Ellen nails sometimes-wooden Oscars

Chris Azzopardi

Sure, there were no glaringly gay frontrunners a la "Brokeback Mountain" at Sunday's Academy Awards. But we had Melissa Etheridge. The Dreams. Oh, and Ellen.
"If there weren't blacks, Jews or gays, there would be no Oscars," quipped first-time Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres, whose schmoozy opening monologue noted the diversity of the audience.
DeGeneres' meandering banter, where she egged on the nominees' Oscar-night jitters, helped the overlong show (clocking in at nearly four hours) move swiftly along. Still, the ceremony's first hour seemed to move by at a hare's pace, letting an hour pass before announcing one of the major awards: Best Supporting Actor.
The award seemed to be a shoo-in for Eddie Murphy's druggie soul singer in "Dreamgirls," but Alan Arkin's grandpa role in the gay-themed sleeper film "Little Miss Sunshine" seized it. It was the first of two wins for the Best Picture nominee, which also walked away with Best Original Script for its story about a dysfunctional family traveling cross-country.
Arkin's win was one of few surprises. Helen Mirren triumphed as Best Actress for "The Queen." Forest Whitaker beat out the competition for Best Actor. And the often-robbed Martin Scorsese took home Best Director and Best Picture, disappointing a mess of Logo Web site voters who wanted "Little Miss Sunshine" to drive home with the Oscar.
"Could you double-check the envelope?" Scorsese asked jokingly.
Four-times nominated "Notes On A Scandal," starring Oscar-nominated actress Judi Dench as a loony lesbian, and the fashionista film "The Devil Wears Prada," up for two awards, came up empty handed. But beloved comeback kid Jennifer Hudson expectedly came out on top with her portrayal of Effie White in "Dreamgirls," besting Cate Blanchett in "Scandal" and Abigail Breslin in "Sunshine."
"Oh my God! I have to just take this moment in. I can't believe this – I didn't think I was going to win. Look at what God can do!" said teary-eyed Hudson, looking seemingly surprised.
"Dreamgirls" took home three of eight nominations, three of which were for Best Original Song. Melissa Etheridge stole the semi-Supremes story's glory, winning her first Oscar for her environmental call-to-action "I Need To Wake Up" from Al Gore's global warming flick "An Inconvenient Truth."
"I have to thank Al Gore — caring about the Earth is not Republican or Democrat. It's not red or blue. We're all green. We can be the greatest generation. The generation that woke up and changed," said Etheridge, who also thanked her wife and their four children.
Following Etheridge's rip-roaring performance, Gore, who also walked away with an Oscar for Best Documentary, strolled out with Leonardo DiCaprio.
The two unveiled the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' strident efforts to make this year's awards safer for the environment. DiCaprio pressured Gore, who lost the election to George W. Bush, to make a major announcement.
"My fellow Americans, I'm going to take this opportunity right here and now, to formally announce my intentions to …" Gore said before the orchestra kicked in and he and DiCaprio walked off stage laughing.


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