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WINNER: Seth MacFarlane's Self-Awareness
The Family Guy creator handicapped himself from the start, slipping in sly references to his destiny as a one-time host and playfully ribbing the audience when they groaned at jokes that went too far (we're lookin' at you, ''I would argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth.'') Still, lowering the audience?s expectations was the best favor MacFarlane could have done for himself. Throwing his haters off-kilter, he was able to drop in some legitimately funny bits, including a Sound of Music gag before Christopher Plummer?s introduction of the Best Supporting Actress category and a self-deprecating riff on his own accomplishments compared to the nominees. (''You guys have made some inspiring movies. I made Ted. Your movies are going to win awards. My movies are in Redboxes outside of grocery stores being urinated on by bums.'') EW's show night poll showed that MacFarlane's gambit paid off. Well-played, voice man. Well-played.
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TOSS-UP: MacFarlane's Monologue
While we credit Oscar 85's host for knowing his limitations, his ''High Hopes'' shtick felt forced during an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink monologue. A Fred and Ginger homage from Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron? Surprisingly charming. A little soft-shoe from the always game Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Sure. Enlisting William Shatner to save MacFarlane from himself, all while playing the gags that — in the Shatnerian future — were proven to tank MacFarlane's hosting stint? You're losing us, Seth. The monologue had some funny elements that were ultimately overshadowed by an over-long, under-edited execution. (Bonus winner: EW, which got a begrudging shout-out from this year's Oscars host.)
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LOSER: Best Picture Nominees
The night had its share of awkward moments, but what was with the on-the-nose clusters of Best Picture contenders? Perhaps most streamlined was the America's Got History block of Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lincoln. But then there was the DIY Rafting bloc of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, and...Les Misérables? Not to mention a trio of meditations on mental health including Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, and...Django Unchained? We appreciate the brevity, but this was a stretch.
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WINNER: Oscar Historians
Could this year be any more historic? Best Actress nominees Quvenzhané Wallis and Emmanuelle Riva represented the category?s youngest and oldest contenders ever, respectively; the Best Sound Editing category ended in a tie between Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall — Oscar's first tie since 1995, and Daniel Day-Lewis became the first thesp ever to win three Best Actor trophies. Movie nerds everywhere, rejoice!
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LOSER: Life of Pi's Bill Westenhofer
Is there any greater indignity than being played out of your acceptance speech by the Jaws theme? Nope. One of the ceremony's most cringe-worthy moments, hands down. More to the point, Best Visual Effects winner Westenhofer was addressing a serious issue facing the movie business — the collapse of VFX studios, including Life of Pi's Rhythm + Hues, which prompted red carpet protests before this year's ceremony — when the two-note attempt at whimsy fired up. Where's Julia Roberts when you need her?
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Cinema's raunchiest stuffed animal wangled his way into announcing two Oscar categories and crashing Jack Nicholson's ''big, post-Oscar orgy.'' What can we say? The bear has had a phenomenal go of it.
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LOSER: James Bond
Ian Fleming's superspy franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary, had a blockbuster year at the box office, and won its first Academy Award since 1965, and yet?the Oscar tribute to 007 was surprisingly unimpressive. All due respect to legendary diva Shirley Bassey, who belted ''Goldfinger'' with aplomb, but there were more than a few missed opportunities in this lackluster homage — including the chance to organize a for-the-ages duet between Bassey and Best Song winner Adele. Bottom line: We were neither shaken nor stirred.
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TOSS-UP: Movie Musical Montage
This year's ceremony was uncharacteristically restrained when it came to montages. With Les Misérables up for Best Picture and Broadway vets Neil Meron and Craig Zadan at the telecast's helm, it was only natural we'd hear about the triumphant return of the movie musical. Dreamgirls' 2007 Best Supporting Actress winner Jennifer Hudson blew the roof off the place reprising her Oscar-winning rendition of ''And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going,'' but 2003 winner Catherine Zeta-Jones turned in an obviously lip-synched performance of Chicago's ''All That Jazz.'' The hodgepodge homage was capped off by a mixed-bag group number from Les Miz that was unevenly mic'd and out of costume, making it hard to find the melody in the muddle.
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Let's face it: Best Original Song was hers to lose. Adele has won all the awards since 21 was released more than a year ago. And yet she was, as ever, surprisingly emotional and off-the-cuff when she stepped up to the podium, alongside ''Skyfall'' producer Paul Epworth, to collect her Oscar. Adele, we love you. EGOT, you're on notice.
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WINNER: In Memoriam
The annual tribute to the Academy's dearly departed has been notoriously tricky. Live performances often fall flat, and the decision to leave on ambient sound during the reel (thus revealing how much applause each late great receives) has felt gauche. This year, both got the kibosh in favor of an elegant segment capped off by Barbra Streisand's poignant performance of ''Memories,'' the iconic tune penned by three-time Oscar winner and In Memoriam notable Marvin Hamlisch.
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LOSER: Anne Hathaway's speech
If there was any guaranteed winner this year, it was the Les Misérables star. As Fantine, she was breathtaking, wrenching, stunning. As a Best Supporting Actress winner, she was as uninspired and rote as her underwhelming Prada gown. Oh, Anne. We had a dream your speech would be so different from this list you're giving.
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WINNER: Jennifer Lawrence
Now the second-youngest actress to win the Best Actress award, Lawrence had an unfortunate stumble on the way to the stage. But she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and collected her trophy. Then, in typical J.Law style, she was delightfully candid as she told the audience in the Dolby Theatre, ''You guys are just standing up because I fell, and that's so embarrassing.'' She also wished dark horse nominee Emmanuelle Riva a happy birthday. Classy.
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WINNER: Meryl Streep
To quote MacFarlane, ''Ladies and gentlemen, our next presenter needs no introduction [leaves stage].'' La Streep wasn't nominated this year, but that didn't stop her from being the belle of the ball as she presented Best Actor statuette. You almost have to wonder, is there a universe in which Oscar can exist without Meryl Streep? Smart money says no.
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WINNER: Daniel Day-Lewis, Comedian
The über-Method actor has found fame for his seriousness and poeticism more than his punchlines. As such, his speeches throughout this awards season have been generally earnest and dignified, befitting a true thespian. So, to the audience's pleasant surprise, he flipped the script and waxed comedic about the one-for-one swap he'd made with presenter Meryl Streep the year before: In DDL's version of the story, he booked the role of Margaret Thatcher, while Streep was Steven Spielberg's ''first choice'' to play Abraham Lincoln — ''I'd have liked to see that version,'' he quipped.
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WINNER: Ben Affleck
Argo has been riding a once-in-a-lifetime wave of support to the top prize since Affleck's snub in the Best Director category. Still, despite all signs in his favor, Affleck seemed genuinely touched to win the Best Picture prize and get all due credit from co-producer Grant Heslov. He admitted that, after his Good Will Hunting screenplay win and a serious of big-budget flops, ''I never thought I'd be back here, but I am — because of so many of you.'' (Bonus to Heslov, who joked about the win: ''I know what you're thinking: Three Sexiest Producers Alive.'')
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LOSERS: Michelle Obama and Jack Nicholson
In one of the night's most unnecessary, unnatural pairings, the First Lady teamed up with the three-time Oscar winner (via satellite) to present the final award. All respect to FLOTUS, but what was she doing there? Not only was it a clear tip-off that Argo would take top honors, it also made us wonder: If Jack's not enough, who is?