Returning to the podium after last year’s Halle Berry liplock, Adrien Brody told the Best Actress nominees, ”Don’t worry, I’m under a restraining order.” Still, before opening the envelope, he gave his tonsils a conspicuous spritz of breath-freshener spray. By the time Charlize Theron came up and shared a discreet smooch with him, the whole kiss thing seemed like an afterthought. It was overshadowed by Theron’s emotional speech, in which the ”Monster” actress thanked everyone in her native South Africa — plus her mother and her boyfriend (her ”Trapped” costar Stuart Townsend), who were beaming from their seats. ”I’m not going to cry,” she insisted. Now, that’s acting.
Best (and Worst) Comeback
”I’m Billy Crystal. I’ll be your Master and Commander tonight.” With that quip, Crystal returned for his eighth stint as Oscar host and his first return to the podium in four years. After his trademark montage of nominated films (with his likeness Gumped into the footage), he launched into his trademark musical medley about the five Best Picture candidates. The segment seemed to flail about in search of an ending, but you have to give Crystal and his writers credit for the ”finery/winery” couplet (about the Coppolas), the ”Seabiscuit/brisket” rhyme, and the line ”Sméagol pops out like the right boob of Janet.” If only the rest of the show had been that outrageous.
Best Wish Fulfillment
When Billy Bush — the cohost of ABC’s preshow — asked ”Whale Rider” Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes which actor she most wanted to meet at the Oscars, the 13-year-old New Zealander replied, ”Johnny Depp — because he’s a stud.” So, just before curtain time, Bush walked her over to the Best Actor nominee’s seat and made her dream come true. Depp gently told his fan, ”I think you’re just amazing.” No wonder everyone’s in love with this guy.
Best Reminder to Keep the Speeches Brief
Will Ferrell and Jack Black
A little-known fact, according to Best Song presenters Will Ferrell and Jack Black: The orchestral music used to play long-winded winners off the stage actually has lyrics! Sample couplet: ”You’re boring/Look at Catherine Zeta-Jones, she’s snoring.” None of the actual Oscar-nominated songs — not even ”A Mighty Wind”’s ”A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow,” performed by Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara in character as Mitch and Mickey — was this entertaining.
Most Irreverent Acceptance Speech
Honorary Oscar winner Blake Edwards made an entrance worthy of Peter Sellers in one of Edwards’ ”Pink Panther” films: A stuntman who looked just like Edwards rode a speeding wheelchair past a podium and crashed through a wall. When the octogenarian director entered and dusted himself off as if he had crashed, he told presenter Jim Carrey, ”Don’t touch my Oscar.” He made a point of thanking his foes as well as his friends, since they inspired him to say, ”I’m steamed, and I’m going to prove you wrong.” Fittingly spoken by the curmudgeon who mercilessly skewered his Hollywood peers in ”S.O.B.”
Best Role Playing
Fourth time’s the charm, or so it was for Sean Penn, whose ”Mystic River” performance earned him his fourth Oscar nomination, his first win, and a standing ovation from his peers. Aside from a brief reference to his prewar trip to Iraq, Penn resisted the urge to go political and gave a gracious speech. ”If there’s one thing that actors know, other than that there weren’t any WMDs, it’s that there’s no such thing as ‘best’ in acting,” said Penn, giving props to his fellow nominees. In fact, the often prickly performer slipped quite easily into the role of happy winner.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson
Presenting the Best Live-Action Short Film award, Owen Wilson donned a natty tux, while pal Ben Stiller wore a shaggy ’70s costume from their new movie ”Starsky & Hutch.” In the evening’s funniest bit of scripted banter, Wilson criticized Stiller for his shameless shilling of the movie, adding, ”It’s not the ‘I’m Ben Stiller I made a mistake and now everyone has to pay’ Awards.” ”Starsky & Hutch” should have such chemistry.
Best Family Values Moment
Sofia and Francis Ford Coppola
When Francis Ford Coppola and daughter Sofia co-presented the Best Adapted Screenplay award (to the ”Return of the King” scribes), he kidded about passing on the family business Godfather-style. But moments later, when Sofia won Best Original Screenplay for ”Lost in Translation,” the Coppolas did become the second three-generation family of winners in Oscar history. (Dad won five Oscars for ”Patton” and the first two ”Godfathers,” and grandpa Carmine won for scoring the music to ”Godfather Part II.” The first family of winners was Walter, John, and Anjelica Huston.) Sofia accepted by saying, ”Thank you to my dad for everything he taught me,” and she thanked her mom, ”Hearts of Darkness” documentarian Eleanor Coppola, ”for always encouraging us to make art.”
Presenting the Best Animated Feature award was human toon Robin Williams, whom Billy Crystal called ”the reason for the five-second delay.” As it turned out, Williams didn’t say anything bleepable, but he did, in the space of a few seconds, joke about the gay wedding march in San Francisco, Janet Jackson’s breast, and hand-puppet ventriloquist Senor Wences. Crystal, left in the dust, returned the favor with a lengthy Williams impression later in the show. Watch your back, Billy. Looks like somebody’s angling for a hosting gig.
Best Country On (Middle) Earth
Some 25,000 people, mostly New Zealanders, were involved in the making of the ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and by the end of the ceremony, it seemed as if most of them had been thanked by a winner. By the end of the night, as ”Return of the King” went 11 for 11 (tying the record number of wins held by ”Titanic” and ”Ben-Hur”), a large contingent of hobbits and elves gathered on stage — and ”Ring”-master Peter Jackson advised Billy Crystal to make his next movie in New Zealand. Given how many precioussss trophies went to the Kiwis, Crystal — and most of Hollywood — may think twice about that suggestion.