It was a big night for Washington at the Oscars. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the best picture winner was Argo, a film with a strong Washington connection; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was represented in the form of socks worn by documentary film winner Sean Fine; and George Stevens Jr. won a special Oscar for his work founding the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center Honors.
Mrs. Obama, however, was the big reveal.
Her surprise appearance came at the end of the broadcast, when Jack Nicholson came onstage to announce the Best Picture winner. He indicated there would be a break with the tradition of the Best Picture presenter handling the job solo. “Tonight it is my great pleasure to introduce, live from the White House, the First Lady of the United States,” he said, and with that viewers were taken to a televised feed from the Diplomatic Reception Room.
Mrs. Obama, who stood with a group of service members in formal military dress, wore a sleek, sparkling Naeem Khan evening gown, her hair pulled back, her new bangs falling to her eyes. She used the spotlight to talk about her love of film, commending the Best Picture nominees for their messages of triumph over struggle and how important films are for young people. Nicholson, back in Los Angeles, announced the nominees, and then the broadcast returned to the White House, where Mrs. Obama was handed the envelope by a representative from PricewaterhouseCoopers. She opened it and announced Argo the winner.
The First Lady’s formal attire was not solely for the Oscars telecast; she and the President also hosted a formal dinner for the National Governors Association. All she had to do was excuse herself to go before a television audience of more than 35 million.
Reports indicate producer Harvey Weinstein helped facilitate the First Lady’s appearance, which, after it was agreed to by the White House, was negotiated and carried out with the stealth of a top-secret mission. Award-season aficionados considered it a Motion Picture Academy one-up of the earlier Golden Globes, which had former President Bill Clinton onstage to introduce a clip from Lincoln, one of the nominated films. While this was all well and good, and clever inside-Hollywood competition, movie fans have reason to be concerned. If someone doesn’t put a stop to the trend right now, could future awards broadcasts be hijacked by speaker John Boehner, minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate majority leader Harry Reid?
To the delight of Redskins fans, Washington filmmaker Sean Fine had his own surprise. After his film Inocente won the Oscar for Best Documentary Short, an honor shared with his wife, Andrea Nix Fine, he hoisted up his tuxedo trousers to reveal burgundy and gold Robert Griffin III socks, embroidered with the quarterback’s oft-used quote: “no pressure, no diamonds.” Fine tweeted a photo to Griffin, with the quote, who tweeted back, “Awesome. Lol.” Earlier, before winning, Fine had tweeted Griffin, “Wish us luck tonight. Got your socks on for good luck.” Fine’s grandfather Nate Fine was the Redskins’ photographer for decades.
The Academy Awards weren’t quite so dramatic for George Stevens Jr. He sat in red velvet box seats with three other honorees who each won the Governors Award, which had been presented at an earlier ceremony. Nonetheless, when the camera turned to them, they all stood and waved their gold statues.