updated 03/07/2010 AT 8:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/07/2010 AT 9:00 PM ET
Music and laugher kicked off the 2010 Academy Awards from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre. In a non-traditional first, the show actually opened with the 10 Best Actor and Actress nominees introduced alphabetically before escorts rose from the audience and guided them to their seats.
Then the fun began.
Neil Patrick Harris, who hosted the Tonys and Emmys last year, delivered the show’s opening musical number, “No One Wants to Do It Alone,” essentially setting the stage for hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin – who spent their opening dialogue poking fun at the top nominees who had just been seated.
“There’s that damn Helen Mirren,” said Martin – prompting Baldwin to say, “Steve, that’s Dame Helen Mirren.”
“Well,” said Baldwin, “tonight we may find out.”
Waltz the First Winner
The evening’s first award went to Christoph Waltz for his Supporting Actor role as Col. Hans Landa, the alarmingly cunning Nazi who outsmarts even the Third Reich – though, ultimately, not Brad Pitt’s backwoods Lt. Aldo Raines – in director Quentin Tarantino’s WWII fantasy, Inglourious Basterds.
Winning an Oscar – and accepting it from presenter Pénelope Cruz – was, said Waltz, “über Bingo.” He compared making this movie and working with Tarantino to exploring “a new continent,” and he acknowledged the Academy for “your welcoming embrace, and there’s no way I can ever thank you enough, but I can start right now. Thank you.”
Previously unknown outside his native Austria despite a 30-year screen career a fluency in three languages, Waltz, 53, has been catapulted to international stardom by Basterds. Asked this weekend by an Austrian interviewer if all this attention has changed his life, Waltz replied, “Only that I am still standing with my two feet on the ground is the same. Otherwise everything has changed in my life.”