the fate of acclaimed but obscure singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who dropped out of sight after two albums in the 1970s and was rumored to have died a bitter death.
“Thanks to one of the greatest singers ever, Rodriguez,'' said “Sugar Man'' director Malik Bendjelloul.
Oscar host Seth MacFarlane opened with a mildly edgy monologue that offered the usual polite jabs at the academy, the stars and the industry. He took a poke at academy voters over the snub of Ben Affleck, who missed out on a directing nomination for best-picture favorite “Argo,'' a thriller about the CIA's plot to rescue six Americans during the Iranian hostage crisis.
“The story was so top secret that the film's director is unknown to the academy,'' MacFarlane said. "They know they screwed up. Ben, it's not your fault.''
William Shatner made a guest appearance as his “Star Trek'' character Capt. James Kirk, appearing on a giant screen above the stage during MacFarlane's monologue, saying he came back in time to stop the host from ruining the Oscars.
“Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate, and everyone ends up hating you,'' said Shatner, who revealed a headline supposedly from the next day's newspaper that read, “Seth MacFarlane worst Oscar host ever.''
The performance-heavy Oscars also included an opening number featuring Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum, who did a classy dance while MacFarlane crooned “Just the Way You Look Tonight.'' Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt then joined MacFarlane for an elegant musical rendition of “High Hopes.''
Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron lined up a top-notch cast of stars as presenters, including “The Avengers'' co-stars Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner. They presented two prizes that went to the shipwreck tale “Life of Pi,'' cinematography and visual effects.
“This movie was quite a beast to make,'' said cinematographer Claudio Miranda, who shot dazzling images for the story of a youth adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.
Miranda's win marked another round of Oscar futility for revered cinematographer Roger Deakins, who was nominated for the James Bond adventure “Skyfall.'' Deakins has been nominated 10 times but has yet to win.
Halle Berry introduced a tribute to the James Bond franchise in which she has co-starred as the British super-spy celebrated his 50th anniversary on the big-screen last year with the latest adventure “Skyfall.'' Shirley Bassey sang her theme song to the 1960s Bond tale “Goldfinger.''
A salute to the