whole thing than Baldwin did, but he was gentle and generous with the new guy. I'd be happy to see them host everything.
Jeff Bridges' acceptance speech. He went on longer than any other winner, repeatedly called Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper "man!" much like The Dude might, and worked in a reference to Sea Hunt, the 50s TV series that marked his first-ever credited performance (he was 9 years old). It's a speech only Jeff Bridges could have gotten away with, but given how long we've been waiting for him to get an Oscar, it was worth every rambling pause.
Every Meryl Streep reaction shot. Looking relaxed and glowing as if she thought she didn't have a chance of winning, Streep was the new Jack Nicholson of reaction shots, throwing her head back in laughter or shaking her head in mock-disapproval every time the pair of hosts or anyone else invoked her name (it happened a lot). She was even hilarious when Sandra Bullock mock-snubbed her on her way up to the stage to accept the award Streep had every reason to believe she could win. Hopefully Streep-- and her adorable husband, Don Gummer, who looked thrilled to be there-- will come back every year, nomination or not.
The John Hughes tribute. Yeah, it got a little awkward once the Brat Packers took the stage, even if it did give Matthew Broderick the chance to say "Danke schoen." But the montage itself, covering the hilarious and the poignant moments of Hughes's career, was wonderfully concise and touching. Those of us who remember the Hughes films well were transported, while those who don't know them (maybe the same ones who tuned in just to see Taylor Lautner?) had to be intrigued. Despite the plethora of major Hollywood figures who passed away last year, Hughes definitely seemed most worthy of this kind of tribute.
Kathryn Bigelow winning Best Director. It can't be said enough-- the first female Best Director winner matters, in a way that can't be explained by citing how few female directors are working, how few women have been nominated in the past, how women still make less than men dollar for dollar. There's something visceral about seeing a woman holding two Oscar statues, seeing her take the stage and thank the people who helped make her film. The Hurt Locker's Best Picture win was surely an added triumph for her, but the Best Director prize is the one that will be remembered, and the one that will likely matter most to all women trying daily, everywhere, to break that glass ceiling. Bigelow has instantly become an icon.
Watch the clip here-- the Academy doesn't allow embedding of their video files and it's not available elsewhere.