Looking Back on the 81st Annual Academy Awards

The incredibly weird behavior of Joaquin Phoenix was begging for some spoofery. Comedian Ben Stiller answered the call, arriving on stage in dark shades and a full ratty beard, alongside co-presenter Natalie Portman, and delivered a spot-on impression.
Even Hugh Jackman couldn’t keep from laughing during “The Reader” portion of his song and dance number, during which (like many of us), he said he meant to see the movie, though he “went down to the theater, but there was a line of all the people watching ‘Iron Man’ a second time.”
After a painfully slow start to the ceremony, recent co-stars Martin and Fey (“Baby Mama,” “30 Rock”) provided some much-needed comic relief, capped by a hilarious, not-so-subtle dig at Scientology.
After his win for Best Original Screenplay, Dustin Lance Black, the wunderkind “Milk” scribe delivered a poignant speech, advocating gay rights, and guaranteeing the eventual legalization of gay marriage.

“How did he do it? How, for so many years, did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight men?”

—Robert De Niro teasing pal and ‘Milk’ Best Actor winner Sean Penn

“I make more money doing animation than doing live action. Each year, I do one DreamWorks project, and then I take all the money to the Oscars® and bet it on Pixar.”

–Jack Black on the secret of making big bucks in animated movies.

“Hopefully I’ll be here getting something for it next year; it’s a lot more real and deeper than people would expect the movie to be.”

–Miley Cyrus, talking during the ABC pre-show about her Oscar® wishes for ‘Hannah Montana: The Movie’

Seth Rogen and James Franco revived their “Pineapple Express” characters for a gut-busting video tribute to this year’s comedies. While “The Reader” and “Doubt” were not exactly funny, watching these two crack up to scenes from those Oscar® films in between shots from “Tropic Thunder” and “Step Brothers” was a sorely needed laugh out loud moment.
One of the least suspenseful races in Academy Awards history, the presentation of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar® to Heath Ledger’s father, mother, and sister was no less emotional. As the family thanked their son’s Hollywood peers, camera cuts revealed teary-eyed A-listers like Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, and Adrien Brody.
When “Man on Wire” subject Philippe Petit, who tightrope-walked between World Trade Center towers in the Best Documentary-winning film, appeared on stage, you had to wonder if he’d have a stunt up his sleeves. And (thank goodness) he did, balancing the statuette upside-down on his chin.
In a show full of pretty awful musical moments, we have to hand it to producers for saving the best for last. The homage to the members of the Hollywood community who passed away in 2008 was accompanied by a sweet performance of “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Queen Latifah, who lent a much-needed spot of grace to the 81st Oscars® telecast.
“Slumdog Millionaire” helmer Danny Boyle celebrated his Best Director win by hopping up and down three times when he reached the stage. Cute. But even cuter? It wasn’t a spontaneous reaction, but rather the fulfillment of a promise to his kids that if he even won an Oscar, he’d mimic ‘Tigger’ from “Winnie the Pooh.”
“The Reader” Best Actress winner Kate Winslet gave, and got, a special shout out during her acceptance. “I made a version of this speech before, when I was 8-years-old and staring into the bathroom mirror, and this [her Oscar] would have been a shampoo bottle. Well, it’s not a shampoo bottle now,” Winslet said, and then went on to thank “my friends and my family, especially my mom and dad, who are in this room somewhere. Dad, whistle or something, ‘cuz then I’ll know where you are.” He did, prompting a “Yeah! I love you” from his daughter.
“You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns,” joked Penn, who earned a surprise win over Mickey Rourke in the Best Actor race. And while the Prop 8 and political elements of Penn’s speech weren’t the least bit surprising, his admittance that “I want it to be very clear that I do know that I make it very hard to appreciate me, often” certainly was unexpected.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live by the ABC Television Network beginning at 5 p.m. PT/ 8 p.m. ET. The Oscar® presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

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