After last year’s attempt to “hipify” the Oscars and bring in a younger demographic with hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco, this year mega producer Brian Grazer, promised to deliver an awards show that stayed true to its brand.  Blending a veritable mix of Hollywood tradition with a few innovative twists, the show made its best attempt to remain entertaining throughout. The biggest pitfall, however, was that the show was just simply too long.  Although, Grazer made a promise to end on time, between the cameos of actors speaking about their love of the craft and the lengthy focus group bit from “Wizard of Oz,” it just wasn’t possible. 

While audiences came together to honor film’s greatest achievements, the most anticipated performance of the night was that of Billy Crystal who was asked to occupy the hosting position after comedian Eddie Murphy bowed out. Sticking to what has worked in the past, he launched into his requisite man of a thousand faces as he embodied the starring roles in each of the Oscar nominated films.  Although, he was the one who in fact started this Oscar tradition, the montage felt a bit contrived and flat. Sometimes even when we think we want the same, we yearn for something different. The greatest laughs, however, included a silly cameo from Justin Beiber, a nod to the younger demographic of 18-24 year olds, and a sarcastic reference to the current state of the economy and the night’s celebration of millionaires presenting each other with statues. Giving it his best shot, we have to say Crystal looked “mahvelous” for his 9th stint as Oscar host and kept the pace moving with his quick wit and natural charm. 

Noticeably new were the livelier jams choreographed by singer Pharrell Williams and drummer Sheila E. who played the intro and outro musical interludes instead of the dated house orchestra of years passed.  It may have been overreaching, but the night’s biggest show-stopper was unlikely partner, the Cirque du Soleil troupe, whose acrobatic performance paid homage to a night at the movies and received a standing ovation.  The “In Memoriam” tribute had a certain freshness to it as songstress Esparanza Spalding’s lingering rendition of “What a Wonderful World” resonated while billboard-sized photos shown faces of Hollywood royalty from Elizabeth Taylor to Whitney Houston. 

The eclectic mix of moments occurred both on the red carpet beforehand and in the theatre during the awards ceremony.  Here’s our list of the night’s red carpet manners leading hits and misses.  

The Cheapest Shot.  Sasha Baron Cohen struck again with his threat to shock and disturb the tides at the typically glamorous Oscars ceremony.  The publicity had been building on whether he would attend as his character “The Dictator” to promote his upcoming film.  There was even speculation that the Academy did not approve and that they would be appointing high security to look out for him in character. And so it happened, half way through the arrivals he appeared on the red carpet accompanied by two female guards and carrying an urn with the ashes of North Korean leader Kim Jong II. His victim, Ryan Seacrest, totally unaware that he would be the recipient of this childish prank, was not prepared for the pouring of ashes (really pancake mix) that proceeded to spill all over his tux.  Clearly pissed, but handling it like a pro, Ryan proceeded to dust himself off while Baron Cohen was removed from the scene by security. 

Most Heartfelt Acceptance Speech. Although everyone loves the timeless Meryl Streep, her acceptance speech felt rehearsed and understated in contrast to the more emotional and heartfelt speech from Octavia Spencer.  As she accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress for her work in “The Help” a stream of tears ran down her face feeling blessed just to be in the moment.   She thanked everyone from her family, to the cast and even the state of Alabama for her achievement.  Her list of thanks would have continued if not for the request to “please wrap up” appearing on the teleprompter.

Most Exaggerated Pose.  The typically poised, Angelina Jolie, will now forever be known for her overly exaggerated pose at this year’s Oscar ceremony both on the red carpet and while presenting during the show. The high cut slit in her skirt may have encouraged her to flash her gams, but the complete extension of her leg was taking it too far.  Her incredibly toned figure was on display, but it quickly became a distraction that led to imitations of her pose and a particular mocking by the screenwriting team for “The Descendants” who mimicked stance as they accepted the award from her on stage. 

Most Genuinely Funny Schtick.  Chris Rock, who was just being himself, presented the award for Best Animated Feature and had the audience rolling with his hysterical story about how little effort is required to work as an actor in animation and how insanely much they get paid! He certainly speaks from experience as the voice of “The Donkey” in the animated Shrek series among others.  His humor was a welcome note, in contrast to the completely humorless scripted intros by such dynamic pairings as Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Stiller and Emma Stone.

Best Playing to the Camera.  Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz like to have fun and it is evident in everything they do as they presented for Best Costume Design and Best Makeup. The understated Michelle Williams and gloomy Rooney Mara could stand to learn a thing or two from these veterans who have paid their dues in Hollywood and still retained their humor and lightness.  The audience loved their radiant smiles and when they turned their backs to flash their curvaceous booties, they adored them even more.  Now that’s how it’s done ladies!!

What did you think of the 84th Academy Awards?  Did it live up to the hype?  Who were your top faves and disappointments and who would you like to see host next year?  Share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you!