It was a big night for the silent French–American sleeper hit The Artist, which nabbed five awards, including the coveted combo of best picture and best director, at the 84th annual Academy Awards.
The Artist also scored some mild upsets, first when newcomer Jean Dujardin won best actor over George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Gary Oldman, then when Michel Hazanavicius beat out the likes of Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen for best director. The best actor win for Dujardin was somewhat surprising since Clooney has been running a victory lap in the press after walking away with several other major awards leading up to the Oscars for his role in The Descendants, including a Golden Globe.
Otherwise, it was a mixed bag at the Academy Awards, with the rest of the awards going to a variety of movies.
Nine-time host Billy Crystal kicked off the show with a pre-taped ode to the biggest movies of the year, garnering hysterical laughter when George Clooney planted a kiss on his lips while re-enacting a scene from The Descendants, Tom Cruise crashed through the window of Crystal’s home theater and Justin Bieber made an awkward cameo in order to bring in the coveted “18-to-24 demographic” that often eludes the telecast.
Crystal then launched into his always-expected song-and-dance number, praising the nine best picture nominees. He continued his running joke with Clooney, singing, “Maybe Oscar will be laying George tonight,” and quipped that he was keeping with The Descendants’ Hawaiian theme by mentioning a “lei.” Later, he jabbed that Clooney’s date, pro-wrestler Stacy Keibler, was lucky because the silver fox is “a very good kisser.”
Presenter highlights included Sandra Bullock showing off her comedic chops while presenting the award for best foreign language film by speaking “Mandarin with a German accent.” Possibly stealing the show were Iron Man co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow and a Tebowing Robert Downey Jr., who primped for a faux-documentary film crew before presenting best documentary feature. And the cast of Bridesmaids made a memorable appearance by doing shots and discussing whether “size matters” (when it comes to, ahem, film). Later, best supporting actress nominee Melissa McCarthy participated in an eyebrow- and leg-raising skit where she tried to seduce Crystal.
Speaking of McCarthy, many had hoped that she would win best supporting actress for her hilarious turn in Bridesmaids, but it was The Help’s Octavia Spencer who got to make that acceptance speech. She garnered the night’s first standing ovation, and shed the first tears too.
Bridesmaids also somewhat surprisingly lost in the best original screenplay category, which went to Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
Meryl Streep won best actress for The Iron Lady – although some had speculated that Viola Davis would win for The Help. While Streep has won before, best supporting actor winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners) made Oscar history by being the oldest actor ever to win a statue at the age of 82. When handed the award, he asked: “Where have you been all my life?”
Despite losing out on the biggest awards, Scorsese’s 3-D film Hugo, which led the night with 11 nominations, started off strong early in the evening, pulling in five technical award statues, including best cinematography and best art direction. But it failed to live up to the hype in the end, losing the most coveted awards to The Artist.
Missing from the ceremony were any big-name musical performers, with the sole musical interlude (aside from Crystal’s opening monologue) being a Cirque du Soleil number. However, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy made an appearance before The Muppets movie walked away with best original song. So, there was a little something for everyone in the end.