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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
In dazzling fashion, Neil Patrick Harris opened the night with dance moves and a shiny sequined tuxedo.
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It’s that time of year again: Academy Awards season. Every year, Hollywood’s most popular and talented actors, actresses, and filmmakers come together to honor each other in a night full of fashion, comedy, and extravagance. This year’s Oscars were as surprising as they were fun to watch. Whether you missed the big show for the sake of your GPA, or are in denial that an entire year separates us from the next Academy Awards (like me), I’ve compiled below just some of the evening’s many memorable moments.

The fashion

Although it has nothing to do with the awards themselves, “who wore what” is almost as popular a topic as the Oscar recipients themselves. This year, metallic tones reigned over the red carpet, as best showcased by Cameron Diaz and Sandra Bullock. Other fashion highlights include Penelope Cruz’s deep red twisted-origami bodiced gown and Rachel McAdams’s wispy floral dress. Controversial outfits included Sarah Jessica Parker’s yellow dress seemingly inspired by Cleopatra, and Charlize Theron’s Christian Dior number with silk rosettes positioned “artfully” over her bosom.

Neil Patrick Harris

The show’s introduction gets more and more outrageous by the year, and this time around was no exception. So what did this opening number have that previous years didn’t? Neil Patrick Harris. Harris got the Oscars off to a lively start with a surprise song and dance routine, topped with raunchy lyrics and a black sequined tuxedo. This over-the-top opener got everybody laughing and served as the perfect introduction for hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.

Making fun of Avatar

Though Avatar failed to take home any of the bigger awards (it won for visual effects, art direction, and cinematography), it was definitely the most poked fun of, throughout the night. At the beginning of the show, hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin earned laughs by swatting away CGI jellyfish-type creatures from the film. But the most memorable Avatar moment by far was Ben Stiller’s highly realistic impression of the Na’vi. Stiller presented the award for best makeup with a painted blue face and long braid characteristic of the Na’vi in Avatar, spoofing such now-infamous lines as “I see you.”

Precious best adapted screenplay acceptance

When Precious — the much-talked about tale of poverty and abuse — won the award for best adapted screenplay, the applause was long and well-deserved. Geoffrey Fletcher’s acceptance speech was one of the more emotional moments of the evening, as he expressed his sincere appreciation for all those who helped the film make it to where it has.

Paranormal Activity parody

The most popular horror film of the year was by far the low-budget Paranormal Activity, and although it had no representation at the Academy Awards, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin surprised us all with their recorded spoof of the film. In the real movie, a couple decides to film themselves while they sleep in hopes of obtaining a glimpse of the ghost that has been haunting them, and the footage captures the girl getting out of bed and standing creepily still for hours on end. In the Oscar version, Martin and Baldwin get into bed together and the camera fast forwards as they taking various hilarious positions through the course of the night, until Steve Martin, mimicking the original, stands up and over Baldwin for an extended period of time. It was definitely one of the funniest moments of the night (next to Stiller’s Avatar impression of course).

Presenting the award for best actor

One of the most intense sequences of the evening was the presentation of the nominees for best actor. A close friend or colleague of each of the nominees stood on the stage and gave a speech praising the merits of their respective actor. These personal introductions — done for the best actress nominees as well — ranged from highly emotional to funny, and brought out the true spirit of the award. In the end, Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart.

Bullock wins best actress

Sandra Bullock is far better known for her fluffy romantic comedies, but this year her highly acclaimed performance in The Blind Side earned her her first Oscar. In her emotional acceptance speech, she praised the talents of each of her fellow nominees (Gabourey Sidibe, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, and Carey Mulligan), and joked about a kiss she had shared with Streep at the Critics’ Choice Awards. As she left the stage in tears, it was more than evident that this was the biggest night of her life. It didn’t hurt that her dress, a stunning classic number, practically screamed “I’m ready for my Oscar.”

Bigelow wins best director

Kathryn Bigelow’s emotional win marked the first time in the history of the Academy Awards that a woman has won best director. Her underdog film, The Hurt Locker, was wildly successful throughout the evening, taking home a total of six awards including best picture. Locker, an independent film that follows a team of United States Army bomb detonators during the Iraq war, faced stiff competition in the category of best picture; for the first time since 1943, when Casablanca took home the Oscar, ten films were nominated in the Best Picture category. Locker’s triumph over such fan favorites as Avatar, The Blind Side, and Inglourious Bastards in itself makes this year’s Awards notable, and Bigelow’s heartfelt acceptance speech — including a shout-out to soldiers overseas — was the climax of the night.