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Jon Stewart Hosts an Academy Awards

Photo: Getty Images

In case you missed it in between the endless montages, interviews with past years' winners, and the 26 (approximate) musical numbers from Enchanted, last night's Oscar telecast had a host: Jon Stewart, returning after a passable performance as last year's 2006's emcee. "These past three and a half months have been very tough," he told the crowd. "The town was torn apart by a bitter writers' strike, but I'm happy to say that the fight is over. So, tonight, welcome to the makeup sex."

Still, the specter of the strike hung heavy over last night's awards. Last month, Academy producer Gil Cates warned us what would happen if the labor unrest wasn't resolved in time for the ceremony — stars and host would stay home, and the show would be filled out with hours of tributes and montages. In the end, the stars and the host showed up, but, sadly, so too did the montages. God, there were a lot of montages.

And viewers still accustomed to months of strike-affected TV probably recognized Stewart's semi-wooden performance last night from A Daily Show, the scribe-less version of The Daily Show. Sure, his monologue was okay, but shouldn't it have been funnier? We liked the joke about inviting writers to the Vanity Fair party, but did it really take these past two weeks to come up with the Gaydolph Titler thing? And we never thought we'd wish for one of Billy Crystal's lame musical numbers about the nominated films, but wouldn't even that have been better than Wii tennis and iPhone gags?

As David Edelstein pointed out this morning, one of the show's best moments came when Stewart brought Once's Marketa Irglova back out after her acceptance speech got cut off by the obnoxious orchestra. It was unscripted, but in the good way.

Earlier: How Did ‘No Country for Old Men’ Win the Big Prize?
Related: Edelstein Reacts to the Oscars [Projectionist]