I seem to be the only person on the Internet who didn’t live-blog The 77th Annual Academy Awards; how embarrassing. But since I saw two Best Picture Nominees — my best record in years — I felt obliged to watch.

Chris Rock’s opening monologue wasn’t shocking because of the vulgarity which everyone seemed to expect (and which never appeared), and it wasn’t shocking because he poked fun at second-tier stars like Jude Law and Colin Farrell (and himself); it was shocking because I actually laughed at a couple of the jokes. Rock’s mini-documentary was also amusing: he interviewed people in a mall; none of them had seen any of the Best Picture nominees, but they had all seen (and liked) White Chicks.

Rock was briefly outshone, though, by Johnny Carson, who got a posthumous montage of his very own, despite the fact that his only connection to the film industry was the fact that he hosted five Academy Awards shows himself. The worst thing about Johnny Carson’s death is that all the clips of his old routines that keep getting played do nothing more than to point out how forced and inferior today’s comedian/hosts are in comparison.

Producer Gil Cates tried out a few experiments in award presentation, in an effort to keep things moving. How much would it suck to be one of the losing nominees who had to stand awkwardly on the stage while the winners gave their speeches? Or worse, to be one of the people who won, but didn’t even get to go up onto the stage, and had to accept from the aisle next to their seats?

They didn’t play any games with the major awards, which was probably a good thing: if Annette Bening had been on stage when Swank beat her for yet another Best Actress award, things might have gotten ugly.

Attention Robin Williams, Sean Penn, and Julia Roberts: You are all big stars who have had great careers. Just because you had a quiet year, please don’t think that it’s okay for you to hijack the show and make things all about you. Take a hint from Andie MacDowell: she’ll never get anywhere near an Oscar, but she at least had the good sense to stay away and only make an appearance in a L’Oreal commercial.

I could complain about Beyonce singing three out of five Best Original Song nominees, but they brought on Counting Crows to sing “Accidentally in Love” from Shrek 2. After all these years, they still set my teeth on edge. Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana were much better, doing “Al Otro Lado Del Rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries; while introducing them, Salma Hayek was one of the few presenters of the evening to sound remotely excited about anything when she pointed out that they were performing the first Spanish-language song to be nominated for an Oscar. And it won, to boot. One of the best moments of the evening was songwriter Jorge Drexler walking up to the stage and actually genuflecting to Prince before singing his acceptance.

Speaking of Prince: I’m no fashion expert, but Prince’s spangly flared pants and blue velvet jacket seemed to be the only really stylish outfit this evening. The dresses — the fuel that drives the red carpet pre-show machine — were uniformly tasteful, but deathly boring. The only entertainingly tacky dress was Hilary Swank’s which looked like a giant sock from the front, while plunging low enough in the back to make plumbers shake their heads at the asscrackage.

Chris Landreth’s Ryan ended up winning Best Animated Short Film, which means that for the first time ever, I correctly predicted an Oscar winner.

Some nice acceptance speech quotes:

  • John Dykstra (Visual Effects, Spider-Man 2): “Boy, am I glad there wasn’t a fourth episode of Lord of the Rings.”
  • Andrea Arnold (Best Live-Action Short Film, Wasp): described winning as “the dog’s bollocks.”
  • Charlie Kaufman (Best Original Screenplay, Eternal Sunshine): stares into the distance at the timer counting down the time he has to give his speech: “29, 28, 27…”

In the end, The Aviator won five awards, but Million Dollar Baby cleaned up in the major categories, winning Best Picture, Best Actress (Hilary Swank), Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), and Best Director (Clint Eastwood), bringing Martin Scorsese that much closer to becoming the Susan Lucci of film directors.