Welcome back, Oscars.
After going astray last year on the backs of one well-meaning host and one host who obviously didn't give a, um, flying fig (or perhaps whatever Jean Dujardin said in ecstatic French), the Academy Awards were reined in last night by nine-time emcee Billy Crystal.
But even the seasoned pro, chosen to prevent controversy from marring the relentlessly scripted proceedings, couldn't prevent a few shocks from slipping through.
And here they are:
1. Iron Lady: It sounds weird calling a win for Meryl Streep—be it at Scrabble, a foot race or acting—an upset. But, in this case, it kinda works! The 17-time Oscar nominee and now three-time Oscar winner took the Golden Globe, but The Help's Viola Davis took the SAG Award—and it's actors who make up the biggest voting bloc at the Academy Award. Add to that The Help's socially conscious themes and costar Octavia Spencer's runaway win, and we just assumed Davis would be it. We hope the radiant runner-up didn't cut all her hair off just for tonight. On the flip side, we were sure that the Academy would stick with what the Globes had done—name George Clooney Best Actor for The Descendants. But Jean Dujardin grabbed his momentum and clung to it, like Uggie did with George Valentin's trouser leg to prevent his master from committing suicide. Oh, and doesn't "Oscar winner Bret McKenzie" just roll off the tongue, too?
2. Come Again?: What was this, the Oscars or Fleet Week? First, T.J. Martin, a member of the team that won Best Documentary for Undefeated, said it would be "f--king awesome" if their fellow nominees could join them onstage because they owed so much to their fellow filmmakers. That didn't make too much of a splash—it's not like he said "shame on you, Mr. Obama" or anything. But, much more prominently, Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin capped off his acceptance speech with the F-word. He just yelled it out, in French, with no other intent than to punctuate his excitement. While Martin was bleeped, Dujardin wasn't. "I'm sorry," he said backstage. Jean, how do you say "Parents Television Council" in French?
3. J-Too-Low?: First of all, Jennifer Lopez recalling costume designer Edith Head's famous remark—"Your dresses should be tight enough to show you're a woman and loose enough to show you're a lady"—while wearing her pasted-on Zuhair Murad gown was hilarious enough. But that beaded, intricately cut dress also had blogs all atwitter when word got out that one of her nipples had made a surprise cameo onstage while she presented Best Costume Design with Cameron Diaz. We'd love to inform you that it was true, but the speculation became so distracting that Lopez's stylist, Mariel Haenn, was compelled to release this statement following the ceremony: "The dress fit perfectly to her every inch. There were cups built in and there's no chance there were any, how do you say, 'slips.'" While the dress did give the illusion of sheerness, joke's on everyone who wishes they saw something! If you thought that dress was hot, wait until you see what's next." Um, we saw J.Lo at the 2000 Grammys. There's nothing left to see!
4. Billy Crystal Too Race-y?: First of all, this year's Oscars were a quantum leap from last year's, when Anne Hathaway and James Franco engineered a jaw-dropper of a trainwreck. But while Billy Crystal presided over a celebratory, tonally spot-on ceremony and had done so eight times before, this was his first time back in the age of monster Internet coverage. So, though he played Sammy Davis Jr. a dozen times during his Saturday Night Live days, doing so last night caused a bit of an uproar on Twitter. "Octavia Spencer's win shows just how far we've come since Billy Crystal performed in Blackface. ," tweeted comedian Paul Scheer. "Not sure why Octavia Spencer didn't thank Billy Crystal for his black face joke but she probably just got too overwhelmed & excited. ," added @Videogum. It doesn't sound as if either was too worked up over the joke—perhaps they were just more offended that it was so not timely.
5. Dust Funnies: The Oscars hadn't even started yet when the most memorable moment of the night took place. Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed as despot Admiral General Aladeen from his upcoming film The Dictator, scattered what he claimed to be the ashes of his good pal Kim Jong Il all over a stunned Ryan Seacrest's Burberry tux. Was that a real security team that pulled Cohen away at the first sight of white powder swirling in the air? Did Ryan know the big spill was coming? The E! News host later said he knew that some tomfoolery would occur when Cohen requested a face-to-face with him, and he knew nothing good was going to come out of that big, gold urn, but...Who would've thought?! As cohost Giuliana Rancic pointed out, however, Ryan should be honored. He was chosen by the Dictator to be a part of something special. Something...well...something more fascinating than the Oscars itself!