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Posted at 12:01 PM ET, 02/23/2009

Oscar's Class Acts

By Liz Kelly

Tom Shales has spoken -- last night's Oscar broadcast was yet another in a long line of duds. But in between the new main show (the red carpet) and the army of awards handed to "Slumdog Millionaire," a few moments of grace stood out.

Hugh Jackman & Anne Hathaway
We expected a song and dance routine from Jackman who won an Emmy for hosting the 2004 Tony Awards, but the surprise addition of Hathaway -- as Richard Nixon, no less -- to his opening routine elevated it from mundane to magnificently charming. And the girl can sing. Who knew? Video (Hathaway comes in at 2:12)


Jackman and Hathaway make beautiful music together. (Reuters)

Jennifer Aniston
Regular readers of Celebritology know I'm no Aniston fan, but even a cynical hard-hearted snark machine can recognize the courage it takes to get up on-stage and muddle through a shticky scripted dialogue in front of the ex and the other woman. And not only do you have to handle moment, you have to deal with the entire room -- and millions of TV viewers -- watching you handle that moment. And Aniston, despite one slight mush-mouthed moment, handled it well. Brava. (And boo hiss to the Oscar show producers for cutting away to a Brangelina reaction shot both times Aniston presented.)


Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black present the award for best animated short. (Reuters)

Heath Ledger's Family
No matter how you approach it, Heath Ledger's posthumous win for his role as Batman nemesis Joker in "The Dark Knight" was a tough moment. As Ledger's co-nominees looked on, undoubtedly secretly relieved not to have been the one to take the honor from Ledger's family -- father Kim, mother Sally and sister Kate -- succinctly thanked the Academy. There was nothing maudlin and no attempt to spin Ledger's death into a parable about prescription drug use.

Mother Sally said, "Heath was such a compassionate and gentle soul." I think we now have some idea where Ledger came by those qualities.

Philippe Petit
He walked a tightrope strung from the tops of the World Trade Centers in 1974. And last night, Petit's mini-vaudeville act cum acceptance speech for the "Man on Wire" documentary feature win provided a refreshing counterbalance to speeches of the "You really like me" variety. Surely balancing an Oscar on his chin should win Petit a spot in some kind of Oscar night hall of fame alongside one-armed push-up man Jack Palance. Thank you, Philippe, for being a showman and not an ego.

Kate Winslet's Dad
His moment was brief, but by golly, Winslet pere's loud whistle and stylin' hat were a welcome addition to a show quickly approaching overtime. Between that and mom Sally's recent recognition for her excellent pickled onions, could we possibly like this family more? Someone get Dinah Lohan a cookbook.

What did I miss? Share your favorite Oscar moments below...

---

More: Full Oscar Coverage

By Liz Kelly  | February 23, 2009; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Awards Season, Celebrities  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Morning Mix: Nicole Richie Pregnant Again; Brangelina Snub Ryan Seacrest a Second Time
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Comments

Oscar, Shmoscar!

I'm having fun reading about Robert Wagner's sexploits.

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | February 23, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

the girl can sing. Who knew?

Liz, you didn't see Anne Hathaway hosting SNL?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 23, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I loved the thank you to Mr. Roboto...

Posted by: Osteph | February 23, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Anne did a fine job singing in "Ella Enchanted" as well. My favorite line of her part had to be, "Frank Langella's sitting right next to me!"

I'm likely in the minority for this, but I liked Will Smith's scripted, gentle tweak of the Academy about action films: "You know, I like action films: the car chases, the explosions, and what's that word? Oh yeah... fans." That and "Y'all might have noticed -- I'm still here. Hugh's in the back, napping."

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | February 23, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I agree, CentrevilleMom, I adored Will Smith's presentations. I liked how he recovered with a "boom goes the dynamite" when he flubbed a word.

I liked the tribute to the musicals up until the part where Beyonce started singing...so for like 2 seconds.

Loved the whistle, but even better, Kate's reaction to it. She was so excited to hear it! Best "hi mom" moment ever.

Posted by: eet7e | February 23, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

When Jennifer Aniston walked out on stage looking fabulously blond and radiant and secure, I laughed. I'm starting to wonder if it's not so much that she can't get over Brad Pitt (I think she's moved on by now), but it's that the media just won't let it go so they're always asking the questions, and she's too nice to not answer them.

Loved Jack Black's investment strategy. Wonder if Dreamworks is gonna have him back again? ;)

I've been enjoying watching Kate Winslet this holiday season. She always seems to be striving for normality, you know? To shout out to her Dad was just awesome.

And Liz - it was 1974 for the Twin Towers tightrope walk. Movie tagline will tell you that.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1155592/

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | February 23, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the clip of the opening. I missed it because I was watching Amazing Race (hodie, I will only be your partner if you don't mind being the first team eliminated). It was wonderful. Very funny.

One other great Anne Hathaway moment. When Kate Winslet won, you could clearly see Anne saying "YES." Very classy.

Jennifer Aniston did fine in her presentation, but Jack Black looked like if he looked away from the teleprompter the world would end.

Oh yes, one of the most excellent parts of the night was snarking with you and Jen Chaney. Thanks again for doing it.

Posted by: epjd | February 23, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Tom Shales is my hero.

And has all the mystery gone out of who will win? Is it all about being safe, overdue, deceased and/or in a Woody Allen film?

* Sean Penn: Safer bet than Mickey Rourke (and that's saying something!)
* Kate Winslet: It's "her turn"; tell that to perennial losers Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, and Peter O'Toole
* Heath Ledger: If River Phoenix had died a few years earlier and right after "Running on Empty," would Kevin Kline own one less Oscar?
* Penelope Cruz: Woody Allen supporting-award charm.

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | February 23, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I thought that Beyonce was lip syncing while Mr. Jackman wasn't. I think even those High School Musical kids were singing live when Beyonce wasn't.

Posted by: wadejg | February 23, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

You missed Beyonce's thighs. How, I don't know, since they were so large that they had micro-satellites orbiting them, namely the cast of HSM.

Posted by: MStreet1 | February 23, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I just read Robin Givhan's red carpet chat. Apparently, stars get to go through designer's archives and pick out dresses. Quick someone cast me in a movie so I can do that. That would be so cool to be dressed in some of the old time classic gowns.

Posted by: epjd | February 23, 2009 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I loved it. I thought it was the most entertaining Oscars I've seen. And I really enjoyed the acting award presentations. They made them more than a list of names - they personalized it and made it a tribute to the actors and the performances.

while I thought Ben Stiller was great, natalie Portman was the better of the two.

But so many stars were noticably missing... (Cate Blanchett, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, The Gyllenhalls, Renee Zellwiger).

Posted by: mdem929 | February 23, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

I liked Hugh's comment about the number of times Meryl Streep had been nominated. "when one racks up those kinds of numbers, means only one thing.....steroids". (or something to that effect)

Hey, didn't Mickey Rourke have a big enough comeback to buy himself a bottle of shampoo? Perhaps we can start a fund?

Thanks ep for volunteering to be may TAR partner. As I told eet7e, I'm not so good a navigating but I still don't think we would be last. I'm sure I could outrun that Virginia couple and the flight attendants, and I know we are a lot smarter than most of them!

Posted by: hodie | February 23, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey, didn't Mickey Rourke have a big enough comeback to buy himself a bottle of shampoo?

Maybe Kate Winselt has some left over from when she was practicing Oscar-acceptance speeches in the bathroom mirror as an 8-year-old.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 23, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Winslet, not Winselt.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 23, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't think River's performance in Running on Empty comes close to the brilliance of Ledger's Joker.

Was he better than Kevin Kline in "A Fish Called Wanda?" It's a tossup.

didn't like the panel-style presenting.... but then i hate that part of American Idol, too.

Posted by: memphis1 | February 23, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Do you know if Sofia Loren is heading a class action suit against her Plastic Surgeon? I'm all for botox, breast implants and nose job... but hers was the kind of job that inspires a "I'm glad you survived the accident!" kind of statement. What do you say to someone that looks like that? I don't run into celebrities often but, it'd be good to know.
Also, enough with the Mickey Rourke comeback. If the guy is so good, can't he turn on the light when getting dressed? I know that his dog died an'all... But, come ON!
And, OMG Hugh. Will you marry me?

Posted by: ileschinder | February 23, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Let's not forget, Jennifer Aniston had to present w/the guy who spilled the beans about Brangelina's twins whilst doing press for Kung Fu Panda.

The best part of their bit was Jack Black saying he takes all his Dreamworks money & bets it on Pixar at Oscar time.

I loved Tina Fey and Steve Martin.

Posted by: jes11 | February 23, 2009 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Ben Stiller as Joaquin Phoenix/Hasidic Meth Lab worker was definitely the highlight for me. As far as Jen and Brangelina, I think they're over it. It's been over 4 years! The only reason it keeps coming up is because idiot reporters keep asking about it every time any one of them is interviewed! Let it go!!

Posted by: fft5305 | February 23, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

And has all the mystery gone out of who will win? Is it all about being safe, overdue, deceased and/or in a Woody Allen film?

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | February 23, 2009 12:32 PM
===
You forgot being in a film about WWII.
===
Do you know if Sofia Loren is heading a class action suit against her Plastic Surgeon? I'm all for botox, breast implants and nose job...
Posted by: ileschinder | February 23, 2009 1:52 PM
===
Sofia Loren has always vehemantly denied ever getting any kind of plastic work. She's always been busty, so I don't think she's ever had implants. So perhaps, she is just aging. I know you don't see that much in Hollywood so I wouldn't expect you to recognize the condition.


Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Jen Aniston, a gracious and insightful remark, Tom. Well done by both of you!

Posted by: gmeierhoff | February 23, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Class acts are nice, but I prefer to snark on last night's telecast.

1. Forget about Hugh Jackman. The real host of last night's show was the (Samsung?) screen that was over or off to the side of the stage. Unfortunately, the real star was never on the screen, so the live audience got the better show.

2. If you're going to have Oscar award winning directors do video montages, have Oscar award winning editors edit them.

3. Don't ever let Baz Luhrmann anywhere near a musical production number, unless an award winning sound editor is working nearby.

4. A.R. Rahman gave Hugh Jackman an Energizer Bunny-like run for his money doing back-to-back musical performances and award speeches. However, without M.I.A., "Oh Saya" fell a bit flat. If John Legend could sub for Peter Gabriel, surely Beyonce could have subbed for M.I.A.

5. If Coldplay isn't nominated for an Oscar, we shouldn't be hearing their music during the telecast. Geez, Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't even nominated.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

OK...class act of the night

Bar none.

Unsurpassed.

Jerry Lewis. Short, sweet, genuinely gracious.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Okay, one small pet peeve. It is SoPHIa Loren, not SoFia. Yes, it has been spelled that way, but that doesn't make it right, just means somene screwed up the credits.

But yeah, umm, she looked scary last night. Plus that hand on her hip when she was presenting made her body look mad (her face didn't move).

One of my snarks that didn't make the chat (most did, I used pseudonyms) was "Shirley MacLaine and Sophia Loren presenting Best Actress? Well, there goes the youth audience they were aiming for. They both have plastic surgery older than the target audience."

Posted by: epjd | February 23, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Liz, seriously, rent "Ella Enchanted." If you don't watch the whole thing at least fast forward to the scene of her doing Queen's "Somebody to Love." I've been in love ever since.

Watch it with hubby and see what he thinks.

Oh, and the wedding scenes at the end are good too.

DLD

Posted by: DLDx | February 23, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Bill Maher needs to learn to shut up. A documentary making fun of a few morons who happen to believe in God doesn't make up for the millions of doctors, scientists, politicians, economists, lawyers, theologians, and plenty other folks smarter than he who *do* believe. Funny how he never mentions them.

Posted by: charlesbakerharris | February 23, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else besides me love Viola Davis' golden goddess gown?

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 23, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Bill Maher, hated the leather tux. Totally gross on him. Who does he think he is? Micky Rourke?

Posted by: hodie | February 23, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

You know, seeing Jerry Lewis' name mentioned in the same post as the term "class act" just isn't right.

As ever,

Curmudgeon

Posted by: bmschumacher | February 23, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Sofia/Sophia (whatever!) never got anything done?! I mean, so you are saying that THAT kind of sh*t happens to a human body after years of aging? OMG! But i know plenty of old folks whose skin doesn't don't look like a half-chewed gummy bear. Please tell me that I won't look like that when I'm old. Please say so.

Posted by: ileschinder | February 23, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Totally concur w/you Charlesbakerharris re: windbag Bill Maher's documentary- the nerve of him lamenting that it was not in last night's running...

Mr. Plamar freaked last night when he saw Ben Stiller and asked what the hell is wrong w/him; evidently my DH is the ONLY person on earth who is unaware of Joaquin Phoenix's current persona- formerly good looking/acting actor that is now a crazy wannabe rapper who resembles an unkempt terrorist. That line by Natalie Portman was my second favorite moment.

Viola Davis AND Taraji Henson were gorgeous. Also Kate Winslet could do no wrong last night.

Oh and who the hell cares about Jen Anniston and her "bravery" in presenting in front of her ex and the mother of his kids. Ridiculous and totally unnecessary to pan to Brad and Ange while she was speaking- goofy!

Posted by: plamar1031 | February 23, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Sofia/Sophia (whatever!) never got anything done?! I mean, so you are saying that THAT kind of sh*t happens to a human body after years of aging? OMG! But i know plenty of old folks whose skin doesn't don't look like a half-chewed gummy bear. Please tell me that I won't look like that when I'm old. Please say so.

Posted by: ileschinder | February 23, 2009 3:59 PM
======
Stay out of the bright Italian sun and don't smoke. You'll age as gracefully and gently as Meryl Streep.


Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

There were a few high notes last night:

Marion Cotillard praising Kate Winslet's performance in "The Reader" - very heartfelt and elegant.

The adorable kids from Slumdog Millionaire who were beaming on stage as the film deservedly took Best Film Oscar.

Sean Penn for having the guts to shame those who voted for Prop 8. I'm sure he'll take a lot of vitriol by the troglodytes on the right, but in the end, history and the Oscar are on his side.

Posted by: jaysit | February 23, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of Bill Maher, hated the leather tux. Totally gross on him. Who does he think he is? Micky Rourke?

Posted by: hodie | February 23, 2009 3:41 PM

======
I'm sure his tux was his heartfelt tribute to the late Ricardo Montelban.

Or it was this year's Project Runway Saturn challenge that we didn't get to see because the series is locked in a legal battle between Bravo and Lifetime.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh...Project Runway isn't on yet. I knew there was an empty little void in my life, now I know what was missing. :-(

Posted by: wadejg | February 23, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

It's BS that Aniston was "brave" for standing in front of Brad and Angie to present an award -- who cares?!?! Not to mention the fact that she gets paid a truckload of money to do worse! I do, however, think it was low-class for the producers/directors to cut away to Angie.

As an aside, Phillippe Petit was on NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" a couple of weeks ago -- he's hilarious!

Posted by: clw96 | February 23, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Ok...not a class act...

the person who had to tally the dead stars this year. You left out Robert Prosky and Eartha Kitt.

For shame.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Comment 'o the day from Kevin Sessums in "The Daily Beast"

"Loren looked like Miss Kitty in a film version of Gunsmoke shot by Sergio Leone."

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Despite what we think of the producers/camerapeople for cutting over to Angie during Jen's presentation (yes it was low), how many of us will admit to wondering how she was reacting? I will admit, I was. The camerapeople were just giving us what we want. If the world was perfect, there would be no room to snark. Be grateful. I think this is a little bit the pot calling the kettle black, if you know what I mean. Just sayin.... ;)

Posted by: hodie | February 23, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

mdreader, you raise a good question. Someone pointed out on another Post live chat earlier today that because the camera occasionally cut away to Queen Latifah, that the home viewing audience may have missed seeing a few of the tributes that were shown. Perhaps Liz can check this for us.

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | February 23, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

It was hard to see, but yeah, I don't rememer Eartha Kitt. It was pointed out on DeadlineHollywood Daily that they left out our fave Patrick Mcgoohan (you know who I mean even if I misspelled his name).

I was ticked because I could barely see the tribute to Cyd Charisse. Truly a class act who didn't deserve such short shrift.

Posted by: epjd | February 23, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Aniston was making multiple statements with her Oscar appearance. For one, her movie career is back on track, with two hits in as many months. Another is that she's over Brangelina -- though it did take courage, especially since both Brad and Angelina were in the spotlight all evening. (How many times was Pitt's name mentioned during the show?)

The third was that she and John Mayer are definitely a couple. He's better-looking and much smarter than Brad, in my opinion.

Posted by: PJinBoston | February 23, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I loved the past winners presenting the awards! It really seemed to highlight the honour inherent in even getting a nomination. Even though I know those were all pre-written, and even though I'm not a big Shirley fan, I have to give a shout-out to Shirley McLaine's gracious and touching speech to Anne Hathaway -- it seemed very sweet. It also seemed clear that Ms. Shirley had used her psychic powers to divine that Anne was NOT night's winner! -- that "you'll be back here again" part might have sounded a wee bit odd if the dear girl had actually won.

Have to agree with all those who are lamenting the poor directorial choices that marred the In Memorium section. The song was beautiful and appropriate, but showing anything other than the deceased in full screen is a little disrespectful.

Finally, am I the only one who noticed that during the Baz L. [what's the opposite of 'tribute'?] to musicals, there was applause when Beyonce sang the one line from "At Last"? Was the Academy showing its support of her in the Beyonce/Etta James smack-down?

Posted by: 7900rmc | February 23, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Oops, the above was me, Squirrel. And by the way, Hugh Jackman -- dishy. And where have I been -- that John Legend is just, well, dishy!

epjd, totally agree with you re Cyd Charisse!

-The Poster Formerly Known as Snarky Squirrel

Posted by: 7900rmc | February 23, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Despite what we think of the producers/camerapeople for cutting over to Angie during Jen's presentation (yes it was low), how many of us will admit to wondering how she was reacting? I will admit, I was. The camerapeople were just giving us what we want. If the world was perfect, there would be no room to snark. Be grateful. I think this is a little bit the pot calling the kettle black, if you know what I mean. Just sayin.... ;)

Posted by: hodie | February 23, 2009 4:29 PM
========
We won't be satisfied until there's an actual confrontation. Or until Jen Jen gets married and has her little tyke.

Or 14 if she goes to Nadya Suleman's fertility doctor.

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

No...THIS is the comment of the day.

From Troy Patterson in "Slate"

"I myself thought Loren looked—all due respect, signora—like a brothel madam from an old-time planet of lizard people."

Posted by: mdreader01 | February 23, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Shales was wrong -- obviously people were very engaged by this year's Oscars.
I was-- thought it was great, other than the Baz Luhrman monstrosity. But I just assume that was him getting his revenge on the academy for not nominating Australia for anything major. Why is there some notion that we need a big production number during the Oscars anyway?

Posted by: msame | February 24, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Heath Ledger's performance was great, but Oscar-worthy? Were he still alive, he wouldn't have that statue. But since he isn't, I have a replacement for the Joker in the inevitable next Batman movie: Cameron Diaz. She wouldn't even need makeup - all she has to do is smile with her mouth closed.

Posted by: kabuki3 | February 24, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I finally watched the opening last night (thank you, Youtube); by far, my two favorite bits were "The Reader" and "Frost/Nixon". The first because, well, hilarious techno dance sequence (including the part where Jackman couldn't suppress the laughter any longer); the second because Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman together is like peanut butter and chocolate. (For me, at least. After that bit, I want to apply to be their best friend and drinkin' buddy.)

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | February 24, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe no one mentioned the Milk screenwriter's acceptance speech. If not for Heath Ledger, that would have been the most moving moment of the night.

Posted by: anne_t | February 24, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

They didn't allow the presenters on the red carpet this year. No one knew who the presenters were until they were on stage. I bet Jolies blood pressure went up 10 notches when she heard Aniston's name. HAHAHA. She likes sneaking around behind peoples backs, I hope this shocked the he!! out of her. I can't help but wonder if they did that on purpose! Kinda like a little Hollywood "GOTCHA" to Brad and Angie. Do you think Jolie and Pitt had any warning that Aniston was going to be there. They couldn't back out after being nominated. Now that's entertainment!!

Posted by: myfriends | February 24, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

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