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First lady Michelle Obama, appearing on screen, and actor Jack Nicholson present the award for best picture during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles.Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press

In a few short days, Michelle Obama has suddenly become the coolest first lady ever.

First, she charmed television audiences with her goofy "mom dancing" moves on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Then last night, she made a surprise appearance as actor Jack Nicholson's co-presenter at the Academy Awards, winning over audience members once again.

Appearing on a video screen, live from Washington, Obama congratulated the nominees for best picture, noting that the films all conveyed messages that "apply to all of us no matter who we are, what we look like, where we come from and who we love," as the Los Angeles Times reports. She then went on to announce the winning film, Argo.

Obama was praised for appearing elegant and eloquent. But would she have presented the award had it gone to director Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty?

That film, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has been deemed highly controversial (although some argue misguidedly so) for depicting the use of torture in seeking intelligence on bin Laden's whereabouts.

As the Bloomberg news agency reports, Zero Dark Thirty was largely shut out of the Oscars, in spite of emerging as a leading contender for best picture, best actress and best original screenplay only three months ago.

The only award Zero Dark Thirty managed to secure was for sound editing, and it had to share that honour in a rare tie with the James Bond flick Skyfall.

Days earlier, Jill Serjeant of Reuters had predicted the political fallout surrounding the film would be too hot for the Oscars.

Did Zero Dark Thirty deserve more than it got?