The intro was poignant, a montage of excerpts from interviews with the nominees. That kind of let me know that the people I want to win aren't going to win…Again. (Sorry, Mr. O'Toole, and Mr. Eastwood…I was rooting for you guys!) Ellen was cute and chatty but she was no Whoopi, Billy or Bob. (Then again, who is?)
Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman gave out the award for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration to - Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta for "Pans Labyrinth". Then a commercial, and then Will Farrell sang a song with Jack Black and John C. Reilly ("A Comedian at the Oscars"). And then they handed out the Award for Achievement in Make up to - David Martí, Montse Ribé , again for "Pans Labyrinth".
Then a pair of kids (Abigail Breslin and Jayden Smith) handed out the awards for Best Animated Short to - Torill Kove for "The Danish Poet" and Best live Action Short to Ari Sandel for "West Bank Story". (Finally, I got one right…It's "a musical comedy set in the West Bank about conflict between Palestinians and Jews set between two falafel stands".)
Steve Carell and Greg Kinear handed out the Oscar for sound editing to Alan Robert Murray, Bub Asman for "Letters from Iwo Jima".
Jessica Beal and a little Scotsman handed out the award for Best Sound Mixing to Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer, Willie D. Burton "Dream Girls". That's about all they did. (First win for "Dream Girls" of the night.)
Finally, we get to one of the big ones. Rachel Wiez handed out the award for Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine". (Eddie Murphy, however, was the coolest looking nominee in the split-screen and, maybe, he should have won an award just for that feat alone.)
The amazing dance group Pilobolus worked their magic to interpret the night, creating the Oscar statue early on, and then the penguins from "Happy Feet". It is performances like those that add wonder and magic to this award ceremony. Then James Taylor and Randy Newman performed the song "Our Town" from "Cars". That was followed right away by Melissa Etheridge who sang her song "I need to wake up" from "An Inconvenient Truth".
In what started as a "What the hell?" moment, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore had a mutual Green Moment when they announced that the Oscars, this year, were Eco-Friendly. Leo asked again and again if the Vice-President maybe had something he'd like to announce. Finally, at the end, a reluctant looking Gore reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a speech, and began "My fellow Americans, I'd like to take this moment to formally announce my-" Suddenly, the orchestra started up and played him off stage. Who says the old robot doesn't have a great sense of humor. He rocked on SNL and he could probably rock the vote if he were to seriously run again.
After the break Cameron Diaz awarded the Oscar for best animated feature to George Miller for "Happy Feet". Then Ben Affleck chewed up the stage as he introduced a montage about screenwriters and their trade and art. The montage was wonderful, Affleck looked bored.
The incomparable Helen Mirren and Tom Hanks gave the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. While the clips from the movie were playing the presenters read the scene from the original material, adding a new dimension to the work that Screenwriters do when they adapt a previous work. I love the format, and they should keep it for next year. The Oscar went to William Monahan for the "Departed" which was based on the Japanese film "Wu jian dao" by Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong.
Emily Blunt and the always cute Anne Hathaway presented the award for best Costume Design. This time they had models actually present the costumes for each movie on the stage, which certainly adds more life and detail to each of these fantastic designs. The Oscar went to Melena Cononero for "Marie Antoinette".
A sedate (or sedated) Tom Cruise gave the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to more than deserving Sherry Lansing, who recently left her 30 year career in show business to devote her time to her non-profit organizations .
Ellen had Steven Spielberg take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood. (Eastwood called her "Darlin"…you can take the man outta the cowboy but you cannot take the cowboy outta the man.) It was cute. Earlier she gave Marty Scorsese a screenplay to look at.
Gwyneth Paltrow (she named her kid "Apple"?) presented the award for Achievement in Cinematography to Guillermo Navarro for "Pans Labyrinth", followed by another great moment from Pilobolus, who recreated a scene from "Little Miss Sunshine".
After the break Naomi Watts and Robert Downey, Jr. presented the award for Achievement in Special Effects to John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charles Gibson, Allen Hall for "Pirates of the Caribbean"
Then Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe presented a montage of foreign films, and then Clive Owen and Cate Blanchette presented the award for Best Foreign Language Film to: "Das Leben der Anderen" (The Lies of Others; Germany). It was a huge upset for Mexico and Pans Labyrinth.
And then Pilobolus did a fantastic "Snakes on a Plane" scene. The always charming and ever more handsome George Clooney presented the award for Best Supporting Actress to Jennifer Hudson for "Dream Girls". In my opinion she has given the most sincere and heartfelt acceptance speech of the evening thus far.
Eva Green and Gael García Bernal presented the award for Best Documentary Short Subjects to Ruby Yang, Thomas Lennon for "The Blood of Yingzhou District". Jerry Sienfeld came out and told a few jokes before presenting Best Documentary Feature to "An Inconvenient Truth". You know, why they don't tap Jerry to host the next one? In his 45 second segment he was funnier than Ellen has been all night.
They balanced out the green talk with a real Man. Clint Eastwood strode out to the immortal Ennio Morricone score from "The Good the Bad and the ugly" and falteringly introduced Ennio Moriccone for the Life Time Achievement Award. I own more soundtracks by this man than by any other. More than James Horner, Basil Polodouris, Michael Kamen…His work always seems to perfectly capture the essence of the film he's scoring. Celine Dion took a break from Vegas and took to the stage to perform the world premier of Ennio Morricones "I knew I Loved You". Then, an emotional Ennio Morricone took the stage, delivered a moving speech in Italian, (Translated by Mr. Eastwood himself) and received a much deserved grand ovation.
After the commercial Penelope Cruz and Hugh Jackman gave the award for best Original Score to Gustavo Santaolalla for "Babel".
Toby McGuire and Kirstin Dunst came out and handed out the award for Best Original Screenplay to Michael Arndt for "Little Miss Sunshine". This award was also presented with the presenter's voice-over reading the scene from the screenplay the way it was written. I must say that I really do like the way these writing awards are being handed out. It gives people a sense of what exactly this award is all about.
Another great dance sequence by Pilopolus for the "Devil Wears Prada". They made a high heeled show with a pitchfork at the bottom of the heel.
Jennifer Lopez came out in a terrible dress to introduce the three nominated songs, sung by Academy Award Winner Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles, from "Dream Girls". It's great seeing a large woman looking good on stage. Beyonce looks too sharp edged, like you'd cut yourself if you touch her, but Jennifer Hudson had a real and honest look and sound. Her voice sounded clear and strong, without the unnecessary shrieking that has become so common in music today but it seemed to represent the film well.
John Travolta and Queen Latifah graced the stage and presented the award for Best Original Song to Melissa Etheridge for "I Need to Wake Up", from "An Inconvenient Truth". She thanked Al Gore. Travolta slipped into his "Bobby Long" accent to say that he "Luvs a full-figured woman who can get up on stage and belt out a Broadway tune…But enough about me".
A not so fresh looking Will Smith got up after the break to introduce a short film by Michael Mann that took a look at "America:Through It's movies". It was an exceptionally well made look at all the different cultures, ethnicities and influences that make America great.
A beautiful Kate Winslett presented the award for Best Film Editing to Thelma Schoonmaker for "The Departed". She credits Martin Scorsese for her career, because they met at NYU and they go back a long way.
Jodi Foster came out afterward and did the In Memorium, which included Glenn Ford, Bruno Kirby, Alida Valli, Betty Comden, Jane Wyatt, Don Knotts, Red Buttons, Darren McGavin, Joe barbera, Tamera Dobson, Gretchen Rau, June Allyson, Gordon Parks, Philippe Noriette, Maureen Stapleton, Jack Wild, Vincent Sherman, James Doohan, Shohei, Carlo Ponti, Peter Boyle, James Glennon, Sidney Sheldon, Jack Palence, Mako, Jack Warden, Basil Poladouris, Henry Bumstead, and Robert Altman.
A set change and costume change for Ellen, brought us to the Big Moments in the show. She introduced Phillip Seymour Hoffman to present Best Actress Award to Helen Mirren. (YES!! Got another one! Remember that she also won top awards for playing Elizabeth I on an HBO mini-Series) It's no wonder she stood up there, held up her Oscar statue, and said "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…The Queen!".
After that, Pilopolus made a shadow gun for "The Departed". We're in the home stretch now, with only the big ones left.
While vacuuming, (I told you, she really wasn't that funny...)Ellen found someones rolling papers, threw them to the band, and received a thumbs up from the pit.
Then, Reese Witherspoone came out and presented the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role to (crosses his fingers for Peter O'Toole…)…Forest Whitaker. DENIED!!! Although I'm glad that Forest Whitaker received the award, and he deserved it, I still feel that Sir Peter O'Toole needed it.
And then the legends hit the stage. "The Original Three Amigos": Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas, and gave their old friend Martin Scorsese the Oscar for Best Director. That moment, that scene, when everyone in the house, was on their feet, and to see that powerhouse of directorial power on that stage was the highlight of the night. Martin Scorsese deserved it and when they walked off that stage it was like watching the Wild Bunch of Hollywood on their way into Agua Verde. Cool Stuff.
A mean, gruff, bald Jack Nicholson came out with Diane Keaton and presented the Oscar for best picture to "The Departed". Scorsese called that film "The First movie I've ever done with a plot."
And that was the show. Commentary (maybe) to follow.