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Last Updated: Monday, 28 February, 2005, 05:49 GMT
Rock sparkles on Oscar debut
By Ben Sutherland
BBC News

Chris Rock
Rock made a number of barbed jibes at Hollywood's finest
New Oscar host Chris Rock shone as he took to the biggest stage possible - rewarding the Academy for the risk they took in selecting him.

Brought in as part of an effort by the Academy to freshen up the awards, Rock - who received a standing ovation before uttering a word - ordered the assembled A-listers to "sit your asses down".

But - unlike David Letterman, a notorious flop as host - Rock, only the fifth presenter since 1990, was wise enough not to turn the Academy Awards into a four-hour long stand-up gig.

Instead, he relaxed and let his natural wit sparkle - without having to enter into a tirade of swear words, as some TV executives had feared.

Five-second delay

Rock began with a opening monologue that took in Hollywood's "black" movies, President Bush's record in office - and some ego-deflating digs at other actors.

Cate Blanchett
"It's a great night tonight. We have four black nominees tonight. It's kinda like Def Oscar Jam tonight"
"[Cate Blanchett] was so convincing [as Katharine Hepburn] that Sidney Poitier showed up at her house for supper"
"The only acting you ever see at the Oscars is when people act like they're not mad they lost"
"Nicole Kidman was smiling so wide, she should have won an Emmy at the Oscars for her great performance. I was like, if you'd done that in the movie, you'd have won an Oscar, girl"
"They like to say there's over 100 stars out tonight. No there's not. There's only four real stars. The rest are just popular people. Clint Eastwood is a star. That's a star.... Tobey Maguire is just a boy in tights"
"You want Russell Crowe and all you can get is Colin Farrell? Wait. Alexander is not Gladiator"
"Black movies don't have real names, they have names like Barbershop. That's not a name, it's just a location"
"Who is Jude Law? Why is he in every movie I have seen in the last four years? Even if he's not acting in, if you look at the credits he makes the cupcakes or something"
He described Spiderman's Tobey Maguire as "just a boy in tights" and laid into British actor Jude Law, "in every movie I have seen in the last four years".

Indeed, that comment would later earn Rock a rebuke from Sean Penn - announcing the best actress award - who asked that the Academy "forgive my lack of humour... Jude Law is one of our most talented actors".

Rock did however highlight his own film failings, a trick perhaps learned from legendary host Bob Hope.

"You want Denzel [Washington] and all you can get is me? Wait," he deadpanned, before adding, "Denzel's a fine actor. He would never have made Pootie Tang."

In truth, Rock was never in danger of requiring the five-second delay placed on the coverage.

However, perennial Oscars host Robin Williams came closer to testing the censors. Having allegedly been told he was not to refer to a protest by a conservative group about "gay" cartoon characters, Williams walked on stage with a piece of paper stuffed in his mouth - before taking it out and announcing that "[Spongebob] SquarePants is not gay".

"Tight pants, maybe. SpongeBob Hot Pants, you go girl. What about Donald Duck? Little sailor top, no pants... Bugs Bunny? In more dresses than J Edgar Hoover at Mardi Gras."

Carson tribute

But in keeping with the new, brisk tone of a show that traditionally overruns long into the night, Rock did not hang around between awards; a quick one-liner and then it was on with the next presenter. The result was that the entire show ran for nearly an entire hour less than usual.

Chris Rock and Adam Sandler
Rock and Adam Sandler shared a prolonged sketch surrounding Catherine Zeta Jones
Other innovations to speed things up included Cate Blanchett presenting an award from the audience next to the winners, where they accepted it standing next to their seats.

And some of the less high-profile awards saw all of the nominees head to the stage at the same time. The winners then simply accepted the award while the less successful walked quietly away. This prompted Rock to joke that next year the awards would be handed out in the car park: "Drive through and get your Oscar."

However, Rock was not the only comedy highlight - Pierce Brosnan's appearance alongside The Incredible's Edna Mode worked very well. Less successful was the somewhat surreal teaming of Beyonce Knowles and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber on piano.

On a more serious note was a tribute to the late Johnny Carson, who was a five-time Oscar host himself.

A selection of Carson's best lines was finished with an emotional little "goodnight".

Meanwhile, there would seem to be little doubt that Rock will be invited back.

The comedian had admitted before the awards that he intended to tour Europe and worldwide afterwards - effectively using the Oscars to boost his own prospects. In return, he was to provide the Oscars with a younger, wider audience in a year where the films on display have attracted fewer audiences than at any time since 1983.

Whether he has been successful will only be borne out by viewing figures - but Rock's first stint as Oscar host will not have done his own career any harm at all.


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