Comedian and talk show star Ellen DeGeneres returned as Oscar host on Sunday in an appearance many saw as calculated to project a lighter, more affable tone for Hollywood's biggest night after the provocative performance of her immediate predecessor, Seth MacFarlane. And she also "made history". Read on to know how.
While veering away from the ribald streak that marked MacFarlane's widely-panned stint as emcee last year, DeGeneres showed in her opening monologue she was not above poking fun at some of the film industry's biggest names.
She zeroed in early in the show on supporting actress nominee, and last year's best actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence, who famously tripped on the stairs on her way to accepting last her Oscar in 2013.
Lawrence, 23, who is nominated for her role in American Hustle, also stumbled on the red carpet on Sunday.
"If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar," DeGeneres dead-panned, as the audience, including Lawrence, erupted in laughter.
Turning to June Squibb, whom she noted was the oldest performer ever nominated for an acting Oscar at age 84, DeGeneres congratulated Squibb for her role in Nebraska. She then raised her voice to address Squibb as if she were hard of hearing, adding, "I'm telling everyone that you were wonderful in Nebraska."
She joked that long-haired actor Jared Leto, a candidate for best supporting actor for his role as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club, was "the prettiest" nominee of the evening. Moments later, Leto was declared the night's first winner.
DeGeneres waltzed past the actors making oddball remarks untill she suddenly decided she wanted to post a selfie "with maximum retweets" with them. And she did post. And over 1 million people retweeted.
"You get in here, too, Julia. Lean in," she said to Julia Roberts.
The resulting photograph earned nearly a million retweets in minutes in 40 minutes.
The crowd included Kevin Spacey, recently of Netflix's House of Cards fame, and Lupita Nyong'o, who moments later won an Oscar for best supporting actress for 12 Years a Slave.
"Channing (Tatum), if you can get in also. Bradley (Cooper), come in," the host quipped to loud laughter.
Eventually the group grew big enough that Cooper kneeled in front of DeGeneres and snapped the pic with her smartphone.
"If only Bradley's arm was longer. Best photo ever," DeGeneres posted along with the photograph on her Twitter feed, @TheEllenShow, during a break in her hosting duties.
DeGeneres also announced that they "made history" on Twitter with the "most retweets ever."
The picture has beaten Obama-Michelle Obama "four more years" tweet in being the most retweeted in the history of Twitter.
DeGeneres saluted the attendance of the real-life individuals portrayed in the Oscar-nominated films Captain Phillips, and Philomena.
In the edgiest moment, the camera cut to veteran actress and singer Liza Minnelli in the audience, and DeGeneres saluted "one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I have ever seen in my life. Good job, sir."
Minnelli, 67, who is expected to take part on Sunday in a tribute to her mother's movie, The Wizard of Oz, lit up social media site Twitter while on the Oscars red carpet earlier on Sunday, looking shaky, with a blue streak in her hair, and apparently bra-less under her blue silk pants suit.
Seeming to betray her personal opinion for which film most deserved to win best picture, DeGeneres declared that the final outcome of the Oscar race would have two scenarios - "Possibility No. 1, 12 Years a Slave wins best picture. Possibility No. 2, you're all racists."
Making her entrance dressed in a black tuxedo and white ascot, DeGeneres, 56, noted the lengthy interval between her two Academy Awards emcee gigs.
"I hosted seven years ago, and I'm so honored and flattered that they had me back so quickly," she said.
DeGeneres, who made broadcast history in 1997 as the first openly gay lead character on U.S. prime-time television, debuted as an Oscar host in 2007.
The star of her own daytime TV talk show, DeGeneres earned an Emmy nomination for her first Oscar hosting stint, which included several forays in the audience. Some critics complained then that DeGeneres was too playful for the traditional decorum of the Academy Awards.
But DeGeneres showed she was apparently unfazed by such criticism, stepping down from the Oscar stage again on Sunday to hand a faux consolation prize - a pair of lottery tickets - to supporting actor nominee Bradley Cooper.
DeGeneres' second turn as Oscar emcee comes a year after MacFarlane, the creator of the animated sitcom Family Guy, drew critical groans for a provocative performance that included jokes often aimed at the biggest stars in attendance and a musical tribute to female frontal nudity called "We Saw Your Boobs."
(With inputs from AFP)