LOS ANGELES — Just as Oscar host Seth MacFarlane set his sights on a variety of targets with a mixture of hits and misses, the motion picture academy spread the gold around to a varied slate of films. "Argo" won best picture as expected, along with two other prizes. But "Life of Pi" won the most awards with four, including a surprise win for director Ang Lee.
"Les Miserables" also won three Academy Awards, while "Django Unchained" and "Skyfall" each took two.
Among the winners were the front-runners throughout this lengthy awards season: best actor Daniel Day-Lewis for his deeply immersed portrayal of Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's epic "Lincoln," best actress Jennifer Lawrence as a troubled young widow in "Silver Linings Playbook" and supporting actress Anne Hathaway as the doomed prostitute Fantine in the musical "Les Miserables." Christoph Waltz was a bit of a surprise for supporting actor as a charismatic bounty hunter in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," an award he'd won just three years ago for Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds."
The 22-year-old Lawrence, who got to show her lighter side in the oddball romance "Silver Linings Playbook" following serious roles in "Winter's Bone" and "The Hunger Games," gamely laughed at herself as she tripped on the stairs en route to the stage in her poufy, pale pink Dior Haute Couture gown. Backstage in the press room, when a reporter asked what she was thinking, she responded: "A bad word that I can't say that starts with 'F.'" Keeping journalists in hysterics, she explained, "I'm sorry. I did a shot before I ... sorry."
That's the kind of raunchiness MacFarlane himself seemed to be aiming for as host while also balancing the more traditional demands of the job. There was a ton of singing and dancing during the three-and-half-hour broadcast — no surprise from the musically minded creator of the animated series "Family Guy" — including a poignant performance from Barbra Streisand of "The Way We Were," written by the late Marvin Hamlisch, during the memorial montage. But MacFarlane also tried to keep the humor edgy with shots at Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Chris Brown and Rihanna.
An extended bit in which William Shatner came back from the future as his "Star Trek" character, Capt. James T. Kirk, had its moments while a joke about the drama "Flight" being restaged entirely with sock puppets was a scream. A John Wilkes Booth gag in reference to "Lincoln" was a bit of a groaner, perhaps intentionally, while MacFarlane relied on his alter ego, the cuddly teddy bear from his directorial debut "Ted," to make a crack about a post-Oscar orgy at Jack Nicholson's house. (MacFarlane already has indicated he's one-and-done with Academy Awards hosting.)
But it was Day-Lewis who came up with the kind of pop-culture riffing that's MacFarlane's specialty. In accepting his record third best-actor award from presenter Meryl Streep, he deadpanned that before they'd swapped roles, he originally was set to play Margaret Thatcher "and Meryl was Steven's first choice for 'Lincoln,' and I'd like to see that version."
Besides best picture, "Argo" won for Chris Terrio's adapted screenplay and for William Goldenberg's film editing. Affleck famously (and strangely) wasn't included in the best-director category for his thrilling and surprisingly funny depiction of a daring rescue during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. But as a producer on the film alongside George Clooney and Grant Heslov, he got to take home the top prize of the night.