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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 07:41 GMT
DeGeneres meets Oscar challenge
By Ben Sutherland
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

TV host Ellen DeGeneres has become only the second woman to host the Academy Awards single-handedly. How did she fare in this most challenging of roles?

Ellen DeGeneres
Before DeGeneres, only Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars solo
Wearing white shoes and an open-necked red suit, Ellen DeGeneres may have entered the stage of Kodak Theatre looking relaxed.

But the face and voice of the Oscars presenter suggested she was anything but.

Speculation prior to the awards was that DeGeneres had been selected in the hope of providing a happy medium between edgy 2005 host Chris Rock and 2006 presenter John Stewart - neither cutting nor funny enough.

As she struggled into her opening monologue, barely able to get her words out, there was a real sense of tension in the air.

Indeed, the cutaways to the assembled stars' faces showed all too clearly the genuine fear that DeGeneres was going to flop utterly.

They needn't have worried. DeGeneres rallied magnificently with a joke about Al Gore being denied victory in the 2000 US Presidential election.

"Jennifer Hudson is here - she was on American Idol and America didn't vote for her," she said.

"But then Al Gore is here - and America did vote for him."

It may have been six years after the event, but the applause from the Democratic-leaning crowd still took the roof off.

Famous faces

It was the kind of thing that had been expected from Stewart last year - and which he had so noticeably failed to supply.

So how did DeGeneres follow this killer gag? By wisely keeping her subsequent appearances to a bare minimum.

Ellen DeGeneres
At one point she appeared with an Oscar in a baby carrier
She had promised the night would be all about the nominees - "unlike most years, when they're all about the winners", she quipped.

True to that notion, Hollywood's royalty were cast in a supporting role.

It was an interesting idea. After all, with all those stars and all that talent in one place, why not use it?

Clearly the show's producers had realised people so famous they appear daily on magazine covers from Alaska to Antarctica do not need someone else to come out and introduce them.

This meant DeGeneres was not confined to the stage, taking pot-shots at the stars, but could instead mingle amongst them in the aisles.

Rather than wisecracks, she got laughs by asking Martin Scorsese to read her screenplay - "it's a cross between GoodFellas and Big Momma's House" - or having her photo taken with Clint Eastwood, by Steven Spielberg, for her MySpace site.

And in place of some of the awful skits and long, boring montages of the last few years, there was evidence of some real thought behind this year's routines.

One musical number, in which Will Ferrell and Jack Black sang about one of the universal truths in Hollywood - that comedy acting is never acknowledged - was good enough to feature in any number of Oscar-winning musicals.

'Green Oscars'

There was also a celebration of the great foreign-language films, corresponding to the fact that more non-US stars than ever had been nominated this year.

But that was as far as it went in terms of "message".

Ellen DeGeneres
She also pretended to present Martin Scorsese (r) with a script
Yes, Leonardo DiCaprio had a nice line of banter with Al Gore over whether the star of An Inconvenient Truth star would take the opportunity to make "a really big announcement" - a reference to speculation he may run again for the Presidency.

Yet Gore's proud claim that they were celebrating the first "officially green" Oscars was rather undermined when the camera cut to a yawning Jerry Seinfeld.

Seinfeld then showed up himself - ironically to present the best documentary Oscar to An Inconvenient Truth - to offer a fully-fledged routine.

In terms of screen time, it was almost as long as DeGeneres' total presentation - and a reminder, perhaps, of some of the things that were missing from her approach.

It would not be surprising if his name was added to the list of hosts before long.

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