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Oscars Blow-by-Blow 2010

Posted by NumberSix , 08 March 2010 · 627 views

Presented below is the timeline of events as I witnessed them during tonight's ABC telecast of the 82nd Academy Awards. All quotes are approximate as best as possible without benefit of rewatching or much proofreading.

8:26 - Nominee for Worst Commercial of All Time #1: Remember the year Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars and wore multiple costumes? She revisits that running gag with an ad for Poise, a new feminine hygiene product. In retrospect her Oscar stint was a model of decorum.

8:30 - The actual ceremony begins with all ten Best Actor and Actress nominees in an onstage lineup. Gabourey Sidibe struts her stuff while she has the chance. All ten are then led to their seats by separate escorts, as if the producers were afraid they might run amuck in the aisles if left to their own devices.

8:32 - Legendary comedy singer Neil Patrick Harris performs an original tune called "No One Wants to Do It Alone", an ode to the merits of cohosting, while flocked by an army of dancers. With references to Harold and Kumar, and to Teams Jacob and Edward, and in describing our upcoming cohosts as "the biggest pair since Dolly Parton", Harris' material is nowhere near the standards of Dr. Horrible, or even his musical episode of Batman: the Brave and the Bold.

8:34 - Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin take the stage and are merciful enough to abstain from singing for the duration of the telecast. Instead they spend several long, sometimes hilarious, mostly awkward minutes with the mandatory annual celebrity-audience roast. Martin and Baldwin jokingly feign writer's block during George Clooney's turn on Fake-Surprise-Cam. James Cameron's moment involves old-school cardboard 3-D glasses and animated Na'Vi jellyfish, dispatched by a callous Martin with bug spray.

8:44 - Penelope Cruz introduces Best Supporting Actor to Inglourious Basterds star Christoph Waltz, who spends his thirty seconds thanking Quentin Tarantino for the serendipity.

8:50 - Throughout the telecast each of the ten Best Picture nominees receives its own introductory segment, narrated by someone with a tangential connection. Intro #1: The Blind Side, read by Ryan Reynolds, costar of Sandra Bullock's The Proposal, using his best gravelly cable-documentary voice.

8:53 - Nominee for Worst Commercial of All Time #2: trailer for a romantic comedy called The Bounty Hunter starring Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston. Call it the Oscar Salute to Bad Films Yet to Come.

8:55 - Cameron Diaz and Steve Carell, stars of Shrek and Over the Hedge (plus, y'know, new cartoons coming in 2010) either fake or stumble through a TelePrompter gag or error while presenting the Best Pixar Animated Feature to Up. The announcement is preceded by cute "prerecorded" interviews with stars from each of the nominated films. Funniest interviewee is Louis the Gator, with Dug a close second, though Coraline and Mr. Fox give good screen time, and an Irish fairy makes her American screen debut. In lieu of Carl and Russell, who couldn't attend in person what with their fictionality, co-director Pete Docter accepts the award and pines, "Who ever thought making a flipbook out of my third-grade math book would ever lead to this?"

9:00 - Martin introduces Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus as "two young actresses who have no idea who we are." The two jittery youngsters speed-read their way through the Original Song category, none of whose nominees are performed tonight. This year's producers love their dance numbers that were popular eighty years ago, but singers were shown the door. The winner: the theme from Crazy Heart, accepted by legendary music producer T-Bone Burnett (looking like a very tall and silent James Cameron impersonator) and relatively chatty youngster Ryan Bingham.

9:05 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #2: District 9, read by Chris Pine, star of some other sci-fi film that came out the same year but omitted from the Top Ten.

9:12 - Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. argue the merits of actors vs. writers in what I think was the funniest exchange of the night. If it appears on YouTube, I need to know. Best line of which I managed a lossless transcription: Downey's summary of the debate as a "collaboration between handsome gifted people and sickly mole people." Then they bestow Best Original Screenplay to sickly mole person Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker, who dedicates it to his father that passed away last month, and gives a shout-out to our men in Iraq and Afghanistan.

9:17 - A singular tribute to the late, lamented, influential filmmaker John Hughes, who passed away last year. Leading the very special memorial are seven out of the many, many beneficiaries who owe their careers to him: Matthew Broderick, Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Macauley Culkin. Hughes' widow and four children receive one of the night's few standing ovations.

9:23 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #3: Up, read by Samuel L. Jackson, costar of The Incredibles.

9:27 - Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana make their Oscar stage debuts together for the short-film categories. Reinforcing the theoretical importance of these categories are testimonials from three past short-film winners who each used their victories to help establish real Hollywood careers: Taylor Hackford (Ray, the Devil's Advocate[/i]), David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), and Pixar's own John Lasseter.

Winning for Best Animated Short Film is the profane Madison Avenue satire Logorama, in which Ronald McDonald goes on a killspree through a land and a population made entirely of product logos. Producer Nicolas Schmerkin thanks his "3,000 unofficial sponsors" and vows that if this short took six years to make, he should return to the Kodak Theatre for his next nomination "in about 36 years."

9:33 - Best Documentary Short Subject goes to the makers of Music by Prudence, about a wheelchair-bound singer from Zimbabwe. The makers take the stage, while Prudence herself remains where she's parked in the back, but gleams no less brightly for the moment.

9:36 - Best Live-Action Short goes to The New Tenants, which was simultaneously the most profane, most violent, and most life-affirming nominee of the five. (It also included a recipe I wish I could try someday.) Director Joachim Back makes an in-joke that references the short's ending, but producer Tivi Magnusson receives the dreaded Orchestra Drown-Out of Doom.

9:38 - Ben Stiller arrives onstage dressed and made-up into a Na'Vi, replete with tail and organic-USB head-braid. Stiller jokes that the alternative was a Nazi uniform, "but this show seemed a little Hitler-heavy," and that wearing either of his two pairs of Spock ears would've been "too nerdy." Several long seconds of improv pas by before James Cameron finally cracks up. While passing out Best Makeup to three folks for Star Trek Stiller tries to move aside "so as not to demean their moment of triumph," with only mixed success. Much trepidatious overstepping later, the winners thank a few people before retreating to the safety of "the backstage Thank-You-Cam" to finish their speeches for the press instead of for the public.

9:43 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #4: A Serious Man, read by Jeff Bridges, a Dude who once appeared in another Coen Bros. film.

9:48 - Best Adapted Screenplay is presented by Jake Gyllenhaal and some young actress whose face I didn't recognize and whose name I couldn't hear because my son yapped through the announcer's part. Winner Geoffrey Fletcher, for Precious, spends his first several seconds at the mike just crying and crying.

9:52 - Steve Martin introduces Queen Latifah, his costar from Bringing Down the House (whose director was one of this ceremony's producers), which Martin calls, "the highlight of her life." Latifah makes a short speech about a new Oscar tradition, the first annual Governors Award Event -- sort of a separate function to hand out lifetime achievement awards under a different name. This year's honorees who I guess never won a real Oscar: the one and only Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis (all three parts of The Godfather), producer John Calley (Catch-22, Ice Station Zebra, both Da Vinci Code flicks), and legendary crap-maestro Roger Corman. In addition to the offscreen dinner, all four also show up tonight. Bacall is particularly excited by the award, or at least by "the thought of a two-legged man in my room!" Famous or not, this is not something I need to hear from one of the elderly. Ever.

9:55 - Robin Williams makes a lame joke that I didn't bother to write down and then delivers the preordained Best Supporting Actress statue to Mo'Nique for Precious. After a standing ovation, she thanks the film's major benefactors Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, along with historical predecessor Hattie McDaniel. Her parting moral: "Forgo doing what's popular to do what's right."

10:01 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #5: An Education, read by Colin Firth, whose connection to the film is that he is also British.

10:04 - Nominee for Worst Commercial of All Time #3: what begins with all the trappings of a perfume ad morphs into a surprise PSA for cervical cancer. Ladies, were you charmed by our bottle design? PSYCH! Cervical cancer! Get some today! It worked so well, I'm having my cervix checked out right now!

10:05 - Avatar costar Sigourney Weaver hands out Best Art Direction to Avatar, and pulls it off so that no one suspects her of tampering with the results. Before taking the mike, the three cowinners take turns shaking hands with Weaver like a post-wedding receiving line. One of them makes sure to thank producer Jon Landau, who's put on some weight since appearing in the Titanic DVD extras back in '98.

10:09 - "Renowned clothes-whores" (Martin's word) Sarah Jessica Parker and director/designer Tom Ford (Martin again: "He directed A Single Man and she weighs a single pound!) gift Best Costume Design upon Stuffy British Period Piece, this year's edition being entitled The Young Victoria. Winner Sandy Powell, who already has previous Oscars for Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator, refuses to offer redundant gratitude to her loved ones and colleagues, instead giving props to those unsung heroes of our age, "costume designers who don't do dead monarchs or musicals."

10:12 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #6: Precious, read by Charlize Theron, whose tenuous relevance was, as far as I can tell, her role in another film in which she, like Mo'Nique, played a sort of Monster.

10:17 - Martin and Baldwin briefly allow screen time for musical director Marc Shaiman and conductor Harold Wheeler, then star in a brief pretaped spoof of Paranormal Activity that may be funny to me someday if I ever make time to see the original.

10:18 - A clipfest salute to those unsung heroes of the industry, horror films. The presenters are Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner, costars of the blood-soaked horror classic Twilight: New Moon. The clips are filled with screaming, stabbing, lurking, and so much eye-bulging that I nearly mistook this for a Marty Feldman tribute. The clip of Peter Boyle from the blood-soaked horror classic Young Frankenstein hardly disavows that impression.

10:23 - Anna Kendrick and Zac Efron are paired onstage as if the Academy hopes they'll hit it off and go steady. Kendrick is as immaculate as she was in Up in the Air; Efron's hair looks as though his friends just introduced him to the sounds of Green Day. The pair introduce the voice of Morgan Freeman, who narrates a sound-effects demonstration using the Wacker Avenue sequence from The Dark Knight.

10:26 / 10:28 - Kendrick and Billie Joe Jr. award both Best Sound I and Best Sound II to The Hurt Locker. Paul N. J. Ottoson, who was involved in both parts of that film's process, can now introduce himself as Two-Time Academy Award Winner Paul N. J. Ottoson. For those keeping track at home, that's two for Paul N. J. Ottoson and only one for Martin Scorsese.

10:29 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #7: Inglourious Basterds, read by Pulp Fiction costar John Travolta.

10:34 - Sandra Bullock mangles some TelePrompter lines that are cleverer than 90% of her oeuvre to announce Best Cinematographer. Avatar picks up a technical win here; recipient Mauro Fiore lapses briefly into Italian before recovering for the finish.

10:37 - Demi Moore introduces the annual In Memoriam segment, accompanied in song by James Taylor, master of respectful wake tunes. For some reason the montage begins with the camera so far away from the stage that the next three dearly departed after Patrick Swayze are unreadable and unrecognizable to the viewers at home, till the director gets his act together. Applause-o-Meter winners include the awesome Karl Malden, the famously related Roy Disney, and The Wiz costar Michael Jackson.

10:45 - Jennifer Lopez (weaing another tasteful dress) and Sam Worthington (wearing A Single Man glasses) introduce Best Original Score category...whose samples are accompanied by breakdancers. I still remember back in spring of 1999 when I was expected to believe that the score from Saving Private Ryan benefitted from the addition of modern dancers. I didn't buy it then, and I don't buy now that Michael Giacchino's lovely score for Upreally needs to accompany a guy doing the Robot. Yes, that The Robot. I also spotted what we used to call "the Centipede", plus the usual assortment of backspins and headspins that one might expect from a stage version of Breakin'. Once I uncovered my eyes, I was delighted to see Giacchino accept the award and urge aspiring young filmmakers to just DO IT.

10:54 - Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler, looking in their nearly-matching tuxes like twin Madagascar penguins, present the predestined Best Visual Effects Oscar to the eight thousand people who contributed to Avatar. Only six take the stage. One of them offers a closing moral: "The world we live in is just as amazing as the one we created for you." If that was meant as a serious word of advice to the Na'Vi Cosplayers Local 151, I don't think it worked, but I'd agree with him in general.

10:57 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #8: Up in the Air, read by costar Jason Bateman, the only major actor not nominated from that film. Between this and Juno, Bateman is a lock for some future Governors Award Event.

11:01 - Matt Damon gives Best Documentary Feature to The Cove, about Japanese dolphin slaughtering. Producer/actor Fisher Stevens high-fives Woody Harrelson on his way down the aisle. While Stevens doles out all the verbal gratitude, another producer simply holds up a sign behind him reading "TEXT DOLPHIN TO 44144". I'm pretty sure onstage bestiality-porn ads aren't kosher on network TV, but that's up to AMPAR to enforce or endorse as they see fit.

11:05 - Tyler Perry enjoys the spotlight while he can: "They just said my name at the Oscars! *giggle*" Humbly acknowledging that this may be a one-time event for him, Perry participates in a film-editing demonstration (which includes a quick shot of Martin and Baldwin backstage sharing a Snuggie) and passes the award to Bob Murawski and Chris Innis of The Hurt Locker. Murawski is still geeking out about the Corman tribute.

11:09 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #9: The Hurt Locker, read by Keanu Reeves, star of Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break, whose uncharacteristic deep voice sounds like he's recovering from either a severe chest cold or an embarrassing court hearing.

11:14 - Fast-talkers Pedro Alomodovar and Quentin Tarantino share the podium. Almodovar loses because the contest is unfairly in English. Between the two of them, Best Foreign Film goes to Argentina's The Secret of Their Eyes. Writer/director/executive producer/editor Juan Jose Campanella is one of the many winners tonight that thank the Academy, but in this case specifically "for not considering Na'Vi a foreign language."

11:19 - Best Picture Nominee Intro #10: Avatar, read by Titanic costar Kathy Bates.

11:24 - The Best Actor presentation begins! Five colleagues take the stage to give testimonials about the nominees:

* Tim Robbins recalls working with Morgan Freeman on The Shawshank Redemption. Freeman thought his name was Ted.
* Colin Farrell doesn't quite recall a night spent in Mexico with Jeremy Renner, his costar in the "dandelion action film" S*W*A*T.
* Julianne Moore reminisces about the three whole days she worked shooting A Single Man with Colin Firth.
* Michelle Pfeiffer returns from exile with a Fabulous Baker Boys anecdote involving Jeff Bridges in a makeup trailer. Sadly, no one under 30 has seen The Fabulous Baker Boys, and no one under 21 recognizes Michelle Pfeiffer.
* Vera Farmiga uses up the thesaurus in her nostalgia for that one time ages ago that she was initially intimidated by George Clooney when cast for Up in the Air.

11:32 - Kate Winslet has to shoo the five offstage and presents the award to Jeff Bridges, who thanks his mom and dad (and, to a certain extent, Sea Hunt) and is happy as a clam about his "groovy profession".

11:39 - The Best Actress presentation begins! Five colleagues take the stage to give testimonials about the nominees:

* Michael Sheen admits that Helen Mirren looked hot even on the set of The Queen, especially when the makeup over her spiderweb tattoo wore off.
* Forest Whitaker is very sensitive and flowery in his ethereal praise for Sandra Bullock's performance in his own directorial effort, Hope Floats.
* Oprah Winfrey commends Gabourey Sidibe for skipping school to audition for Precious. This wouldn't be the first time I've seen Oprah deliver a mixed message.
* Stanley Tucci, despite having worked with her on Julie & Julia and The Devil Wears Prada, announces that Meryl Streep's 16 previous Oscar nominations are grounds for instating a new AMPAR rule capping an actor's maximum lifetime nominations at 16.
* Peter Sarsgaard advises An Education costar Carey Mulligan that big fancy awards ceremonies are "something you're gonna have to get used to."

11:47 - Confessed Academy non-member Sean Penn tries to "start fresh" (his brief, odd words) by agreeing to present Best Actress to Sandra Bullock. Her first words at the mike: "Did I earn this or just wear y'all down?" Her gratitude extends to those who believed in her "and my lover Meryl Streep," whatever that meant.

11:53 - Baby-boomer idol Barbara Streisand insists on being the one to hand out Best Director. Fortunately for her, James Cameron does not win. Instead she has her plum front row seat for film history as she opens the envelope and intones, "Well, the time has come..." with a sort of smugness that makes me wonder if PriceWaterhouseCoopers peeked into the envelope early Sunday morning and gave her a heads-up. Regardless of Streisand, Kathryn Bigelow becomes The First Woman To Win Best Director. Bigelow is too shellshocked to say anything that struck me as being unusual enough to write down. She thanked the troops in Iraq, so there's that, except Mark Boal beat her to that hours ago.

11:58 - Mandatory presenter Tom Hanks breaks the suspense for us and names The Hurt Locker as Best Picture, even though it only played in three real US cities and made about fifty bucks, give or take. While Bigelow and the producers name names, cast members Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, and Brian Geraghty form a kickline on the platform behind them.

12:02 a.m. - Steve Martin ends the proceedings: "The show is so long that Avatar now takes place in the past." Cue end credits.

Final tally: six for The Hurt Locker; three for Avatar; and two apiece for Precious, Crazy Heart, Up, and Paul N. J. Ottoson.

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