The usual Oscar buzz was in the air at the Kodak Theater Sunday night, but there was also an undercurrent of serene relief. Maybe because you don't appreciate something until it's taken away. Or almost taken away. Or you watched the Golden Globes and realize what could happen if it is taken away.

The usual Oscar buzz was in the air at the Kodak Theater Sunday night, but there was also an undercurrent of serene relief. Maybe because you don’t appreciate something until it’s taken away. Or almost taken away. Or you watched the Golden Globes and realize what could happen if it is taken away.

Host Jon Stewart’s opening words “You’re here!” summed up the mood at the Oscarcast: the big triumph was that it was business as usual.

Being at the Kodak is a completely different experience than watching it on TV. The red carpet is much longer, but somehow more intimate. The commercial breaks seem all too brief. The production numbers, which often look confusing and fussy at home, are fun, particularly in big numbers like “That’s How You Know.”

Most important, Stewart was the perfect host, sassy and informal.

The mood in the room was energized by the number of surprise wins and the charming (and sometimes multilingual) acceptance speeches. Javier Bardem wowed the crowd, as did Glen Hansard, while the latter’s co-writer Marketa Irglova stole the show with her heatfelt simplicity.

Before Sunday, many in the film business seemed to lack Oscar fever, a combo of the seeming inevitability of the winners, the dour weather and, crucially, exhaustion from the long strike.

Pulling together a mammoth show under difficult circumstances, producer Gil Cates and his team fulfilled the showbiz mandate of working hard to try to make it look easy. And the goodwill in the Kodak was palpable: Everybody wanted to have a good time.

As Stewart said in his monologue, “Does this town need a hug?” The show was a metaphorical hug to Hollywood. And the mood had a beneficial side effect: the evening seemed more about the work than the hoopla.

Ultimately, Sunday’s Oscar show was like the old quip about a dancing elephant: Don’t even try to judge it, just smile that’s it’s happening at all.

The 80th Annual Academy Awards -- From the Kodak

Kodak Theater, Hollywood; 3,200 seats; top ticket: priceless

Production

An Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and ABC-TV production, produced by Gil Cates.

Crew

Running time from leaving the house until return: 9 hours.
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