Leading article: That's entertainment

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Well. Whew. Hey. Yes. Blimey. Ladies and gentlemen, Honoured Members of the Academy, Jack, Tom, Mum, Dad, and the third assistant's assistant's assistant, here's what I know: the Oscars have now become so sublime as to be beyond criticism. They are not quite unique, but their only equivalent in the world of performance is, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, pantomime.

The players change, but the form remains, a delicious composition of emotion, artifice and self-importance that time and tradition have magically made lovable on a night where the gap between smile and grimace has never been narrower. And that's entertainment.

The tearful best actress with the trademark voice catch and proud parents present and well thanked was played to perfection by Reese Witherspoon. The overcome best actor triumphing after the sacrifice of others, particularly his Ma, was Philip Seymour Hoffman. Conscience was played by a sternly liberal George Clooney. Those who wonder why actors make such artless acceptance speeches have been deceived by their art.

That, of course, is also why they appeared not to see the joke when Jon Stewart, the new host, condemning film pirating, pointed at them in their glittering finery and said: "These are the people you're stealing from." Troupers, all.

If I had the tiniest quibble, it would be that no one attempted to emulate Lord Olivier's 1979 speech, when he spoke so stirringly of "the euphoria that happens to so many of us at the first breath of the majestic glow of a new tomorrow". Ah, well. But we did have Nick Park summing it all up a little more pithily: "Cracking cheese, Gromit!"

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