A host of laughs
ELLEN DeGeneres delighted her Oscars audience on her return to hosting duties at the Academy Awards on Sunday, reeling off a string of one-liners to earn critical plaudits.
The 56-year-old comic's performance, mixing wry humour and gently poking fun at members of her A-list audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, was in stark contrast to last year's raunchy opening monologue by comedian Seth MacFarlane.
DeGeneres, who hosted the awards for the first time in 2007, aimed lighthearted jokes at various members of the audience, including Liza Minnelli.
"I have to say, one of the most amazing Liza Minnelli impersonators I've ever seen in my entire life," DeGeneres said. "Good job, sir."
Last year's best actress winner, Jennifer Lawrence, was also targeted, with DeGeneres revealing that the star had tripped while getting out of the limo which had deposited her on the red carpet.
It followed last year's memorable Oscar moment when the starlet took a tumble as she went to collect her award.
"If you win tonight, I think we should bring you the Oscar," DeGeneres quipped to the American Hustle star, who eventually lost out to Lupita Nyong'o in the best supporting actress race.
DeGeneres forayed into the audience several times during Sunday's show to mingle with the film industry elite.
She handed a faux consolation prize - a pair of lottery tickets - to American Hustle star Bradley Cooper after he lost his bid for best supporting actor; took a "selfie" snapshot with a group of nominees; and even ushered a pizza delivery man into the auditorium to hand out slices to the stars, then called on producer Harvey Weinstein to pay the tip.
"No pressure, only a billion people are watching, whatever you feel is right," she shouted.
Bruce Dern, nominated for his turn in Nebraska, was reminded of his illustrious heritage.
"His grandfather was the governor of Utah. His great uncle was a Pulitzer prize-winning poet. And his godmother was Eleanor Roosevelt. And here you are, among us tonight - what went wrong?"
She took gentle jabs at the stars, reckoning they had been in a total of 1,400 films and had "six years of college" among them
DeGeneres also alluded to the swirl of uncertainty around the best picture race, where harrowing slavery drama 12 Years A Slave was tipped for glory.
"Anything can happen, so many different possibilities," DeGeneres said of the best picture category.