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Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 10:29 GMT
Few surprises at low-key Oscars
By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

From Martin Scorsese to Dame Helen Mirren to Forest Whitaker, there were few shocks at this year's Academy Awards.

Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson
Whitaker and Hudson were both tipped to win in their categories
Indeed, seasoned Oscar watchers will struggle to identify anything that separates the 2007 ceremony from the historical pack.

Yes, hostess Ellen DeGeneres was a breath of fresh air with a chatty, low-key and agreeably daffy debut.

And with three gongs for Pan's Labyrinth, one for Babel and one for Japanese-language war drama Letters From Iwo Jima, this year's event undoubtedly had a more global flavour than most.

With the majority of prizes going to the pre-ceremony favourites and upsets restricted to minor categories, though, 2007 is unlikely to be remembered as a vintage year.

What's more, everyone seemed to be on their best behaviour - hardly conducive to a night that thrives on the unexpected and irreverent.

Sour grapes

So what was unexpected? Well, veteran star Alan Arkin being named best supporting actor ahead of Eddie Murphy took some people by surprise.

And it was definitely a shock to see Pan's Labyrinth lose the best foreign language film prize to Germany entry The Lives of Others.

Al Gore
Al Gore told viewers the world needed to "solve the climate crisis"
Given Cars' victory at the Annies - Hollywood's top awards in the cartoon field - the success of Happy Feet in the best animated feature category was another moderate reversal.

The same could maybe be said of Dreamgirls not landing the best original song gong, despite dominating the shortlist with three out of five nominations.

In the major categories, though, everything went just the way the bookies had foreseen it.

In other words, there was disappointment for Little Miss Sunshine, heartbreak for Peter O'Toole and a surfeit of unlucky Brits sporting stoic expressions.

This, however, was not a year for sour grapes.

After all, who could begrudge Martin Scorsese the best director Oscar so cruelly denied him on five previous occasions?

Political message

Certainly not Stephen Frears or Paul Greengrass, who must have known from the beginning that their roles in this year's drama were little more than peripheral.

And who besides Beyonce would resent Jennifer Hudson for being crowned best supporting actress?

Melissa Etheridge with Tammy Lynn Michaels
Singer Melissa Etheridge (left) thanked her "wife" Tammy Lynn
Surely even Simon Cowell could manage a word of congratulation for the erstwhile American Idol finalist.

If those wins were anticipated, however, Al Gore's victory in the best documentary feature category was practically ordained.

Short of the Queen herself arriving to collect Dame Helen's award on her behalf, it would be hard to imagine anyone getting a warmer reception than the former US vice-president.

In a year conspicuously short of political tub-thumping, his rallying call to join the fight against global warming at least had the virtue of novelty.

It surely says something, though, when it is left to an unsuccessful presidential candidate renowned for his reticence to give the Oscars a rare jolt of passion.

More was provided by lesbian singer Melissa Etheridge, who surely made history when she thanked her "wife" Tammy Lynn Michaels during her acceptance speech.

For all that, those who opted to stay up until the early hours to watch this year's festivities may well have found the title of her award-winning number - I Need to Wake Up - only too appropriate.

Would that Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen had been on hand to bring an element of danger and unpredictability to proceedings.

Oscars highlights

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