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Oscar wrap-up: Get your fix of the golden gnomes!

On Sunday night, Feb. 26, the awards season continued with the ever-flashy Academy Awards. The 84th Oscar ceremony was in sharp contention with the Grammys, with the latter squeaking out 39.9 million viewers to the former’s 39.3. While CBS hardly managed to propel their music show past ABC’s presentation of the golden gnomes, they dominated the young adult demographic. Apparently, watching Nicki Minaj have an exorcism is more entertaining to the younger group than Billy Crystal’s ninth circuit around the Oscar stage.

The show kicked off with the usual red carpet pageantry, with suspects slowly drifting past flashing cameras. Though red carpet shows are not particularly entertaining for any but the most fashion-conscious, the success of this year’s program rested in a pair of well-manicured hands: those of Tim Gunn, fashion superstar. His commentary, however, was the only redeeming facet of the entire red carpet event, and only occasionally broke through the feeling of pervading blandness.

Even more terrifying than the deathly boredom of the red carpet pre-show, however, was the facial hair sported by Bradley Cooper. The People Magazine World’s Sexiest Man sported a Ron Jeremy-esque ‘70s porn-stache that looked like he glued hamster fur to his face, managing to look horrifying and unkempt at the same time.

They almost didn’t let in Sascha Baron Cohen, who has a bad habit of showing up to events dressed as his off-color characters. They didn’t show it at the live broadcast, but Cohen, who dressed for the carpet as a quasi-Saddam Hussein to represent his new film “The Dictator,” threw ashes into the pre-Oscar air claiming that they were none other than the late Kim Jong-Il’s.

After a quick peek at George Clooney’s newest arm candy, the show proceeded inside. A star-studded video, featuring a heavily powdered Justin Bieber, introduced this year’s host, Billy Crystal. While his jokes were only so-so, the show itself was planned and produced well, with multimedia presentations that tempered Crystal’s nondescript joke-grimace-joke formula. The centerpiece of the show was an acrobatic performance by Cirque De Soliel, which proved to be fantastic (as if a Cirque show could be anything but fantastic).

The awarding of the naked men continued, with presenters adding color of their own.

Memorable moments included Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow channeling Tony Stark and Pepper Pots, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakas dropping cymbals, and Angelina Jolie posing ridiculously. Her pose, in an attempt to accentuate her bared leg, has sparked an internet sensation. An enterprising internet-person has since photoshopped it onto Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort, and Hitler.

The awards themselves were remarkably predictable. In the technical categories, Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” dominated, with a token nod to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in the Film Editing category. Notably, “A Separation” garnered the first-ever Oscar for an Iranian film, in the Foreign Language Film category. In a bit of an insult to the makeup artists of the “Harry Potter” series, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland scooped up the Best Makeup Oscar for “The Iron Lady.” Woody Allen won in the Original Screenplay category and, awkwardly enough, didn’t bother to show up to claim his award.

Though “Hugo” took wins in most of the technical categories, Scorsese was overlooked for the Directing Oscar, even as his name was dropped every five and a half seconds (spawning a drinking game among the cast of “Bridesmaids”). The honor went instead to a Frenchman, Michel Hazanavicius, for “The Artist,” which also swept this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

The awards presentation continued with the Actor and Actress in a Supporting Role categories. Christopher Plummer claimed the Actor trophy for his role in “Beginners.” At age 82, Plummer became the oldest actor to receive an Oscar. The Supporting Actress award went to Octavia Spencer for “The Help,” her first Oscar and the film’s only award.

In the Actor in a Leading Role category, the French once again took the Academy by storm, with Jean Dujardin taking home the Oscar for his appearance in “The Artist.” For her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” Meryl Streep claimed the Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role. It was her third award and 17th nomination.

The night culminated with the presentation of the Best Picture Oscar by Tom Cruise, exhibiting his always-tenuous sanity. With a deft motion and an intense glare, he proceeded to lavish the honor on “The Artist.” The film, which was shot in black and white and without dialogue, also received a Golden Globe for a Musical or Comedy, among seemingly countless other awards. With this Oscar, “The Artist” became the most-awarded French film to date.

This year’s Academy Awards program revealed itself to be mildly entertaining, if a nondescript way to waste a Sunday night. While a great deal of the films honored were obvious Oscar bait whose quality could be arguably improved, they were at least better than “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,” which is garnering a whopping 14 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. With the bar set so low, perhaps the films honored at next year’s Academy Awards will prove worthy simply by contrast.

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