Well, at least Melissa Leo had a fun night. The 83rd Academy Awards was woefully paced and clumsily written, leading to myriad awkward, please-end-this moments at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday. (Seriously, we almost turned off the TV when co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco took the stage and started firing groaners. Who wrote these jokes? Morey Amsterdam? Thankfully, the two newbies got better as the night wore on.) But when the show really mattered — the presentation of the awards themselves — Hollywood managed to provide a few tingles and mirth, with The Fighter's Leo, the best supporting actress champ, giving the night a bawdy running joke after she unloaded some serious profanity during her acceptance speech. Speaking of orating: The King's Speech collected four awards, including best picture; best director, Tom Hooper; and best actor, Colin Firth.
Baby, what a big surprise … or not
In a night with few zingy moments, the winners for best actor and best actress seemed the least suspenseful at all. Natalie Portman won the statue for her role as a delusional ballerina in Black Swan. Portman, 29, who lost 20 pounds in the year she prepared for the film, wore a deep purple off-the-shoulders dress on the red carpet, to accommodate her growing baby bump. In December, Portman and her fiance Benjamin Millepied, the choreographer of Black Swan, announced that she was pregnant. They met on the set of the film, a psychological thriller that verges into horror territory, directed by Darren Aronofsky. Millepied helped her up the steps to the stage of the Kodak Theatre to accept her award. Portman called him "my beautiful love," who "has now given me my most important role."
No trouble talking now
"I have a feeling my career's just peaked," Firth said during his acceptance speech. "I'm afraid I have to warn you that I'm experiencing stirrings somewhere in the upper abdominals which are threatening to form themselves into dance moves."
Don't feel bad, MySpace didn't win anything
The Social Network was once a mighty Oscar favorite. But the Facebook flick lost some critical luster come showtime. Still, the movie won a few nice awards. The Oscar for adapted screenplay went to Aaron Sorkin, who spun his wordy script from Ben Mezrich's book The Accidental Billionaires. The Social Network also won for musical score for Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and for film editing.
Smile — and get lost
After an opening segment brazenly cribbed from Billy Crystal — the best Oscars gimmick ever, with the stars digitally inserted into scenes from nominated films — Franco and Hathaway proved absence is more effective than making the telecast all about them. Sometimes the best way to avoid a slip-up is playing second banana to the proceedings. Take your pick of any Oscars host over the past 20 years who could have used that advice. Franco and Hathaway's intro, took less time (11 minutes) than the usual monologue; the Oscars were off to their fastest start in years.
She's salty, but she's good
In accepting her award for best supporting actress, a likably flustered Leo — who played one tough mama in The Fighter — let slip the naughtiest of naughty words. "Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend. There is a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular," Leo later said. Her win capped an unusual career surge for the 50-year-old actress, who had moderate success on TV's Homicide: Life on the Street in her 30s but leaped to big-screen stardom in her late 40s. Some in Hollywood had speculated that Leo might have undermined her Oscar chances with self-promoting ads she ran in film trade papers. Such self-hype is considered tacky by some awards voters.
Brothers in arms
By winning the trophy for best supporting Oscar for The Fighter, Christian Bale earned the same prize his Batman co-star, the late Heath Ledger, received posthumously two years ago for The Dark Knight. At the time, Bale had fondly recalled a bit of professional envy as he watched Ledger perform on set like a whirlwind as the diabolical Joker while the film's star had to remain clenched up as the stoic, tightly wound Batman. The Fighter gave Bale his turn to unleash some demons as Dicky Eklund, a boxer whose career unraveled amid crime and drug abuse. Bale delivers a showy performance full of tics and tremors, bobbing and weaving around the movie's star and producer, Mark Wahlberg, who plays Eklund's stolid brother, boxer Micky Ward.
Don't mess with Pixar nerds
After smooching up to DreamWorks Animation by using Shrek footage to introduce the award for best animated feature, the Disney-affiliated dynamos at Pixar swooped in and won for Toy Story 3, the fourth-straight animated-feature Oscar for the animation unit. Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich called Pixar the "most awesome place on the planet to make movies." We're so jealous.
Best speech of the night
Or maybe we were just excited to hear someone say something interesting and/or clever. David Seidler's acceptance of a screenwriting Oscar for The King's Speech was truly a life-affirming achievement for a man who overcame a debilitating stutter as a child. "I say this on behalf of all the stutterers in the world — we have a voice, we have been heard," the 73-year-old screenwriter told the crowd. Seidler overcame his stutter in adolescence after undergoing many of the speech therapies portrayed in The King's Speech, including stuffing marbles in his mouth and reciting while listening to music on headphones.
Who invited McConaughey?
For the record, Matthew McConaughey was ad-libbing. There wasn't anything on the TelePrompTer about repeatedly (and many would say annoyingly) saying the word "sound" in unison with Scarlett Johansson as they presented the awards for sound mixing and editing.
Okay, McConaughey can stay. But Russell Brand needs to leave now.
Ever wonder what goes on at the Kodak Theatre during the commercial breaks? Here are a couple peeks behind the curtain as revealed by the Associated Press. Hathaway surprised everyone by coming out on stage during a break with a spinning raffle drum. She announced that she will be giving away a plate of sushi to the seat number she selects from the box. She wasn't kidding, either. And in the "too much information" department, Russell Brand filled in Helen Mirren backstage on his plans after the two finished their Oscar presentations: "I'm going for a wee, then I'm going to sit with my mom."
Well, at least the pain was quick
Looks like the best-laid plans of the academy to streamline the show didn't go completely awry. Sunday's broadcast ended at a comparably swift 3 hours, 9 minutes, one of the shortest since Jerry Lewis was left with 25 minutes of TV time to kill in 1959. Here are Times film critic Steve Persall's four reasons why Sunday's Oscars telecast never risked stretching to Monday: 1. Franco and Hathaway resisting any urge to make Kirk Douglas' spotlight-hogging presentation into a Jack Palance running joke. 2. Doubling up several award presentations in relatively minor categories. Sorry, but moviegoers didn't spend much time considering short films, documentaries and sound artistry, either. 3. Only four best song nominees, each unmemorable and performed with only one verse and chorus. Now, Gwyneth Paltrow, get an acting gig without music. 4. No interpretive dancing.
Tweets of the night
Our two favorite Oscar tweets from Sunday night:
— "Is it me or does it look like James Franco would cut his arm off to get out of hosting the Oscars?" — comedian Kevin Nealon
— "Stay tuned for the official Republican rebuttal to the Oscars shortly after the show." — Satirical newspaper The Onion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.