A movie about the silent film era won Best Picture and the host -- a favorite in the '90s -- was returning for his ninth stint as Academy Awards host … it's no surprise, then, that the 84th annual Academy Awards had a very retro vibe.
"The Artist," the silent, black-and-white movie about the early days of Hollywood when wordless films gave way to the "talkies," won five Oscars in total, while Billy Crystal, returning as host for the first time since 2004, opened the show with both an amusing video package and a less clever musical nod to the nominated movies.
Elsewhere, veteran actress Meryl Streep won her third Oscar (and her first in almost 30 years), while Christopher Plummer became a first-time Oscar winner -- and set a new record as the oldest winner -- at age 82.
Viewers also got a glimpse at things to come for the Oscars, as Young Hollywood star Emma Stone was one of the night's most charming presenters, and funny guys Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis showed they've definitely got comedy chemistry.
A few of our favorite moments, and some others that were, well, not so much:
WORST: When Sacha Met Seacrest
Sure, the stuffy Academy can always use a little dose of not taking itself so seriously, and Sacha Baron Cohen promised to administer that very thing with his appearance as Admiral Aladeen from his upcoming movie "The Dictator." But dumping (fake) ashes -- allegedly of his good friend Kim Jong-Il -- on red carpet interviewer Ryan Secrest? Not cool, dude. Do you know how much time and product it takes Seacrest to look like that?
BEST & WORST: Opening Ceremonies
You just can't deny that getting a quick appearance by The Biebs was a good move, in what was a clever take on a familiar routine, with Crystal popping up in all of this year's nominated movies (and also "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol"). But then to follow it up with a musty musical number about the Best Picture noms and awards for cinematography and art direction (what happened to the Best Supporting openers?) … well, let's just say that wasn't going to make Beliebers out of the younger viewers.
WORST: Clip Package … in the First Half-Hour
Best-of video montage of great movies of the past? Always fun to watch. But the fact that it came within the first 30 minutes of the Oscar show, and was unspooled so randomly? Is this some sort of admission that this year's crop of movies isn't up to the standards of yore?
"Next year this’ll be called the Flomax Theater."
-- Host Billy Crystal on this year's more, ahem, mature nominees, like Max von Sydow and Christopher Plummer
BEST & WORST: Keeping Abreast of Potential Wardrobe Malfunctions
Best or worst? That's all a matter of perspective. But either way, it was certainly a matter of concern with the Oscar gowns of Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz. J. Lo's golden globes threatened to pop out of her low-cut number at any minute (many watchers speculated about the "nip slip" on Twitter), while Diaz's um … you could see her … well, let's just say it must have been cold in the Hollywood & Highland Center.
BEST: Sandra Bullock's Bilingual (Or Is That Trilingual?) Skills
Here's an idea, Oscar producers: Sandra Bullock as next year's Oscar host(ess). Her "Chinese-German" skills -- actually, Mandarin Chinese -- while presenting the statue for Best Foreign Language Film were impressive, charming and funnier than mostly everything Crystal had said up to that point.
Also Check Out: Complete List of 2012 Academy Award Winners
WORST: What's Up With the Sound?
Guess what isn't winning an Emmy for sound this year? This Oscar telecast. Even Uggie's barking alternately sounded like it was being played on an LP -- or that our favorite little movie pooch was barking underwater.
"You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?"
-- Best Supporting Actor winner Christopher Plummer, to his Oscar statue
BEST: Octavia Spencer's Acceptance Speech
The standing ovation may have been a bit much -- should everyone get one for a first Oscar win? Isn't winning the Oscar celebration enough? But we digress from saying that Octavia Spencer's emotional acceptance speech (She laughed! She cried! She ran on a bit past her time limit!) for her Best Supporting Actress Oscar was sweet and endearing, and most refreshingly from a show that has been trying way too hard to make us feel all warm and fuzzy about the movies, sincere.
BEST: The Enthusiasm of a Newb
Freshman Oscar presenter Emma Stone won over a tough crowd with her excited approach to her maiden voyage as Oscar presenter. Sure, veteran awards show presenter Ben Stiller tried to be a buzz kill on her time at the mic, but the young'un held her own and showed why this certainly won't be her last time on the Oscar stage.
WORST: RDJ/Gwyneth Paltrow Banter
The "Iron Man" stars' painfully unfunny banter while presenting the Best Documentary Oscar brought to mind two things: 1) RDJ has been taking himself way too seriously lately; and 2) Why, oh why, isn't Ricky Gervais around to mock him like he did on the Globes last year?
"Nothing can take the sting out of economic problems like watching millionaires collecting gold statues."
-- Billy Crystal
WORST: Cirque du SoWhat
Meh. There are some things you just can't make interesting, no matter how you try to spin them. And, as the Cirque du Soleil performance showed, no matter how many guys you have flying around the audience, portraying people watching a movie just isn't good fodder for performance art. Makes you appreciate those Pilobolus dudes from a few years ago, though.
BEST: Christopher Plummer Makes Oscar History
His first Oscar, at age 82, also sets a new record for the oldest actor to win an Oscar. "You’re only two years older than me, darling, where have you been all my life?" Plummer joked as he held his little golden guy, adding, to his fellow nominees, "I'm so proud to be in your company." Class act. And that is the kind of win that deserves, and received, a standing ovation.
Sure, they've done "Between Two Ferns" together, but their joint presenter gig on the Oscars made it clear that a Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis comedy movie collaboration will be a must-see movie release, right? Fortunately, we don't have to wait long, as the two co-star, along with Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd in the August political comedy "Dog Fight."
"When I saw it, I wanted to hug the first black woman I saw, which in Beverly Hills is about a 45-minute drive."
-- Billy Crystal on seeing "The Help"
BEST: Jean Dujardin's Surprise Win
George Clooney had called it on the red carpet when he said he expected to be hearing an acceptance speech in French for the Best Actor Oscar. "The Artist" star Dujardin is such a breakout star that he's even become his own internet meme, so it probably shouldn't have been such a surprise, a welcome one, that he joyfully claimed the Best Actor Oscar. He responded well with an expectedly charming speech: "I love this country!"
BEST: Meryl Streep Pulls an "Upset," Too
Streep snagged her third Oscar in 17 nominations, besting heavy favorite Viola Davis from "The Help," and her self-deprecating acceptance speech started off with sweet nods to her husband Don and long-time hair and makeup artist J. Roy Helland (who won his first Oscar for "The Iron Lady"). She joked that half the movie fans watching at home probably booed when her name was announced as the Best Actress winner, but we doubt it … movie lovers appreciate a deserving, and gracious, winner when they see one.
"When they said my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America, 'Oh no, oh not her again.' But whatever."
-- Best Actress winner Meryl Streep, on her third win (in 17 nominations)
BEST: "The Artist" Surprises No One
As had been expected, the movie that paid homage to the early days of Hollywood made the biggest impact at the 84th annual Oscar ceremony, with Best Actor, Best Director (Michel Hazanavicius) and Best Picture wins, and, of course, one of the all-time most charming stars in Uggie.
Also Check Out: Our Nominees for the Best Dressed at the 2012 Oscars