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The Best and Worst of the Oscars

From MacFarlane to Michelle, here are some Oscar highlights.

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A great night for Lucius Malfoy wannabes

If you’re a pasty man with long, flaxen hair, thank your dark master and come on down! “Life of Pi” cinematographer Claudio Miranda, “Zero Dark Thirty’s” sound editor Paul N. J. Ottosson and “Skyfall’s” sound editor Per Hallberg all proved that looking like a Death Eater is no handicap in Hollywood.

The whole best supporting actress presentation

First of all, can the person who wrote presenter Christopher Plummer’s remarks do the whole show next year? Last year’s supporting actor winner was gracious, elegant and effortlessly charming. And even if her “It came true!” remark sounded a little too cloying, the hands-down shoo-in Anne Hathaway still managed to seem genuinely humbled and grateful as she accepted her prize in her memorably nip-tastic dress.

Her name is Barbra

Capping off the part of the show informally known as The Get Yourself Another Beer Moment, the diva herself ended the In Memoriam tributes with her mmmmmmmmemories of “The Way We Were” composer Marvin Hamlisch. It will never get campier or show bizzier than La Streisand, paying off four decades of hypothetical speculation by singing “If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we?” and then answering herself with a no duh “Of course we would.”

Ang Lee!

In an evening of few surprises, the surprise upset by Lee, for “Life of Pi,” was an authentic moment of spontaneity.  “Thank you, movie gods,” he said, looking only slightly less surprised than Spielberg.

Things get real

Winner Jennifer Lawrence tripped while climbing up to receive her award and then cracked that “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell.” Meryl Streep presented, and appeared to adjust a wedgie. Serious actor Daniel Day-Lewis, meanwhile, was loose and funny, joking that he’d originally been up for the lead in Streep’s “The Iron Lady.”

And then they get surreal

It was peculiar enough when Jack Nicholson sauntered out to introduce the award for best picture, doing the world’s sloppiest Jack Nicholson imitation. But when a dazzling Michelle Obama appeared via satellite to give a shout-out to arts education and announce the award, you might have bet that it couldn’t get stranger (well, maybe if then “Django” had won). But then “Argo” winner Ben Affleck seriously ramped up the weird when he turned his acceptance speech into a rambling oration on how much hard work it takes to be married to Jennifer Garner. That the whole thing was then topped off with MacFarlane and Kristin Chenoweth doing oh God, no, please have some mercy one more musical number left most of us wondering if somebody had slipped us some of whatever Nicholson’s on.


Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.