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Best special guest stars
The evening opened with the now-customary extended spoof film, inserting hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway into the nominated Best Pictures, with two standout cameos. First, the hosts entered the dreams of last year's cohost Alec Baldwin (à la Inception). Then Morgan Freeman showed up at one point narrating Franco and Hathaway's adventure: ''Alec likes me to narrate his dreams. Says I have a soothing voice.'' Would that Freeman narrated all our slumbers.
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Best scene stealer
Franco and Hathaway's awkward, stilted banter was rescued by Franco's grandmother, who boasted with perfect timing, ''I just saw Marky Mark!'' Even ''Academy Award nominee'' Mark Wahlberg laughed.
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Presenting Best Supporting Actress, acting legend Kirk Douglas vamped up a storm, first flirting with co-host Anne Hathaway — ''Where were you when I was making movies?'' — then prolonging revealing the winner to comic lengths with an extended riff about Hugh Jackman and Colin Firth: ''Hugh Jackman is laughing. I don't know why everyone in Australia thinks I'm funny. Colin Firth isn't laughing. He's British.''
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Most likely to occupy water cooler talk Monday morning
After Kirk Douglas finally revealed that The Fighter's Melissa Leo had won Best Supporting Actress — Leo's first win after being nominated two years ago for Best Actress in Frozen River — she took to the stage with what seemed like genuine shock. ''Yeah, I am kinda speechless,'' she said, looking up to the third balcony of the Kodak Theatre. ''When I watched Kate [Winslet] two years ago, it looked so f---ing easy!'' The ABC time-delay censors were quick on the trigger, however, and all the national viewing audience heard from Leo was silence. Backstage, when asked about the F-bomb, Leo said, ''I had no idea. Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend. There's a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular.''
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Rather inexplicably dressed in matching white tuxes — perhaps it had to do with the nod to the first Academy Awards held at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel? — Josh Brolin and Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem brought some serious handsome while presenting both screenplay categories.
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Best demonstration of why they won
The respective adapted and original screenplay winners, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and David Seidler (The King's Speech), delivered witty, thoughtful, well-crafted acceptance speeches. Sorkin capped his speech — underscored for a considerable length by the Oscar orchestra trying to play him off — with this adorable directive to his daughter: ''Roxy Sorkin, your father just won the Academy Award. I'm going to have to insist on some respect from your guinea pig.'' Seidler, meanwhile, charmed by opening with this line: ''My father always told me I would be a late bloomer. I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award. I hope this record is broken quickly and often.''
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After Anne Hathaway delivered a musical homage (of sorts) to previous Oscar host Hugh Jackman, cohost James Franco stepped out in full Marilyn Monroe drag. ''You got to wear a tuxedo, so I wore this,'' said Franco. ''The weird part is, I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen.'' (Tellingly, it was Franco's biggest laugh of the night.)
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Best acceptance speech
Sporting an impressively grizzly beard, Best Supporting Actor winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) effortlessly segued between humility — ''Bloody hell...what a room full of talented and inspirational people, what the hell am I doing here?'' — to subtle self-deprecation — ''Melissa [Leo], I'm not going to drop the F-bomb like she did, I've done that plenty before.'' Then Bale gave a heartfelt shout-out to the real man whose life won him an Oscar, Dicky Eklund. And finally, Bale teared up while singing the praises of his wife and daughter. It's the kind of heartfelt eloquence Oscarcasts are made for.
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''That's gross.'' — Cate Blanchett, presenting Best Makeup, after the clip of eventual winner The Wolfman.
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Luke Matheny, Live Action Short Film winner for his black-and-white quirky romance God of Love: ''Oh, I should've gotten a haircut.''
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Most obviously 'viral' moment
In a clear — and successful — ploy to win over all those hip and young viewers Hathaway and Franco kept joking about wanting to attract to the Oscars, several films were ''auto-tuned'' in an effort to make 2011 the ''Year of the Movie Musical.'' We had ''Tiny Ball of Light'' from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1; ''We're Still Here'' from Toy Story 3; ''Fishing for Facebook,'' The Social Network; and, most memorably, ''He Doesn't Own A Shirt'' from The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. ''Why would he own a shirt.'' Indeed.
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Most (okay, only) political moment
Inside Job director Charles H. Ferguson used his win for Best Documentary Feature to protest the fact that three years after the financial meltdown that nearly toppled the economy — and served as the topic for his winning film — ''not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong.''
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Least awkward awkward banter
?Proving not all Oscar repartee needs to be strained and clumsy (ahem, James Franco), Sherlock Holmes costars Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law presented Best Visual Effects and Best Editing with knowing wit to spare. After Downey kept interrupting Law, the bow-tied Brit had (jokingly) had enough. ''Shut up,'' said Law to Downey. ''If it wasn't for [visual effects artists], your closest association with a superhero would've been in 2001, when you got busted in a cheap hotel with a woman dressed as Batgirl.'' Retorted Downey: ''Okay, first of all, that cheap hotel room cost $1,250 a night with a corporate discount; secondly, it was 2000, not 2001; and most importantly, she was dressed as Wonder Woman. And that attention to detail is what has won the respect of all the Academy voters...''
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Best Song winner Randy Newman (for ''We Belong Together'' from Toy Story 3) gently roasted both himself and the Academy for the simple fact that he's been nominated a whopping 20 times, and only won twice. First, Newman referenced the nominee luncheon, ''where they have, like, a Randy Newman chicken by this time.'' Then he needled the producers for asking winners not to list off a litany of names because it's ''not good television.'' Said Newman, tongue in cheek, ''I want to be good television so badly, as you can see. I've been on this show any number of times, and I've slowed it down almost every time. No wonder they only nominate four songs.''
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Most welcome break with tradition
After years of the proverbial applause-o-meter cheapening the In Memoriam segment of the show — oooh, let's see which deceased person remains most beloved by their peers! — producers this year asked the audience to hold their applause until the end of the tribute to departed luminaries like Tony Curtis, Lynn Redgrave, and Dennis Hopper. Instead, we were treated to Celine Dion's unexpectedly understated rendition of the timeless, melancholy classic ''Smile.''
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Best tribute to mom
In an evening with several winners taking time to single out their mothers (and fathers), it was Best Director winner Tom Hooper who was first among equals with his story of how his mother went to a reading of an unproduced play called The King's Speech and told her son she had found his next film. ''The moral of the story,'' said Hooper, as the audience audibly swooned, ''is listen to your mother.''
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Most charming presenter
While Jeff Bridges took his time earnestly singing the praises of the five Best Actress nominees, Sandra Bullock used her time as presenter to softly rib the Best Actor nominees. ''Jeff, dude,'' she said to Bridges, who won the category last year for Crazy Heart, ''I mean how much is enough?'' To Colin Firth, the eventual winner? ''So I hear the Queen saw the film. She enjoyed it, which is good, because I assume you plan on going home some time?'' And to host James Franco, sitting backstage? ''You are the number one reason children get picked up late from school because mothers are watching you on General Hospital.'' (Firth's acceptance speech, by the by, was just as funny and charming.)
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Most blatant admission of which film was going to win
If the wins for Hooper and Firth didn't already make it obvious that The King's Speech was fated to take home the final Oscar of the night, the montage presenting the ten best picture nominees were all framed — quite cleverly — by the climactic, titular oration from the WWII-era drama.
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Best intentioned climax
The fifth grade chorus from P.S. 22 in Staten Island, N.Y., ended the show with an adorable, if seemingly pre-recorded, performance of ''Over the Rainbow,'' as most of the evening's winners appeared behind them. But it was co-host Anne Hathaway who seemed the most excited that the evening had come to a close, letting out several Oprah-worthy ''wooo''s before giving out as many high tens as possible to the ''singing'' kids.
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Best supporting stage
While the debate over the success of the evening's Oscar telecast rages, one thing is quite certain: The stage design — featuring an ever-changing tableau of projected images both abstract and specific to Oscar-lauded films from years past — was a stunning show-stopper.