The 78th Academy Awards aired on ABC last night, hosted by first-timer Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Overnight ratings for the broadcast were down 10 percent from last year, according to Nielsen. This year's broadcast drew a 27.1 rating and a 40 share, while last year's drew a 30.1 rating and a 43 share.
Stewart got things warmed up with a video intro starring former Oscar hosts (including Billy Crystal and Chris Rock together in a tent, in the evening's first Brokeback Mountain joke). After a hit-and-miss opening monologue, Stewart found his footing, avoiding any of the feather-ruffling done by last year's host, Chris Rock.
Stewart got a laugh when he motioned to a giant Oscar statue onstage and said, "Do you think if we pulled that statue down, democracy would flourish in Hollywood?" Less popular with the live audience was his comment after a montage of clips from powerful-"message" movies dealing with racism, prejudice, and war (Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Apocalypse Now, and Network) when Stewart sarcastically said, "And none of those issues was ever a problem again."
Former ER star George Clooney picked up the first gold statuette of the evening, for Best Supporting Actor in Syriana. In his acceptance speech, Clooney cracked he would forever be known as "Oscar winner George Clooney and Sexiest Man Alive 1997."
Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, nominated for her role as a pre-op transsexual in Transamerica, lost out to Reese Witherspoon for Best Actress.
Former Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams lost out to Rachel Weisz for Best Supporting Actress, but she won in the fashion department, drawing raves from postshow wrap-ups for her lemon-chiffon flapper dress.
Comedic highlights included Ben Stiller dressed in a green bodysuit while giving out the award for Best Visual Effects (winner: King Kong), and Best Makeup presenters ex-SNL funnyman Will Farrell with The Office's Steve Carrell wearing garishly applied pancake make-up (winner: The Chronicles of Narnia).
Here is a partial list of winners. To see the complete list, go to the Academy's Web site.
Best Motion Picture of the Year: Crash
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman for Capote
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney for Syriana
Best Achievement in Directing: Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener
Best Original Screenplay: Crash--Paul Haggis, Robert Moresco
Best Adapted Screenplay: Brokeback Mountain--Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana