2009 Oscars an evening of exceptional entertainment, anticipated awards

Awards season came to a close on Sunday, Feb. 22, as the multitalented Hugh Jackman hosted the 81st Annual Academy Awards, held at the famed Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif.

Jackman opened the show with a humorous musical number parodying the movies up for Best Picture.

During the beginning of his speech, he remarked that there was not going to be an opening musical number because the Academy didn't have enough money due to the economic crisis.

Midsentence, however, he said that he was going to sing anyway. With low-budget sets, Jackman managed to keep the audience laughing and entertained, unlike some droning past hosts.

The first award of the night went to Penélope Cruz for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Unlike previous years in which one or two stars presented for each award, five former winners appeared on stage to present - a practice carried over for other awards throughout the evening.

Tina Fey and Steve Martin also graced the stage with their witty charisma, presenting the award for Best Original Screenplay to Dustin Lance Black for Milk.

Black's speech was one of the most touching and emotional of the evening. As an openly gay screenwriter in Hollywood, Black spoke of the challenges facing the gay and lesbian community and offered his support for those who felt alone, promising that things would soon be better.

Wall-E, this year's stand-out Pixar film, took home the award for Best Animated Feature, while David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button won three awards for visual effects, makeup and art direction - a testament to the film's beauty and technical achievements.

Amid the awards, Hugh Jackman and singer Beyoncé did a medley from musicals that have been nominated for Oscars in past years. Performing selections from such shows as Mamma Mia!, West Side Story and High School Musical, they received help from HSM's Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and Mamma Mia!'s Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper.

Funny "stoners" Seth Rogen and James Franco provided their own commentary in a sketch in which they played their characters from Pineapple Express. They expressed their dissatisfaction towards the Academy for not nominating any comedic movies for Best Picture.

Heath Ledger was posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor for his brilliant performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight; an emotional scene with his family accepting the award on his behalf. Shots of the audience showed many celebrities in tears during the family's speech.

The award for Best Actor went to Sean Penn for his portrayal of gay rights' activist Harvey Milk in Milk, while Best Actress went to Kate Winslet for her performance as a former Nazi in The Reader.

Winslet's win was both expected and disappointing to some. "I was really rooting for Meryl Streep," said freshman Mia Orobona. "She hasn't won since Sophie's Choice 26 years ago. But it was Kate's year and I'm happy she finally got her Oscar."

The biggest winner of the night was independent-film-turned-gold Slumdog Millionaire. On top of winning Best Picture, Slumdog took home a total of eight awards including Best Director, Best Original Song, and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The entertainment quality of this year's Academy Awards was definitely impressive. Opposing the usually stuffy and serious ceremony, this year's was thoroughly energetic and entertaining - a testament to Jackman's charisma and ability as an effective host.