Oscars Highlights Include The Dictator, Sandra Bullock’s ‘Chinese’ Speech, and a Ferrell/Galifianakis Duet

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Mike Krumboltz
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There weren't many fireworks at this year's Academy Awards. The red carpet was another story. Sacha Baron Cohen came to the ceremony dressed like his latest character, "the Dictator," from an upcoming film of the same name. Cohen, in character, talked with Ryan Seacrest about a golden urn that he claimed contained the ashes of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Cohen then fumbled the urn, dumping the ashes all over Seacrest, who looked none too pleased at the prank.

[ Photos: Who was the fashion winner of the night? Our red carpet report card ]

Another surprise (this one less messy) occurred a short time later. Sandra Bullock presented the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and shocked the audience by announcing that she spoke Mandarin. Hm, OK. Bullock then warned the audience that her Mandarin had a German accent. She then spoke a little German and called it Chinese. It sounds like a joke that would crash and burn, but Bullock, a veteran of romantic comedies, pulled it off.

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis also made the crowd laugh by bringing their own soundtrack along with them. The two hit the stage with cymbals and were not afraid to use them again and again. And again.

[ Read more: Academy Awards coverage at Oscar.com ]

Angelina Jolie was predictably beautiful, a definite high point for many male audience members. The Oscar winner wore a black dress with a thigh-high slit that showed off her lovely leg. While presenting the Oscar for best adapted screenplay , Jolie stuck out her leg and struck a pose. Because hey, if you got it, flaunt it, right? But then, a short time later, Angelina was mocked. When winners Alexander Payne, Jim Rash, and Nat Faxon took the stage to claim their trophies for their work on "The Descendants," Rash stuck out his leg in a pseudo-sexy pose just like Jolie. It was a moment of unscripted levity in a night that could have used a few more.

While many moments were charming (Meryl Streep's speech was lovely and humble and wonderful), the ceremony also had its share of moments that just didn't work, like when host Billy Crystal attempted to read the minds of some A-listers in attendance. The camera panned to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (of course it did), and Crystal quipped that Angelina was thinking that she liked the sound of "Billygelina" more than "Brangelina." Angelina, to her credit, laughed politely, while probably thinking, "Not in a million years, pal."

And then there was the Cirque du Soleil. The performers were dazzling as always, but one had to wonder, "What does any of this have to do with movies?"

[ Related: The night's biggest snubs and surprises ]

Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. presented the Oscar for Best Documentary and tried to be funny about it by making a documentary while they made their presentation. An interesting idea, but it went down in flames. Downey, who normally can't avoid being charming, came off as annoying.

Finally, anyone who watched this year's ceremony had to catch the repeated pleas to see films in the theaters. "There's nothing like seeing a movie on the big screen," the presenters said over and over. OK, we get it, guys. You want people to stop pirating films and go to the cinema. Can you at least cut down on the commercials before the previews?

Mike Krumboltz is a senior editor at Yahoo!, where he writes about a variety of topics, including politics and pop culture.