The paradox of this year's Oscar telecast was that while it seemed to be reasonably fast-paced as it was taking place, when you looked at the clock as the credits were rolling, it was nearly midnight. Yes, the whole thing dragged on for its typical 210 minutes. This despite a decent turn from Hugh Jackman as the host, and time-saving devices such as using the same presenters to deal with multiple awards.
Jackman's main task was handling the opening production number, and he (and the writers) came up winners -- the digs at surprise Weinstein nominee The Reader were unexpected and hilarious. The one big production number in the center of the telecast could have been dispensed with (though if you didn't have any, you'd hardly recognize it as the Oscars), but the Bollywood touches in the Best Song medley made up for it.
Other impressions of the Oscar telecast:
Adventures in Seacrest: There's almost no way to get through red carpet coverage without looking like a boob, and even E's Ryan Seacrest, who whatever else you might say about him knows how to run a live show, had his moments of discomfort. At one point, the same man recently seen trying to high-five a blind guy on American Idol bent down to talk to one of the Slumdog Millionaire children, only to be told the boy couldn't speak English. Seacrest also quizzed noted music critics Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates regarding who their favorite Idol contestant is.
Your come-ons need work: Seacrest to Evan Rachel Wood: "I think I can smell you!"
I guess he knew he wasn't going to win: Philip Seymour Hoffman appeared to be wearing the world's first couture shower cap on his head.
And the producers knew he wasn't going to win: It seemed as though there was a cut to Best Actor nominee Brad Pitt every time somebody from Benjamin Button won anything. You can't blame them; he's way hotter than director David Fincher.
Funny for the few people who got it: Ben Stiller's salute to Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman was inspired, and managed to stop just short of being disrespectful to the nominees he was helping present. But not everyone in the viewing audience watches Letterman or Internet clips thereof, and one questions if the joke was a bit too obscure.
Why was this person even there?: For all the chatter about Miley Cyrus's gown, no one stopped to question why a teenage pop singer was even hanging around the Academy Awards to begin with. At least other incongruous presenters like Jessica Biel, Robert Pattinson, and Zac Efron make movies for a living.
On the other hand, she doesn't make movies either: The Oscars need to just have Tina Fey and Steve Martin on standby every year to give out something, anything. The presenters of the screenwriting awards did not disappoint -- Martin rarely does on Oscar night.
Funniest industry joke: Jack Black on the differing Oscar prospects of animation giants DreamWorks and Pixar.
Word that needs to never be used again: The "glamastrator," the contribution of E!
He should try being funny more often: Sean Penn.
Best supporting actress for the evening: Anne Hathaway.
Best stunt: Wire-walker Philippe Petit, balancing the Oscar on his chin.
Best awards show comeback: Seth Rogen, who bombed at the Golden Globes with a joke about Mickey Rourke's carousing, co-starred with Pineapple Express bud James Franco in a filmed bit (from Judd Apatow) about digging for comedy on Oscar night that worked very well.
Least convincing statement: Jackman declaring "The musical is back!" in reference to Mamma Mia!. Yeah, that film did well. But weren't Chicago and Moulin Rouge also supposed to have brought the musical back? When hit musicals become more common than Saw sequels, then they will be back.
Don't ever cast these two in a romantic comedy: Appearing together on the red carpet, alleged spouses Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick displayed all the chemistry of peanut butter and filet mignon.
Most unexpected shout-out: Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle referencing Tigger.
Least likely nominee in the history of nominations: Hellboy II: The Golden Army (for makeup). It didn't win.