Darlene Love & The Frozen composers
Ok, this might have been something of a love/hate moment — they were both simultaneously a little cringe-making, and a bit thrilling, but these two musical acceptance speeches were definitely more memorable than most. Darlene Love belting out a number when "20 Feet From Stardom" might have been vaguely reminiscent of an aunt at a wedding, but it was also a moment in the spotlight for someone denied it for so long, and a nice capper for the film's story (though we still would have liked to have seen what Anwar from "The Act Of Killing" would have done had that film won...) Meanwhile, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez's rhyming speech for writing "Let It Go" from "Frozen" felt a touch calculated, and yet, also genuine — they are, after all, musical theater folk, and that's exactly what would happen when musical theater folk win Oscars. There was enough sincerity behind it to make it charming, rather than gag-inducing, particularly when they dedicated the song, and award, to their kids.
Cate Blanchett's speech
In fairness, Cate Blanchett had roughly four million precursor awards in which to practice her Best Actress thank-you speech, but happily, she pretty much nailed it, with one of the best speeches of the night. Gracious without feigning surprise, acknowledging the "random and subjective" nature of the awards, sincerely thanking the other nominees, coming up with a number of great gags (#suckit!) and pulling off a hugely effective rallying cry for movies with women at the center. As ever, it was a class act, and made the least surprising award of the night as pleasurable as anything else.
There was some good supporting work from a number of people throughout the night, but the stealthy MVP among the guests might have been Kevin Spacey. After a few years where he's been mostly absent from movies in favor of theater and television, Spacey is going to be heading back to the movies when he leaves the Old Vic Theater in London in 2015, and last night was a fun reminder of what a good presence he can be. From ad-libbing in character as Frank Underwood (which was greeted by huge cheers), to quipping "that's for you" to Ellen as she passed the hat to pay for pizza, to pulling an instantly meme-able selfie face, Spacey quietly stole the show in a way that he hasn't done anywhere since the mid-90s, and made a pretty good case for being a potential host in a future year.
Not only did it seem to us perfectly fair that Cuaron won for “Gravity,” the director’s speech was charming , smart and genuine, even lapsing into Spanish at the end to thank his mother. He paid tribute to both his stars but very much to Sandra Bullock calling her “one of the best people I have ever met," and even got a couple of good laughs, especially when he corrected his Freudian slip of “the wiseguys at Warner Brothers” to “the wise people at Warner Brothers.” Overall he struck a good balance between professional and personal and, if we weren’t already a little in love with Cuaron, we probably would have been after this speech.
Just a little one, but we liked the way that producers had seemed to emphasize double-act presenters over solo names this year. It got more star-wattage up on stage, inspired plenty of fantasies (who doesn't have their fingers crossed that Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron hooked up? Or Matthew McConaughey and Kim Novak, for that matter...), and inspired a million #TrueDetectiveSeasonTwo jokes. That's definitely something that can stick around for future telecasts.
Spike Jonze won an Oscar!
It had seemed in the cards, but many were still tipping "American Hustle" for the Original Screenplay nomination, so no one was quite sure if Spike Jonze was going to win an Oscar. But he did, and it was one of the most warmly received victories of the night. Jonze's speech was sweet, but brief, but more than anything, it was a worthy recognition of one of our most talented and original filmmakers.