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Penélope thanks Pedro
The Best Supporting Actress winner thanked her Vicky Cristina Barcelona director, Woody Allen, and then did the right thing by giving a special shout-out to her friend and frequent collaborator Pedro Almodóvar, without whom she would never be where she is today. Nicely done, Penny.
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Dustin Lance Black speaks of hope
The Best Original Screenplay winner (Milk) gave one of the most touching speeches of the night, talking about how, as a 13-year-old kid raised in a conservative Mormon home, he discovered the story of Harvey Milk. It gave Black hope to live his life openly and to dream that one day he might fall in love and get married. He thanked his mother for ''loving me for who I am,'' then addressed all the ''gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who...are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value.''
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Tina Fey and Steve Martin bring the goofy-funny
While presenting Best Original Screenplay, the comedians regaled us with scripted banter that was actually funny. In what had to be a mocking reference to Scientology, Martin extolled the power of ''Alien King Rondelay'' in the writing process, to which Fey responded, ''No one wants to hear about our religion that we made up.'' Moments later, when they introduced the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Fey stared adoringly at Martin. ''Don't fall in love with me,'' he deadpanned. It was goofy and loose and fun — three things the telecast could have used more of.
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The camera cuts to Brangelina while Jennifer Aniston is presenting Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short
You just had to go there, huh, Mr. Oscar Telecast Director? While Jennifer Aniston did her bit with Jack Black, you cut to Brangelina — not once, but twice! And here we thought the Oscars were above tabloid-style pandering.
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Best Animated Short director Kunio Kato delivers a brilliant haiku of an acceptance speech for La Maison en Petits Cubes
In a night of long-winded, dry speeches, the Japanese filmmaker gave thanks with a near-scientific precision that somehow also managed to be entertaining: ''Thank you, my pencil. Thank you, Academy. Thank you, animation. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.''
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Philippe Petit brings out the magic
Philippe Petit joined Man on Wire directors James Marsh and Simon Chinn (winners for Best Documentary Feature) and promptly stole the show. First he said, ''Yesssss!'' which he promised would be the shortest acceptance speech ever, then kept talking, gave a shout-out to Werner Herzog, made a coin disappear, and balanced the Oscar on his chin. They should invite impish French guys who have walked a high wire between the Twin Towers to the Oscars more often.
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Some folks keep it short — or don't talk at all!
Usually, the recipients of honorary awards drone on for days — or at least a lot of minutes. But Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award winner Jerry Lewis took pity on us and delivered a mercifully pithy speech. Of course, compared to Academy President Sid Ganis (who, charitably, said absolutely nothing), Lewis was a veritable chatterbox.
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Hugh Jackman, Beyoncé and a bunch of other folks kill all good will for musicals
We usually love Hugh Jackman. But when the host joined forces with Beyoncé, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Vanessa Hudgens, and Zac Efron in an homage to musicals (dreamed up by Baz Luhrmann), we started to think twice. The haphazard, choppy number went on forever — Woah! Here we go, another abrupt song change! — while, later in the show, the actual Best Original Song nominees got stiffed with a measly 90 seconds of performance time. No wonder Peter Gabriel declined to play his WALL-E song!
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Ben Stiller's Oscar-worthy performance as Joaquin Phoenix
Sporting dark sunglasses and a bushy beard that David Letterman might liken to the Unabomber's, Ben Stiller walked on stage with Nathalie Portman, ostensibly to present the Best Cinematography category. As Portman played straight (wo)man, dutifully reading the names of the nominees, Stiller absently gazed stage right, defiantly placed his used chewing gum on the podium, and wandered aimlessly around the stage. ''You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab,'' Portman said, getting a few laughs of her own. Does taking pot shots at two-time nominee Phoenix approach the line of bad taste? Absolutely. But like Marisa Tomei, we laughed our pretty little heads off.
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Seth Rogen and James Franco hop back on the Pineapple Express
Who better than Judd Apatow to direct a short riffing on the Academy's (snobby) habit of overlooking comedies? Reprising their Pineapple Express stoner personas, the comedic duo laughed their asses off at this year's hyper-serious Best Picture nominees, debated the acting merits of Reagan and Obama, wrestled, stapled, and — in the most awesomely incongruous bit of all — cuddled with two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. Oh, and watching Franco, as Pineapple's Saul Silver, consider his performance in Milk? Best meta mind-tingling of the night.
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Sean Penn leaves the grump at home
News flash! Sean Penn often comes off as a humorless curmudgeon. Not last night. ''You commie, homo-loving sons of guns,'' he said with a smile as he took the stage after being named Best Actor. ''I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often.'' Then, with great sincerity, he continued the Prop 8-themed discussion that Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black had begun earlier. ''I think it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame...if they continue that way of support. We've got to have equal rights for everyone.''
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Queen Latifah singing during the In Memoriam montage
Who really thought it would be a wise idea for the Queen to sing as the late-greats clips unspooled — nearly three hours into the telecast no less? As she sang ''I'll Be Seeing You,'' images of the dearly departed were projected behind and around her, but at odd angles that made the names and faces impossible to see at times. Then, when the camera went wide, there was confusion: Do we look at Latifah? The screens behind her? Is this really how to best honor the dearly departed?
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The Slumdog Millionaire cast takes the stage
It's not often that all the members of a cast as big as Slumdog Millionaire's get to attend the Oscar ceremony, much less enjoy the honor of collecting the night's top prize. But when the movie won Best Picture, the whole lot of them climbed up on stage, beaming with a joy unlike anything we've seen in recent years. The adorable child actors smiled the biggest. And if that didn't move you, you might want to check to see if your heart is still beating.