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Meryl Streep, ‘The Artist,’ Billy Crystal: Best Moments From 2012 Oscars (VIDEO)

Big wins for Meryl Streep and The Artist helped balance out an Oscars telecast that was peppered with bizarre moments—Billy Crystal in blackface, anyone? The buzziest moments from Hollywood’s big night.

The Red-Carpet Dictator

Despite reports saying otherwise, Sacha Baron Cohen was allowed to walk the red carpet dressed as the character from his upcoming movie The Dictator. And he totally behaved himself. Kidding! He stopped to talk to Ryan Seacrest, where he said he was wearing John Galliano (naturally) and then upended an entire urn of ashes—“Kim Jong-il!”—on the host.

The New Old Face of the Oscars

The Oscars got off to a promising start with some funny jabs at the Best Picture nominees, but they quickly took a turn for the uncomfortable when host Billy Crystal donned blackface for a Sammy Davis Jr. impression. (Yes, he’s done it before; no, that doesn’t make it OK.)

Iran Gets the Gold

Iran picked up its first foreign-film Oscar for A Separation. While writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s speech wasn’t as overtly political as, say, Marlon Brando’s, it was still wrought, as he spoke of “a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”

Two Slices of Awesome for Octavia

Octavia Spencer was a lock to win Best Supporting Actress for her turn in The Help, but that didn’t make her win any less sweet. She thanked the Academy for putting her with Oscar, “the hottest guy in the room.” The actress was overcome with emotion during her speech, saying, “‘Please wrap up,’ I’m wrapping up. I’m sorry, I’m freaking out! Thank you, world!”

Best (Sketch) in Show

Christopher Guest fans got a special treat when his favored players, including Jennifer Coolidge and Fred Willard, assembled to do a sketch about film focus groups that was as industry-tweaking as you’d expect a Christopher Guest sketch to be.

Cirque du Freak

The stiff Oscars telecast got briefly limber with the inclusion of a high-flying spectacle by Cirque du Soleil, in a bit that felt as off-kilter as the rest of the awards.

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‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’

It’s fantastic when Oscar trivia intersects with a well-deserved victory, as it did when Christopher Plummer became the oldest actor to win an Oscar, for Best Supporting Actor. Looking down at his statuette, he said, “You’re only two years older than me. Where have you been all my life?”

Funny Ladies Rule!

Emma Stone and Ben Stiller delivered one of the few comedy bits of the night that didn’t hit the ground with a resounding thud, with the toothsome Stone hamming it up as an outré version of herself who just couldn’t contain her excitement at presenting. She even tweaked Anne Hathaway’s musical number (and Stiller’s Avatar getup) from Oscars past. Considering some of the livelier telecast moments came from Emma Stone, the ladies of Bridesmaids, and Tina Fey, the Oscars would be wise to nab a funny lady to host next year. Who wouldn’t want to see a pithy opening monologue by Fey?

‘I Love Your Country!’

Jean Dujardin more than made up for his silence over the course of his film The Artist with a boisterous, impassioned speech for his Best Actor win.

A Sweet Streep Victory

What does it say about the predictability of an Oscars telecast when the big surprise of the night is a win for ... Meryl Streep? The Iron Lady actress bested frontrunner Viola Davis, who seemed a shoo-in for her turn in The Help. Presenter Colin Firth was, however, absolutely on target when he called Streep “unreasonably good.” The incandescent Streep took the stage with her trademark verve, saying, “When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going ‘Aw, no. Oh, come on, why? Her? Again?’ You know? But whatever.”

Everything Old Is New Again

There were many clunky, off-putting moments in the 2012 Oscars telecast, but The Artist winning Best Picture was absolutely not one of them. Kudos to the Academy for awarding a quirky black-and-white, silent film over safer (The Descendants) and more sentimental (Hugo, The Help) choices.