An extended bit in which William Shatner came back from the future as his "Star Trek" character, Capt. James T. Kirk, had its moments while a joke about the drama "Flight" being restaged entirely with sock puppets was a scream. A John Wilkes Booth gag in reference to "Lincoln" was a bit of a groaner, perhaps intentionally, while MacFarlane relied on his alter ego, the cuddly teddy bear from his directorial debut "Ted," to make a crack about a post-Oscar orgy at Jack Nicholson's house. (MacFarlane already has indicated he's one-and-done with Academy Awards hosting.)
But it was Day-Lewis who came up with the kind of pop-culture riffing that's MacFarlane's specialty. In accepting his record third best-actor award from presenter Meryl Streep, he deadpanned that before they'd swapped roles, he originally was set to play Margaret Thatcher "and Meryl was Steven's first choice for 'Lincoln,' and I'd like to see that version."
Besides best picture, "Argo" won for Chris Terrio's adapted screenplay and for William Goldenberg's film editing. Affleck famously (and strangely) wasn't included in the best-director category for his thrilling and surprisingly funny depiction of a daring rescue during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. But as a producer on the film alongside George Clooney and Grant Heslov, he got to take home the top prize of the night.
"I never thought I'd be back here, and I am because of so many of you in this academy," said Affleck, who shared a screenplay Oscar with pal Matt Damon 15 years earlier for their breakout film "Good Will Hunting."
Among the wisdom he's acquired since then: "You can't hold grudges — it's hard but you can't hold grudges."
Lee, who previously won best director in 2006 for "Brokeback Mountain" (which also didn't win best picture), was typically low-key and self-deprecating in victory. His "Life of Pi" is a fable set in glorious 3-D, but Spielberg looked like the favorite for "Lincoln." The film also won for its cinematography, original score and visual effects.