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Oscars Blow-by-Blow 2012

Posted by NumberSix , 27 February 2012 · 368 views

Presented below is the timeline of events as I witnessed them during tonight's ABC telecast of the 84rd Academy Awards. All quotes are approximate as best as possible without benefit of rewatching, cribbing from national news outlets, or much proofreading. Our household does not own a DVR; all recollections are a combination of short-term memory and notes hastily handwritten on a legal pad, just like our ancestors did in the Old World.

8:30 - Professional narrator Academy Award Winner Morgan Freeman presents a brief intro setting the night's theme, "The Magic of the Movies", which is never mentioned again.

8:31 - The expected montage of Billy Crystal inserted into clips both real and staged from the likes of The Artist; The Descendants (including a shared kiss between George Clooney and a comatose Crystal); Moneyball; Midnight in Paris (with unapologetic demographic-pandering cameos from Justin Bieber and Crystal as Sammy Davis Jr.); The Help; Bridesmaids; Hugo; Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol; and The Adventures of Tintin before being spirited through a dimension made of numerous floating image-filled strips of celluloid film, probably called the Kingdom of Obsoletia.

8:36 - Crystal takes the stage in person and, in honor of Kodak's impending bankruptcy, welcomes us to the "Chapter 11 Theatre". He wastes no time in launching into the expected medley of songs about the nominated films. The sound mix on our end made his vocals echo more than they should've and obfuscated any lyrics sung at more than 90 wpm, but I managed to make out the moral of the story, "9 is the new 5."

8:42 - Crystal offers a quick shout-out to Carl Swabo (sp??), professional Oscar ceremony seat-filler for 59 years, since the same year that The Greatest Show on Earth somehow won Best Picture just by filming a stupid circus and daring Jimmy Stewart to put on clown makeup.

8:43 - Immediate kickoff of first category, Best Cinematography, whose beauteous nominees are commemorated with two-second excerpts, mentions of their name, and nothing else. The winner, Robert Richardson for Hugo, speeds through his speech as if fearing a sniper's rifle.

8:44 - Best Art Direction is similarly celebrated with clips shown faster than the eye can see. No other categories are treated this way for the rest of the night. Of the two representatives for the winning Hugo, Dante Ferretti does all the speaking and declares the award won "for Martin [Scorsese, presumably on the assumption that he would lose big the rest of the night] and for Italy [shut out even worse than Scorsese this year]!"

8:47 - SURPRISE LADY DRUMMER CLOSE-UP. She's the first winner in this year's commercial-segue motif, "Hurray for the Orchestra!"

8:51 - Crystal again welcomes us to the "Your Name Here Theatre". Mandatory superfluous montage of Things That Are Movies uses clips randomly chosen from Forrest Gump, Titanic, a Twilight flick, Legends of the Fall, The Princess Bride, Avatar, Amelie, Ghost, Jaws, Apollo 13, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Hangover, Planes Trains & Automobiles, The Shawshank Redemption, 48 Hours, Austin Powers, one of the Fockerses, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, A Few Good Men, The French Connection, The Exorcist, Star Wars, E.T., Raging Bull, The Natural, Midnight Cowboy, and When Harry Met Sally. A few of those titles are missing punctuation because I'm no longer in the mood to double-back and replace all those commas with semicolons.

8:54 - The dueling necklines of Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez announce Best Costume Design, the first category whose sample clips also include brief testimonies from fans of, or participants in, the respective productions. The Artist picks up its first award, thus allowing Mark Bridges to teach the audience and the other presenters how to pronounce "Michel Hazanavicius". (Hint: not "Michael".)

8:57 - Diaz and Lopez stick around for Best Makeup. After the nominees' clips, the camera cuts back to the main stage, where the ladies now have their backs to the camera like a pair of Top Cow Comics antiheroines. Perhaps they tired of making eye contact with anyone. The award goes to The Iron Lady's Mark Coulier and Roy Heiland, the latter of whom has been Meryl Streep's go-to makeup maestro for every film she's done since at least Sophie's Choice.

9:00 - The first of three talking-heads interview montages, in which famous people answer the question, something like, "What are your earliest memories of going to the movies?" Answerers include Ben Stiller, Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Hilary Swank, Tom Cruise, Helen Mirren, and former star Barbra Streisand. Bonus points to Pitt for waxing eloquent about War of the Gargantuas; demerits to Sandler for revealing a secret childhood obsession over Sean Connery's chest hair.

9:06 - Sandra Bullock presents Best Foreign Language Film, which she prefaces in fluent German. The giant screen behind her displays a world map pinpointing the locations of each of the five nominated countries, in case we were wondering where they were. We now have confirmation that Canada is still to our north. Winning for the much-heralded A Separation, director Asghar Farhadi struggles to unfold his acceptance speech notes and concludes by decrying all the uninformed, bandwagon-jumping Iran-haters out there.

9:09 - Crystal warns the audience, "Be careful, you're in his eyeline," before Christian Bale emerges from stage right. The Best Supporting Actress clips naturally include a shot of Melissa McCarthy doing an unbecoming pratfall. The winner, Octavia Spencer for The Help, understandably cries the hardest of anyone tonight, names Steven Spielberg among those who changed her life, thanks the entire state of Alabama, and starts ordering herself, "Wrap it up!" before the orchestra has even begun lifting their instruments.

9:18 - A comedy-skit salute to the evil of focus groups imagines how such a group in 1939 might have desecrated The Wizard of Oz. The digression is worth it, thanks to an A-team ensemble of Christopher Guest, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, and Bob Balaban. If only the suits had listened to this group, Oz would've contained 300% more flying monkeys.

9:22 - Strained odd couple Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper hand out Best Film Editing to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whose shared winners resemble Al Franken and Ben Stiller. After sputtering out a few names, they draw blanks and flee the mike.

9:26 - Tindley stay frozen in place while passing Best Sound Effects Editing to the duo who worked on Hugo. One goes out of his way to praise Thelma Schoonmaker, Oscar-losing editor of same; the other thanks "everybody who's ever been born, or will be born, or reborn, or..." Somewhere out there is someone offended for being omitted anyway.

9:27 - Bradna nail the award-presenting hat trick as Best Sound Mixing goes to two more Hugo guys, one of whom ensures Thelma Schoonmaker doesn't go home forgotten and unloved.

9:34 - Kermit and Miss Piggy complain about their lousy balcony seats, then make way for the only athletic performance of the night, which -- surprisingly and strictly speaking -- isn't a standard interpretive dance number about moviegoing. This is a Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance number about moviegoing, which is totally different. Seriously, the intro alone is a wonder to behold, as two daredevils swing out from the stage and high above the audience in an oblique homage to the cropduster from North by Northwest, thankfully without also dramatically reenacting the acrobatic injury scenes from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.

9:39 - Crystal sums up the performance: "We got puppets, acrobats...we're one pony away from being a bar mtizvah!" He also waves hi to the elderly nominees in attendance, Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow, then acknowledges the telecast's doubtlessly thrilled "74-to-80 demographic" and anticipates next year's ceremony being held in "the Flomax Theatre".

9:41 - Iron Man 3 costars Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow try to take the stage. Downey, in comedy mode, is accompanied by a film crew ostensibly recording a "bleeding edge" documentary called "The Presenter". After mandatory comedy, Best Documentary Feature goes not to the one produced by Peter Jackson, but to the inspirational sports story Undefeated, about an underdog team who win games despite bad odds and then there are triumphs of the will and such. One of those accepting calls something "ridiculous", while another gets bleeped.

9:45 - Chris Rock brags about animation voiceover work -- both its imaginative flexibility ("If you're a black man, you can play a donkey or a zebra!") and its low effort-to-reward ratio (enter a booth; say "It's time to go to the store"; wait for a million-dollar check). With that, Best Pixar Animated Feature is accepted by Pixar's Rango director Gore Verbinski, who must also be affiliated with Pixar somehow. Wait. Not a Pixar film, as it happens. Impossible yet true. I don't understand. They made a film in 2011. If we don't reward Cars 2, then the Oscars are a SHAM.

9:52 - Crystal is required to do a Bridesmaids homage with Melissa McCarthy, because the Academy just absolutely needs to have it drilled into their heads that Bridesmaids is the New Greatest Film of All Time and that the films they actually nominated instead are WRONG.

9:53 - Presenting Best Visual Effects are Ben Stiller playing a rare straight-man role while Oscar newbie Emma Stone is the wacky one, freaking out about her luck, embarrassing Jonah Hill in the audience, threatening a musical medley of her own ("Real Steel and Hugo / Are the real deal and you know!"), and countering Stiller's skeptical disdain with a laundry list of his own past Oscar sins, including but not limited to his one-time Na'Vi costume.

Eventually the award goes to Hugo because of a rare skillful use of 3-D, disregarding all incensed Internet protests about Pixar's Apes being robbed. Wait, okay, so Pixar wasn't involved with that one, either. I'm sure they're in here somewhere. Maybe they win Best Director.

9:58 - Academy Award Winner Melissa Leo avoids cursing this year and presides over the Lifetime Achievement Award masquerading as a Best Supporting Actor award to Christopher Plummer, who greets his first Oscar with the pickup line, "You're only two years older than me, darling!" He also thanks costar Ewan McGregor, referring to him as, "a superb artist, with whom I would share this award if I had any decency...but I don't." He may have said other funny things, but his nose was inexplicably gray and distracting.

10:04 - SURPRISE KEYBOARDIST CLOSEUP.

10:08 - Crystal resurrects an old gag from telecasts past, "What Are They Thinking?" Winning performance goes to Martin Scorsese, whose rapid facial shifts amazingly keep up with Crystal's own staccato impression of him. Notably in the audience as well: Uggy the dog from The Artist.

10:10 - The annual speech of death from the President of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences, whose name I'm omitting for his own protection. Wooden, stultifying, perfectly in line with expectations.

10:11 - Crystal's candid response: "Thank you for whipping the crowd into a frenzy...Mr. Excitement." Biggest laugh of the evening.

10:12 - A story-tall monolith in the shape of sheet music emerges from the rear stage floor, titled "Hans Zimmer, 'Oscar Theme'". Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson stand before it as snippets of the Best Original Score nominees are projected upon it. While Cruz reads nominees, Wilson stares down at her, not at the camera and definitely not at her eyes or general above-the-shoulder region. The winner is every silent movie ever for The Artist, as repurposed by Ludovic Bource. Aware of the oddness of his taking the award on their behalf, Bource begs the audience weirdly for mercy: "Please accept me because I've got so much love to give you." The audience merely turns away from him and asks for some time to be alone for a while.

10:16 - Will Ferrell and a self-mispronounced Zach Galifianakis arise from the orchestra pit, clad in white tuxedos and clanging their brandished cymbals with every step. Instead of full-length performances of each Best Original Song nominee -- in fact, even in lieu of truncated one-verse-one-chorus renditions as a few past ceremonies have done -- all we get are five-second clips from the movies, not even so much as a live performer. Even though Kermit and Jason Segel are right there in the audience. Regardless, the sham of a second nominee is summarily dismissed and the award is hastily handed to Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, the genius responsible for "Man or Muppet".

10:20 - Candy girls infiltrate the audience and hand out buckets of popcorn to anyone not on a diet or suspicious of being poisoned. Before going to commercial, the announcer references Kristen Wiig, star and cowriter of Bridesmaids, the New Greatest Film of All Time, by spouting random fun trivia: of all the SNL alumni ever nominated for an Oscar, none has ever actually won. Can this BE? Does this spell doom for Bridesmaids, the New Greatest Film of All Time? Tune in later to find out!

10:23 - In one of the few remotely memorable Super Bowl commercials clearly being aired during the wrong show, the makers of Tide license "Pop Goes the World" by Men Without Hats. It blows my mind that anyone besides me remembers that catchy little obscurity. Well played, Tide. Well played.

10:24 - Crystal beholds the Hollywood royalty dominating the front row and asks, "Why don't we chip in and buy the Dodgers?" After nailing that, he then flubs his TelePrompted intro for Angelina Jolie, doing a disturbing impression of Kate Moss. She has the honor of presenting Best Adapted Screenplay to Jim Rash, costar of Community, the greatest comedy on TV when it's not on forced unfair hiatus. Oh, and the film's director and their cowriter were there, too. Alexander Payne does all the talking (to his parent(s): "Thanks for letting me skip nursery school so we could go the movies") while Rash struts and preens in a manner somewhat more manly than his freakish Community character Dean Pelton would. This is the closest thing to a new Community episode that we've had so far in 2012, so please do forgive my withdrawal symptoms.

10:29 - Jolie announces and accepts Best Original Screenplay on behalf of Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris. Sure, Kermit and Uggy can clear their schedules and cough up the airfare to attend, but Allen once again refuses to skip Sunday jazz night just once because it would kill him.

10:30 - The second of three talking-heads interview montages, in which famous people answer the question, something like, "What makes a great movie?" Sage speculation is provided by Seth Rogen, Edward Norton, Robert Downey Jr. (calling it "a great question for Werner Herzog to complicate"), Reese Witherspoon, Morgan Freeman, Robert DeNiro, possibly Viola Davis but I'm not sure because I glanced at my cacography at that exact moment, Steve Carell, Gabourey Sidibe, Warren Beatty, Don Rickles, Brad itt, Sacha Baron Cohen, Adam Sandler, and, yes, Werner Herzog.

10:32 - SURPRISE VIOLINIST CLOSEUP. Right before cutting from guitarist to commercial, we're subjected to another blasted clip from Bridesmaids, the New Greatest Film of All Time.

10:36 - Milla Jovovich is this year's token young woman forced to host the annual complex SciTech Awards Banquet, held each year apart from the main Oscars ceremony for the sake of the viewers at home who might otherwise take that time to nod off and miss all the really good awards. This year's winners invented a hi-def camera that can reach 2000 f.p.s., a gyro system something-or-other than accompanied a shot from Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, a laser recorder thing, and -- in a rare interesting moment for this mandatory Oscar minute -- a general achievement award to the legendary Douglas Trumbull, special effects guru involved in everything seminal from 2001 to Blade Runner. I made a point of waking up to hear that one.

10:38 - Our next presenters: six cast members from Bridesmaids, the new Greatest Film of All Time. OKAY, WE GET IT. HAIL BRIDESMAIDS. PRAISE BRIDESMAIDS. WORSHIP BRIDESMAIDS AT THE CHURCH OF YOUR CHOICE. ZIP-A-DEE-EVER-LOVIN'-DOO-DAH.

Erm. So. In a failed attempt to capture my interest, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph initiate the first of the three short-film categories by comparing movies to "wieners". 'Cause bawdy wimmens with tired material is the BEST funny-wimmens. HUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRR.

...sorry. Anyway. Surprise: the old white men of the Academy vote Best Live-Action Short Film to "The Shore" which is about old white men. Irish director (and past Oscar nominee) Terry George brings his daughter/producer Oorlagh George onstage with him to accept the award. He credits the Irish for being "great talkers" and commends their strides made in becoming more peaceful in recent years, but fails to tell what I'm sure is an utterly fascinating story about where the name "Oorlagh" comes from.

10:41 - Academy Award Nominee Melissa McCarthy and some British lady from...that...grrr... the aforementioned New Greatest Film of All Time begin straight-faced, until an audience member shouts, "SCORSESE", prompting them to play Oscar Drinking Game and take swigs at the podium. IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE OF DRINKING. HYUK HYUK HYUK.

...

...so yeah, Best Documentary Short Subject goes to "Saving Face", about Pakistani women who receive much-needed plastic surgery after being attacked with acid in the face by their fellow countrymen, many of whom are apparently deranged comic book fans who know Two-Face's origin by heart.

10:44 - Elle Kemper from The Office and a blond lady from That New Greatest Film of All Time Which Must Not Be Named both eschew joking altogether, wisely getting down to business and giving Best Animated Short Film to the year's best animated short film in accordance with my prophecy, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore". Co-director William Joyce refers to himself and his cohort Brandon Oldenburg as "swamp rats from Louisiana" and won't stop clenching his teeth in joy, especially since that doesn't sound possible. In the audience, a stymied Pixar staff immediately disavows "La Luna" and plots bloody revenge on the Academy.

10:47 - SURPRISE GUITARIST CLOSEUP. Plus more candy girls.

10:50 - Noted cancer survivor Michael Douglas sets the stage for Best Director to finally go to Michel Hazanavicius, who insists The Artist "is not that good" and extends gratitude to "the crazy financing person who put money in that movie." Michel, Michael. Michael, Michel.

10:55 - Seventeen-Time Academy Award Nominee And Two-Time Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep summarizes the results of the 2011 Governors Awards, the dinner ghetto to which all once-prestigious "special" awards are now consigned, thus putting them at equal footing with the SciTech geek buffet. This year's recipients: one Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Oprah Winfrey; one Honorary Oscar to James Earl Jones; and one Honorary Oscar to makeup artist Dick Smith (The Exorcist, Amadeus). After showing us clips from that dinner, the cameras turn to the three, now present in the theater but confined in a back-row penalty box from which they can't possibly escape, make speeches, and lengthen the telecast.

10:59 - SURPRISE VIOLINIST CLOSEUP REPRISE.

11:03 - Half the ceiling bulbs are shut down, the orchestra puts on some Joy Division on their iPods, and the In Memoriam segment begins. The somewhat tacky applause-o-meter is scrapped in favor of Esperanza Spalding covering Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" with children's choir backup. Names I know include Jane Russell, Ken Russell, Farley Granger, Peter Falk, Cliff Robertson, Sidney Lumet, Jackie Cooper, Ben Gazzara, Whitney Houston (who starred in approximately two whole movies and did not die in 2011), Pixar cofounder Steve Jobs (of all places, here they are), grand finale Elizabeth Taylor, and former Oscar ceremony producers Laura Ziskin and Gil Cates.

11:11 - The second of three talking-heads interview montages, in which famous people answer the question, something like, "Why make movies?" Lucky contestants: Gabourey Sidibe, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Robert Downey Jr., Jonah Hill, Robert DeNiro, and Tom Cruise. Best of show: Patton Oswalt, who describes filmmaking as a rocket launch that either explodes or "does 900 loop-de-loops, and your eyes are gonna burn out from splendor and awe."

11:13 - Academy Award Winner Natalie Portman steps up for Best Actor, but missteps by spoiling the ending of The Artist. George Clooney goes home empty-handed as the Academy turns to The Artist himself Jean Dujardin, whose acceptance speech begins with "I love your country!", middles with him reading Oscar factoids from a card (the 1929 ceremony was fifty minutes long -- Believe It or Not!), and ends with a burst of French enthusiasm I didn't understand.

11:21 - SURPRISE SINGING KEYBOARDIST CLOSEUP. Not till the screen fades to black do I realize that singing keyboardist was the amazing Academy Award Winner A. R. Rahman. Now I have to wonder if any of those other musicians were noteworthy. Nametags would've been nice.

11:22 - In the only other laudable commercials of the night, Ellen DeGeneres headlines the last of four new amusing time-traveling JCPenney spots shown throughout this evening.

11:24 - Academy Award Winner Colin Firth represents for Best Actress. His extended greetings to each of the five nominees includes memories of the two he's worked with, Meryl Streep from Mamma Mia! ("I was gay. We were happy.") and Michelle Williams from whatever A Thousand Acres was. The surprise winner is not odds-on favorite Viola Davis, but newly rechristened Seventeen-Time Academy Award Nominee And Three-Time Academy Award Winner Meryl Streep. Her first response to her adoring famous public: "Oh, COME ON." She thanks her husband upfront so his name isn't orchestra'd out, confirms the debt she owes to Roy Heiland, and says something that the censors bleeped.

11:32 - Some awards in past ceremonies have had their surprise blown by virtue of the telecast producer assigning a presenter who's a close friend or contemporary of the nominee with the ridiculously best odds of winning. For example, remember the time when three famous directors shared the stage to give out a Best Director statue, and it just so happened that the winner was their good friend Martin Scorsese for The Departed? Sadly, it appears Great-Grandma Hazanavicius couldn't make the trip to Hollywood -- no doubt due to scheduling conflict -- so Best Picture is instead awarded to The Artist by the totally unrelated Tom Cruise, all the better to dispel suspicion and feign suspense. Security slowly ushers a large party crowd onstage while producer Thomas Langmann lists all the famous directors he'd much rather work with someday -- Forman, Almodovar, Polanski, etc. The director he was stuck with gets one last opportunity at the mike, and uses it to tell his kids back home in Paris that it's now 6:30 a.m. there, and they need to be in bed in the next thirty seconds. He saves his final thank-yous for "Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder." Uggy is also walked onstage on a leash, but not allowed near the mike for fear of him barking out an ugly political rant.

11:39 - A terse, unadorned farewell from Billy Crystal. End-credits highlights include the curious omission of Bruce Vilanch; the trademarked "No Animals Were Harmed" slogan in super-sized letters to assure us that Uggy wasn't shock-collared onstage and Miss Piggy kept her hands off Kermit; and a slow-motion instant replay of Academy Award Winner Dean Pelton from TV's Community.

The final tally: five apiece for Hugo and The Artist; two for The Iron Lady; one apiece for The Descendants, A Separation, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Beginners, Rango, The Help, The Muppets, and Midnight in Paris, and absolutely positively thoroughly exquisitely zero for Bridesmaids.

  • Mara Jade Skywalker, Lucas1138 and Copper +1 this



I was kinda shocked by how many technical awards Hugo won. But then, I still haven't seen it so I can't judge it myself.
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irishdancer2
March 06 2012 05:11 PM
I can't believe you didn't mock Angelina Jolie for her ridiculous presenting-pose. The guys she presented the awards to mocked her, and it was quite possibly the funniest moment of the night :yes:
I get it now, but at the time, I had no idea Jim Rash was parodying Jolie because I'd all but ignored her while she was onscreen. Maybe if she hypnotized me the way she does the media, it would've worked better for me. Alas.

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