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This year's Oscars, like every year's Oscars, had its highs and its lows. Sometimes Billy Crystal was funny, sometimes he felt like a lecherous old man time-warped in from the 90s. Sometimes the winners were surprising and deserving, sometimes the winners were the wonderful Meryl Streep accepting a prize for a movie that nobody really likes. But before we get into the nitty gritty of what didn't really work about this year's Oscars-- if you're looking for a full list of winners, you can find them HERE, let's celebrate what did, with the 5 best moments of the telecast-- for my money at least. Your mileage may vary, but if you didn't get a little bit of joy out of at least one of these moments, you might just need to try harder with the Oscars next year.
1) Emma Stone presenting Best Visual Effects with Ben Stiller. Stiller has presented this award in elaborate costume a handful of times, but he played straight man here to probably the best young female star we have right now. Stone was funny, playful, entertaining, but also respectful of what the award meant when it came right down to it. She brought so much energy to the stage in her brief moment that I'm sure I wasn't the only one hoping they'd just give her the whole hosting gig next year. Come on, Academy! You're always looking for more young people-- why not bring in who seems to be the smartest and most put-together young person in the business?
2) Christopher Plummer winning Best Supporting Actor. It was a hugely deserved win, not only for his long career that's gone unrecognized by the Academy, but for his specific performance in Beginners, which is loose and charming but also full of deep feeling. And then he topped it off with a lovely acceptance speech, a little emotional but perfectly measured, thanking all the right people and speaking to his statue, "You're only two years older than me, where have you been all my life?" It was his turn to win, and he took it masterfully.
3) The In Memoriam tribute. They saved this montage until remarkably late in the ceremony, probably recognizing that it's the best part for a lot of us-- being reminded of our favorite actors and filmmakers who left us in the last year. This year's montage perfectly toed the line between toned-down and garish, with Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding and a children's choir singing "What A Wonderful World"-- kind of a cliched choice, but whatever-- and a swift montage of a lot of faces, with some video and audio clips for the big ones. They didn't succumb to pressure to make a bigger deal out of Whitney Houston than they had to, but ended, as they had to, with the marvelous Elizabeth Taylor. Here's hoping every In Memoriam tribute from here out strikes this good a tone.
4) The cast of Bridesmaids presenting the shorts. From the bawdy penis jokes to the "Scorsese!" drinking game to Ellie Kemper's magnificently sequined dress, these ladies were such a breath of fresh air during the second half of a ceremony that was starting to drag. Somehow they managed to feel funny and irreverent without being crass or disrespectful to the event. The fact that they and Emma Stone were the best presenters says a lot about how much more fun these awards might be if they let funny women play a bigger role. Pay attention for next year, guys!
5) Octavia Spencer's teary acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress. Spencer was the only winner who seemed truly on the verge of losing it-- except for maybe the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo editors, who had no idea what to say. But Spencer held herself together long enough to give an adorably jumbled speech, choking up especially when it came time to thank her Help family, with her date, director Tate Taylor and longtime friend, beaming from the sidelines. The fact that she got a standing ovation from the crowd indicates that she had really earned this moment with a lot of respect from her peers. Viola Davis deserved to have her own similar moment, but Spencer winning was pretty great on its own too.
Honorable Mention: Angelina Jolie and her leg. After spending so much time putting on her solemn face promoting In the Land of Blood and Honey, Angelina was back in va-va-voom starlet mode, looking like Jessica Rabbit come to life and seeming to enjoy every minute of it. She and Brad Pitt are such a fun couple to watch when they seem to be having fun, but it's even more fun to see her enjoying the spotlight all on her own. Nicely done!
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