This year's Oscars started off strong with a song-and-dance number from an extra sparkly Neil Patrick Harris and some terrific zingers from hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Many hours later, it ended brilliantly with some moving speeches from the night's biggest winners. And while it did seem like the middle portion of the show dragged on longer than that train attached to Jennifer Lopez's dress, there were still enough classic moments to make this a memorable Oscars. Here are the top three:
3. The John Hughes tribute
The past year was one in which a shockingly high number of celebrities passed away. It was a pleasant surprise to see that instead of an Adam Shankman-choreographed Dirty Dancing homage in memory of Patrick Swayze (not that that wouldn't have been awesome), the Academy decided to devote a significant portion of the telecast to honoring a filmmaker they'd never paid much attention to during his impressive career. Much was said about this year's Oscars serving as a major showdown in the battle between art and commerce; it was nice to see the ceremony take some time out from staging that battle to honor a beloved filmmaker who had the rare gift of knowing how to straddle these two ideals.
2. Sandra Bullock's acceptance speech
There are two types of Oscar winners: criers and talkers. After Kate Winslet's disappointing lack of composure at the podium last year, it was refreshing to see an emotional yet articulate Sandra Bullock accept her Best Actress award with a perfect mix of grace, poise, and humor. It's realistic and human for most winners to lose their way with words when they take the stage to accept an Oscar. That's why it's inspiring to see someone hold it together enough to truly make the most of the moment they claim to have been dreaming about their entire life.
1. The triumph of The Hurt Locker
With the acting awards going exactly as most prognosticators had predicted, the only true suspense of the night was felt in the battle between The Hurt Locker and Avatar for the Best Picture and Best Director prizes. And while Avatar may have been the film most of the people watching at home were rooting for, there was still something for everyone to be happy about regarding the triumph of Kathryn Bigelow's film. There was the history-making moment of a woman winning the Best Director prize for the first time in Oscar's 82-year history. There was the David vs. Goliath aspect of the highest-grossing film of all time being defeated by an indie that had earned about three cents at the box office. There was even that whole “revenge of the ex-wife” angle. And even if you were rooting for Avatar to win, you still have that “highest-grossing film of all time” thing to take comfort in. This was the first Best Picture race in a long time where there truly were no losers.