An on-stage musical extravaganza. Two epic gay rights speeches. Sean Penn's upset win for Milk. The 2009 Oscars were easily the gayest yet.
Slumdog Millionaire dominated as expected, an international sweep in a night studded with British, Indian and Australian wins. Not that there was much danger of nationalist unity within Hollywood; host Hugh Jackman managed to work some surprisingly vicious showbiz digs into the show, including lines from Steve Martin and Tina Fey not-so-subtly mocking Scientology and Ben Stiller's unsparing imitation of Joaquin Phoenix.
There were some misfires, like the lengthy nominee tributes involving top stars giving overlong, wedding-toast-style speeches for each contender in top categories like Best Actor and Actress. But there were also more memorable moments than any viewer had a right to expect. The best:
10. Franco and Rogen turn the Reader into stoner comedy
"Their giggling and guffawing at The Reader is somehow more damning (and more exposing of the film's overweening pomposity) than a thousand bad reviews." —Guardian. (OK, sure, but Kate Winslet's little gold man begs to disagree about the Reader.)
9. Angelina Jolie grins big at Jennifer Aniston
You just had to cut to Jolie during Aniston's animation award presentation, didn't you, ABC? OK, so we secretly enjoyed the shot of the Brad Pitt-stealer's wide grin, but that's not the point.
8. Philippe Petit's statuette-balancing magic trick
The star of Best Documentary Man on the Wire was making a naked bid to become the stuntman for all future Academy Award ceremonies. We're all for it, as long as the Frenchman returns each year with his charming white scarf.
7. Host Hugh Jackman: "The Musical Is Back"
Is it? Because some of us felt like we were stuck on the lido deck of a cruise. Including Penelope Cruz, judging by her arched eyebrows at the close of the biggest number.
6. Ben Stiller as Joaquin Phoenix
Oscar presenters don't normally go after their own. Stiller did. His deadpan, unmistakable imitation of Phoenix's notorious performance on David Letternan is as good a sign as any that Phoenix, who has declared himself retired from acting, is now being as much pushed out of the Hollywood community as leaving it.
5. Tina Fey and Steve Martin's Scientology dig
Or maybe they were talking about some other "made up" religion involving an alien king scattering seeds across the Earth to "fuel our positive transfers." But you don't have to be a Clear to know that's unlikely. (Though this is the best bit, Fey and Martin's overall routine was excellent. As was their rapport.)
4. Heath Ledger's family accepts his award
The late Dark Knight actor received a touching tribute from his father, mother and eager sister. But what happened to the mother of his child, Michelle Williams? She wasn't even mentioned.
3. Kate Winslet's whistle
The Englishwoman's Best Actress win was widely expected; her sweet call-and-response with her father was not.
2. Dustin Lance Black on gay rights: "God does love you."
The Mormon-raised Milk screenwriter once found inspiration and emotional sustenance in California. With his heartfelt message to "gay and lesbian kids," Black returned the favor.
1. Sean Penn: "You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns."
Accepting for Best Actor, Penn killed. The tightly-wound actor was charmingly self-deprecating. And his cutting comments on California's gay marriage ban, which came near the end of the Oscar telecast, provided the perfect bookend for Black's statements, near the start.