WATCH: Oscars' Best Moments 2012!

From Ryan Seacrest's red-carpet adventure to Billy Crystal's return as host, relive the 84th Academy Awards' biggest highlights

The 2012 Oscars was a mix of the familiar (Billy Crystal, Meryl Streep), the foreign (what a night for Francophiles) and the fabulous (that amazing Cirque du Soleil number). While it may have been a tad overlong and predictable in parts, the 84th Annual Academy Awards offered its fair share of memorable moments. Here are some of our favorites.

Billy Is Back
Everyone was expecting Billy Crystal to do an opening montage featuring all of the year's nominated movies, and the host did not disappoint his fans. Starting with a nod to The Artist and silent films, Crystal's pre-taped intro inserted him in memorable scenes from The Descendants (in which he kissed George Clooney), Midnight in Paris (complete with a cameo from Justin Bieber and Crystal's own impression of Sammy Davis Jr.), Moneyball, The Help, Bridesmaids and more. We also dug the bit where Billy acted as though he could read the minds of A-listers in the audience, such as Clooney, Brad Pitt and The Artist's Uggie the dog (see below).
 



17th Time's the Charm!
As Crystal mentioned, Meryl Streep is the most nominated actress of all time with 17 nods, but that means she's also lost the most Academy Awards, sitting through 14 ceremonies where she went home emptyhanded. Not tonight! Hollywood's Greatest of All Time finally ended her 29-year losing streak (her last win was in 1983 for Sophie's Choice!) with her third career Oscar, a best actress trophy for The Iron Lady.

After thanking her two partners -- her husband Don Gummer and her hair and makeup stylist  J. Roy Helland (who won the movie's other Academy Award of the night) -- Streep praised all of her colleagues: "I look out here and I see my life before my eyes. My old friends, my new friends. This is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships and the love, and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together... Thank you all of you -- departed and here -- for this inexplicably wonderful career."
 



A Beginner Makes History
To some of us, he'll always be Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music, but Christopher Plummer has appeared in more than 100 films, and at age 82 he became the oldest Oscar winner ever for his turn in Beginners. Plummer's speech for his best supporting actor victory (the first of his career) was eloquent, generous and funny. He not only named all of his fellow nominees but he thanked everyone from his costar Ewan McGregor to his daughter Amanda without skipping a beat. He even joked about his age: "You're only two years older than me darling," he said to the statue in his hand. "Where have you been all of my life?"

 



Chris Rock Gets Animated
In a night of familiar Billy Crystal gags, former Oscar host Chris Rock was refreshingly edgy by comparison. During his introduction to the best animated feature film award, Rock joked about the joys and ease of starring in an animated movie. "I hate when people go on TV and tell you how hard it is to do animations. 'Oh, Jay, it's such hard work.' No no no, UPS is hard work. Stripping wood is hard work," he said, before explaining that for an animated role, he just goes to the studio and says his lines. "And then they give me a million dollars," he added to laughter and cheers.
 



Cirque du Soleil Slays
Remember the elaborate dance numbers that plagued the Academy Award ceremonies of the '80s and '90s? Those were usually painful, but the Cirque du Soleil troupe doing an exclusive number about the magic of moviegoing was, well, magical. After the impressive performance, Crystal quipped: "We've got puppets, acrobats... we're a pony away from a bar mitzvah!"

 



Octavia Spencer "Freaks Out" 
Despite being the hands-down frontrunner in the category, Octavia Spencer was genuinely overwhelmed when she won the Oscar for best supporting actress. The winner's date, The Help director Tate Taylor, had to escort the emotional actress up the steps to the podium. After recovering from a standing ovation, a tearful Spencer gave a touching speech thanking her personal family, her Los Angeles family and her Help family. "Please wrap up... I'm wrapping up!" she cried. "I'm freaking out!"

 



Vive La France!
It was a good night for the French. The French-produced and helmed The Artist took home five Academy Awards (best picture, best director, best actor, best costume design, and best original score), as did the Paris-set Martin Scorsese film Hugo (best cinematography, sound editing, art direction, sound mixing and visual effects). And let's not forget Woody Allen's original screenplay win for Midnight in Paris! We half expected someone to sing La Marseillaise when Hugo scored the best picture award, but instead the filmmakers thanked their favorite Hollywood icons like legendary director Billy Wilder. It was an undeniably good night for Francophiles. 
 



Esperanza Spalding Sings
All right, so we'll admit we were hoping to see Bret McKenzie's Oscar-winning song "Man or Muppet" sung live by Jason Segel and his muppet counterpart, but since that didn't happen, we were chuffed to see Grammy-winning jazz singer Esperanza Spalding belt out "What a Wonderful World" to accompany the annual In Memoriam tribute. Compared to snoozy past Oscar telecasts, all of the live music was excellent -- including the intermittent pieces performed by Pharrell Williams, A.R. Rahman, Sheila E, and other instrumentalists.

"The Dictator" Defiles Ryan Seacrest
Dressed as his newest alter-ego The Dictator, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (who was reportedly asked not to show up on the red carpet in character) pulled off a pretty shocking (and funny) stunt when he accidentally spilled "the ashes" of his "good friend" and "tennis partner," the late Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, on E! News host Ryan Seacrest's tuxedo. Although The Dictator was ushered away, the pile of ashes remained by Seacrest's feet for the remainder of the red-carpet interviews.
 

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