Best winner reaction: Doubt’s genuinely surprised lead female actor Meryl Streep, who mouthed “What? What?” when her name was called, then proceeded to high-five members of the audience giving her a standing ovation on her way to the stage. Upon reaching the podium, she kissed presenter Ralph Fiennes, and addressed her underwhelming pant ensemble: “Well, I didn’t even buy a dress,” she said. “I’m really, really, really shocked, and even though awards mean nothing to me anymore, I’m really happy.” Translation: Please give the Oscar to one of the other deserving ladies. She might not want to be called the “best actress” or the “greatest living actress,” but would she settle for the most-liked?
Worst presenter credentials: Katie Holmes, who got to present Male Actor in a Leading Role to Milk’s Sean Penn because she’s Tom Cruise’s wife? Luckily, you didn’t have too long to dwell on the absurdity of that, because you had to keep up with the mood swings of Penn’s speech: He started out light (“Something happened to me during the making of this movie, and I noticed it tonight, [when] I noticed that the two statues have rather healthy packages”). Then he got serious (he said actors don’t play gay or straight, they play human beings, and Milk is about equal rights for all human beings). Then he became teary (“I wept at everyone of these guys performances. You’re stunning”). Then he was belligerent (he said he didn’t agree with everything that had transpired during the evening, noted the omission of Che’s Benicio Del Toro from his category, and called TV Oscar pundits “idiots” because they’ll make the Best Actor Oscar race sound like a dog fight, when really, the nominees are all proud of and challenged by each other).
Best show-opening “I’m an Actor” speech: Tie between Will Arnett, who said, “I’ve talked my way out of 11 fights. I’ve cried more this year than most women do in a lifetime. Wherever I go, I seek out a mirror and when one’s not available, I’ll make do with a car window or dark picture. I’m Will Arnett, and I’m an
alcoholic actor.” And Steve Carell, who said, “On Jan. 15, 2009, a US Airways pilot named Chesley Sullenberger performed an exacting perfect emergency landing into the icy cold waters of the Hudson River. It’s a good thing that I was not behind the controls of that plane, because I’m Steve Carell, and I’m an actor.”
Worst show-opening commentary over star arrivals: “Rosario Dawson blows kisses.”
Best relevant joke by a 30 Rock cast member: Tina Fey, accepting her award for Female Actor in a Comedy Series and thanking her young daughter: “And I want to thank Alice for her patience. Someday, she’ll be old enough to watch 30 Rock reruns on the Internet and understand where mommy was going at 6 a.m. every day for all that time. And she’ll look up at me and say, ‘What do you mean, you don’t get residuals for this?’ I love you, Alice. Take care of me when I’m old and broke!”
Worst random joke by a 30 Rock cast member: Jane Krakowski, accepting the cast’s award for Ensemble in a Comedy Series. “We’ve all been lucky enough to be a part of great ensembles on stage and on TV. And I was lucky enough to be a part of Ally McBeal for five years. But I can honestly say that this ensemble is a thousand times…heavier.” (Runner-up would be Krakowski’s co-star Alec Baldwin, winner of Male Actor in aComedy Series: “It’s so nice to be able to see some old friends, and Idon’t know who I want to make out with more tonight, Tony Hopkins orDiane Lane. I can’t decide, ‘cause Tony looks so good. He looksfantastic.”)
Best attempt at humor-filled humility: House’s Hugh Laurie, accepting his award for Male Actor in a Drama Series: “This is amazing. I actually had a $100 on James Spader….This is just not my night.” (Runner-up, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, accepting the award for Ensemble in a Drama Series and thanking “Our dozens of, uh, viewers.”)
Worst attempt at humor-filled humility: Brothers & Sisters’ Sally Field, accepting her award for Female Actor in a Drama Series: “Oh dear, I thought it would be a cable girl. And such good actors they are.”
Best presenter patter: John Krasinski and Amy Poehler’s fight while presenting Female Actor in a Drama Series. (Maybe Poehler and her husband, Arnett, could one-up each other as co-hosts of the Emmys?)
Worst presenter patter: Claire Danes’ intro for Ensemble in a Comedy Series. I’m attempted to blame it on her delivery, but I don’t know that anyone could have made that tired “And as for the ladies on Wisteria Lane, well, they don’t have to sell anything – they’re just fabulous” joke funny five seasons later.
Best bit of bonus trivia: Lifetime Achievement Award recipient James Earl Jones started stuttering when he was five years old and his parents divorced in Mississippi and sent him to live with his grandparents in Michigan. He barely spoke for 12 years, until a teacher challenged him to read a poetry assignment aloud to his class. He memorized the poem and delivered it perfectly. (For those wondering about Jones’ closing salute to Paul Newman, “Somebody down here likes you,” it’s a play on Newman’s 1956 film Somebody Up There Likes Me.)
Worst waste: All those plates of food on the actors’ tables that went untouched.
After the jump, the list of winners:
Male Actor in a Leading Role: Milk’s Sean Penn
Female Actor in a Leading Role: Doubt’s Meryl Streep
Male Actor in a Supporting Role: The Dark Knight’s Heath Ledger (accepted by costar Gary Oldman)
Female Actor in a Supporting Role: The Reader’s Kate Winslet
Cast in a Motion Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: John Adams’ Paul Giamatti
Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries: John Adams’ Laura Linney
Male Actor in a Drama Series: House’s Hugh Laurie
Female Actor in a Drama Series: Brothers & Sister’s Sally Field
Male Actor in a Comedy Series: 30 Rock’s Alec Baldwin
Female Actor in a Comedy Series: 30 Rock’s Tina Fey
Ensemble in a Drama Series: Mad Men
Ensemble in a Comedy Series: 30 Rock
Lifetime Achievement Award: James Earl Jones