NEW CASTLE —
What's an Oscar ceremony without a few surprises tucked in here and there?
There were a few shockers this year, not just in the winners but in who presented and the evening's highlights.
Here are our five biggest surprises:
1. Michelle Obama announcing the best picture : Michelle Obama one ups Bill Clinton -- who showed up at the Golden Globes to introduce "Lincoln" -- by announcing from the White House the top prize at the Oscars Some of us did a collective shrug when Jack Nicholson prepared to rattle off the nominees, but then the wily actor tosses to the first lady and she not only talks about the remarkable achievements in filmmaking this year, but then announces "Argo" has won. First you impress us by dancing with Jimmy Fallon and then you knock us out of our chairs at the Oscars. What's next?
2.) Ang Lee, best director for "Life of Pi": The second-time Oscar winner mastered one of the most challenging assignments of 2012 -- translating a seemingly unfilmable book to the screen. But he adapted it, splendidly creating a dazzling journey that thoroughly seduced the senses. Most thought this was Steven Spielberg's time again for his historical epic, but the Academy wasn't showering too much love on "Lincoln" on Sunday night.
2.) A tie!: OK, it was in the less than high-profile category of sound editing. Still, rarely do the Academy Awards result in a tie; only twice before -- in 1932 for best actor (Fredric March and Wallace Beery) and again in 1968 for best actress (Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand). While both "Skyfall" and "Zero Dark Thirty" were well-deserving of the win, what kept us most interested was how this category was won by guys with long hair. What's up with that?
3.) The song and dance numbers were not only good but the best parts of the show : Lip synching aside (Catherine Zeta-Jones during the "Chicago" part), the big production numbers were the bright spots. A sultry Zeta-Jones was sassy and fun, even if she wasn't singing, the "Les Miserables" cast powerful and stirring. But it was Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson's powerhouse vocal on "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" that literally brought the house down and the audience up on its feet. It was the most goose pimply moment of the night. Flat-out brilliant. The one disappointment: Adele, who was overpowered by the orchestra during her "Skyfall" number.
4.) The Christoph Waltz win: Everyone knew the best supporting actor contest was going to be too tough to call. But in the days leading up to the Oscars, most expected Tommy Lee Jones ("Lincoln") or Robert De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook") to be heading up the podium. But one of the biggest upsets of the night came when the talented Waltz -- seeming practically as stunned as everyone else at the ceremony, including director Quentin Tarantino -- collected his second Oscar. Waltz praised Tarantino extensively; as he should since his previous win came for playing a Nazi in Tarantino's"Inglourious Basterds." Don't mess with a winning team like that.
5.) Sally Field in the opening number: William Shatner beamed himself in, and didn't really add much. Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum showed off some nifty dance moves and a whole lot of chemistry, while Daniel Radcliffe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and host Seth MacFarlane tried to revive the spirit of the Rat Pack and didn't quite do it. The real scene stealer in the show's opening number was Oscar nominee Sally Field who coyly fends off MacFarlane's advances and then makes like a bandit in a TransAm. Her comic timing was impeccable.
Here are our five favorite speeches:
1. Ben Affleck, best picture for "Argo" : Sure, Daniel Day-Lewis was more polished, but Affleck's somewhat rambling, but candid and honest acceptance speech receives our vote for best because it was just that: emotional, passionate and tender. He not only moved us, but ended the night on a positive note -- going beyond the corridors of Hollywood to encourage those who are feeling downtrodden. Lovely.
2. Day-Lewis, best actor for "Lincoln" : As expected, the multiple Oscar winner was the best speaker, giving the most eloquent, polished and surprisingly funny speech. Saying you were up to play Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep Lincoln was the funniest moment in the show. Sorry, Seth MacFarlane. "I really don't know how this all happened," Day-Lewis commented at the start of his speech. Well we do. You were that amazing. And you gave one of the most perfect speeches. A class act.
3. Jennifer Lawrence, best actress for "Silver Linings Playbook. " Can you possibly get any more adorable? "This is nuts!," the versatile actress said, just after tripping on the way up to collect her award. She kept it short and sassy. Jsut the way we like it.
4. Quentin Tarantino, best original screenplay for "Django Unchained" : Did anyone really expect bad-boy Tarantino to be so jaw-droppingly gracious, not only thanksking his incredible cast for the reason he won, but praising all the other writers in both screenwriting categories. What an unexpectedly kind speech, Tarantino. Even loved your off-the-cuff opening remark when you came up onstage to get your trophy from Charlize Theron: "That's cool, Charlize is my neighbor"
5. Chris Terrio, best adapted screenplay: The first-timer hit a grand slam, bringing up Affleck's co-screenwriting win for "Good Will Hunting" and how the "Argo" actor/director has launched his career. But his final words about using nonviolence to solve world problems reverberatesd powerfully and aptly summed up the topical theme of the best picture winner.
The cast of ‘Les Miserables’ sings a medley of songs from the film.