Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Oscars As It Happens

Felix also has an awards show, known to the 312 people who watch it as the Tonys.

7:31 - Coke, Coke, Coke. The kind you drink, not the kind Jack Nicholson sprinkles on his French toast like so much powdered sugar. Everybody drink Coke! If you don't, they'll cancel the Academy Awards.

7:32 - Jon Stewart welcomes the crowd to the Oscars, or as he calls it, post-strike makeup sex. They all seem really, really overdressed for that if you ask me, but maybe they do things differently in Hollywood.

7:34 - There are lots of psychotic killers among this year's nominees, Stewart notes, before thanking God for teen pregnancy. The knocked up teens, they keep things lighthearted. He kisses some Bardem and Christie ass before making the obligatory Atonement/Yom Kippur jokes for the Jews in the audience. (Represent!) He also makes the obligatory Diablo Cody stripper reference, which will hopefully be the last of the decade.

7:39 - Stewart: "Oscar is 80 this year, which makes him now automatically the frontrunner for the Republican nomination."

7:41 - The first presenter, Jennifer Garner, comes out with something scary on her head. Oh wait, that's her hair. She gives the award for Best Achievement in Costume Design to Alexandra Byrne for Elizabeth: The Golden Age. No surprise there. Byrne doesn't trip on her way up and doesn't make an obnoxious speech, so things are off to an adult start.

7:43 - Barbra Streisand reflects on her Best Actress tie with Katharine Hepburn and says ... pretty much nothing.

7:47 - After a commercial break, George Clooney strolls to the microphone, looking all, "Hey, I'm George Clooney, possessor of roguish charm and perfectly tailored suits." He introduces a video retrospective of eighty years of Oscar. There's a streaker behind David Niven. There's Cher in a Bob Mackie monstrosity. There's a lot of Johnny Carson, some Uma/Oprah, a little of Ellen vacuuming, and then it happens: Celine Dion's voice comes out of nowhere, like a cheesy French-Canadian ninja, singing the theme to Titanic over clips of acceptance speeches. You know what would've worked better than "My Heart Will Go On?" I'll tell you what: Kelis's "Milkshake." Am I wrong or am I wrong?

7:51 - Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell come out, in a shameless bit of Get Smart promotion. She is wearing a very ugly, holiday-themed prom dress. So is he. Okay, he's not. He's wearing a suit. What's going on under the suit, who knows. There could be a very ugly, holiday-themed prom dress. But if there is, we don't see it. They banter in an unfunny fashion while the audience lets out the occasional sympathy laugh. Finally, they introduce the nominees for Best Animated Feature Film. The winner is another gimme, Ratatouille, and Brad Bird accepts the award, goes on for too long about his junior high guidance counselor, says he loves his wife, and says "I hate that thing" about the prompter that's telling him to hurry it up.

7:55 - To the consternation of dozens of sad, pathetic shut-ins who spend all their time hating on Katherine Heigl on the interwebs, the Knocked Up star's name is pronounced correctly as she's introduced to present the award for Best Achievement in Makeup. Heigl is visibly nervous and asks for the audience's forgiveness in a way that seems somewhat scripted. She's treating this like it's some kind of audition, but she looks really, really gorgeous and can get away with it as a result. Marion Cotillard gets verklempt in the audience when the Oscar goes to La Vie en Rose's Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald. They try to keep it brief, but are still cut off by the music.

7:58 - My TV goes on mute as Jon Stewart explains that we'll be forced to hear all the Best Original Song nominees. Amy Adams materializes to perform "The Happy Working Song" from Enchanted. She's a great actress, Amy Adams, and was fantastic in Junebug, but if Hollywood casting directors realize she's over 30 and weighs more than 105 pounds and boot her out of town, she could have a brilliant career as a kindergarten teacher because she's very animated, like Nanny G from Cheers animated, as she sings. And sings. And sings.

8:06 - Back from commercial, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson takes the stage. Yes, I really typed that. Yes, it really happened. No, he didn't call anyone a jabroni. He gives the Best Visual Effects award to a bunch of guys from The Golden Compass. They're a nerdy lot - Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood are their names - so I immediately like them. They say hardly anything, so I immediately like them some more.

8:10 - Double-nominee Cate Blanchett looks very pretty as she hands the Best Achievement in Art Direction award to Sweeney Todd's Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, who, like Blanchett, previously won for The Aviator. They're nervous, they have heavy accents, and they're ushered off the stage like they had Soy Bomb written on their chests.

8:12 - That was nice of the Academy to devote a whole two minutes to Art Direction, wasn't it? Now Jon Stewart's back, being all Jon Stewarty about Cate's versatility as an actress. After a walk down Best Supporting Actor memory lane, Jennifer Hudson makes her way to the microphone. Then a crazed Jennifer Holliday lunges from the shadows wielding a lead pipe, obviously looking to go all Tonya Harding on the American Idol reject, but Gil Cates has security taser her just in time.

Hudson regains her composure and reads. From. The. Teleprompter. Like. This. You'd be nervous too if you were that close to being violently hobbled in front of Tilda Swinton and Daniel Day-Lewis. No Country for Old Men's Javier Bardem is the winner, of course, and kisses an old lady who was most likely played by Cate Blanchett. He's talking fast, thanks the Coen Brothers, and recites most of his speech in Spanish. My Spanish is pretty rusty since I only learned enough in school to proposition hookers, but I'm 98% certain that what Bardem said is that Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar as much as he does.

8:22 - Jon Stewart brings us back from commercial with an unfunny bit involving the writers' strike and binoculars and periscopes. But wait, there's more. There's also a salute to bad dreams. It's like Conan O'Brien has taken things over.

8:24 - Keri Russell, who was funny and lovely in Waitress, introduces "Raise It Up," a song from August Rush that isn't as annoying as the song from Enchanted.

8:28 - Owen Wilson presents the award for Best Live Action Short Film to Philippe Pollet-Villard, director of Le Mozart des Pickpockets. Philippe doesn't know much English, so he wraps it up quickly. Too quickly, because it's time for some Jerry Seinfeld Bee Movie nonsense before the Best Animated Short Film award is given to Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman for Peter & the Wolf.

8:34 - Best Supporting Actress time. Previous winners include Linda Hunt, Dianne Wiest, Whoopi Goldberg, Juliette Binoche and WE ALREADY KNOW! We saw the goddamn telecasts, you self-indulgent bastards. Wait, Kevin Spacey won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar? Was that for A Time to Kill? Anyway, Alan Arkin finally shows up to introduce the nominees. The Cate Blanchett clip goes on for a long, long time - so long that I'm Not There's end credits actually start to play. Ruby Dee slaps Denzel Washington, which I've been wanting to do ever since he got to make out with Sanaa Lathan and Eva Mendes in the same movie. I start to nod off during the Atonement clip, and Amy Ryan's Gone Baby Gone clip is halfway over by the time I compose myself. Then it's Tilda Swinton time. I predict a Tilda Swinton win, my friends, and not just because it's fun to say her name.

Tilda Swinton wins the Oscar - told you so - and looks shocked. She doesn't stop to kiss her boyfriend as she heads up to accept it, which saddens everyone at The Daily Mail. "I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this," she says, appraising the statuette and noting that they have similar shaped heads and, as she says, "buttocks." Listening to Swinton say buttocks has been the high point of the evening so far, and then she teases George Clooney in a way that gets everyone giggling. It's funnier, and much less forced, when she does it than when Brad Pitt does.

8:40 - Sidney Poitier reflects on winning the Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field. I reflect on thinking his daughter was super-hot in Death Proof. Thanks, Sidney Poitier, for all the years of excellent acting. And for having a hot daughter.

8:44 - "The always fantastic Jessica Alba" comes out - their words, not mine - fetus in tow, to recap the Scientific and Technical Awards, which she hosted. Because once you work for James Cameron, you never escape the geeks.

8:45 - Jon Stewart suggests that Jack Nicholson might impregnate some of the female attendees, then introduces Josh Brolin and James McAvoy. That Brolin looks smart in a suit, I must say. They're there for the Best Adapted Screenplay thing, and I could be wrong about this, but in the clip of Sarah Polley sitting in front of her laptop, I don't think she's actually writing Away from Her. I think she was on the IMDB message board trolling threads on Marion Cotillard's page, posting stuff like: "Suck it, frogz!! Julie Christie all the way!"

The Brothers Coen win for No Country for Old Men. Their speech isn't as entertaining as their screenplays. If their speech was a movie, M. Emmet Walsh and his hand would be in the same room, no one would be fed into a wood chipper, etc. Maybe they were making some kind of writerly comment that went over my head. I don't know. I love the Coens as much as the next movie nerd, but I got distracted by brownie crumbs on my shirt and only half-heard the last part of their thank yous.

8:49 - Blah, blah, official Academy business stuff. Accuracy, honesty - their voting process has everything that was missing in Florida and Ohio.

8:52 - Miley Cyrus, who has nothing to do with anything, comes out to introduce "That's How You Know," another song from Enchanted. She mows through her speech like a pro, and then Kristin Chenoweth comes out, looking more like Elphaba than Glinda, to sing. My TV? It's on mute again.

8:55 - Gmail Notifier dings from my system tray, letting me know that one of my friends wants to complain about something. While checking my mail, I skim the spam folder looking for anything interesting and find urgent missives with the following subject lines: "Just for once, wouldn't you like to be 9 inches long?" and "Imagine being able to satisfy women until all they want to do is have sex with you." The former subject line is a bit presumptuous, I think, because for all its sender knows I'm already packing a solid 9 inches. (At least that's what I tell the guys on BigMuscle when I'm in need of a little online amusement...) As for the latter, my imagination isn't that richly textured and I find it difficult to believe women will ever want me for anything but my collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs and vintage Don Knotts movie posters.

9:00 - After some dumb pregnancy jokes, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill come out as Dame Judi Dench and non-Dame Halle Berry, then argue about who's Halle Berry. They're both dressed in suits, by the way. There's no men of South Park cross-dressing action here. They present Best Achievement in Sound Editing to a flustered Karen M. Baker and Per Hallberg for The Bourne Ultimatum. They're funnier than Rogen and Hill, actually.

9:05 - It's Rogen and Hill again, still bickering about who gets to be Halle Berry as they give another award to The Bourne Ultimatum. Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis win for Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, dedicating their award to Paul Huntsman, a sound editor who died last week.

9:08 - After copious clips of previous Best Actress winners, Forest Whitaker takes the stage to give this year's Oscar to Marion Cotillard. Everyone has been saying Julie Christie is the frontrunner, but everyone is wrong. Cotillard owns this. And she looks rather fetching in the audience, in my humble opinion. So does Laura Linney. Ellen Page also cleans up quite well, though she looks nervous as hell. Marion Cotillard wins, and the gasp from the audience is such that you'd think someone just outed Jodie Foster. I told you guys. I know these things. Cotillard is somewhat incoherent as she accepts her award, which is only fitting given what a rambling mess of a movie La Vie en Rose was.

9:18 - Colin Farrell comes out, looking like he's bathed within the last few days. He introduces the song "Falling Slowly" from Once, which is performed by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. This song, I'm going to predict right now, will win the Oscar. It deserves it, too, the way "Lose Yourself" and "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" deserved it. And, you know, it's on my iPod. Just like Once, the DVD, is wedged onto one of my bookshelves. Scoff if you must, but I love that movie.

9:22 - Next up is Jack Nicholson, Colin Farrell's spiritual guru, to tell us all how great movies are. How they touch us the way he, at 70, continues to touch nubile, barely legal aspiring actresses, and so on. Because we can't celebrate eighty years of Oscar enough, it's time to look back on eighty years of Best Picture winners. Look, it's The Great Ziegfeld! Hey, it's Gone with the Wind. Ooh, Mrs. Miniver! Except Mrs. Miniver sucked. And so did Gentleman's Agreement. What about The Greatest Show on Earth? That's kind of crappy. Around the World in 80 Days, anyone? Oliver!, Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, Chariots of Fire - it's a mediocrity fest.

9:26 - FYI, my ass is numb.

9:27 - How can Renée Zellweger see the teleprompter when she has on a ton of eye makeup and never stops squinting? She presents the Best Achievement in Editing Oscar to Christopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum. He doesn't look surprised and runs through his speech in about five seconds. That's what I love about editors, they know how to use time wisely.

9:31 - Nicole Kidman, whose face looks more recognizably human than usual, is covered in diamonds as she introduces a piece on Robert F. Boyle, a production designer and this year's recipient of the Honorary Oscar. The 98-year-old Boyle comes to the podium and thanks people like Alfred Hitchcock, Norman Jewison and Don Siegel, "who cut to the chase and gave us truth." And right-wing propaganda. Don't forget the right-wing propaganda! Philip Seymour Hoffman looks bored in the audience, while Laura Linney looks moved. Philip Seymour Hoffman wins Oscars and Laura Linney loses them. There's a lesson in here somewhere, kids, about how it pays to disrespect your elders.

9:39 - The washer's spin cycle has ended and it's time for the blue shirt I've had since middle school that's been falling apart for the last four years to be put in the dryer. However, my ass is still numb. If one of you wants to help me out, go straight down the hall and to the right. Don't look at my underwear, though, because that would be totally creepy of you.

9:42 - The Tom Cruise Beard Parade continues as Penelope Cruz comes out, looking radiant but questionably attired, to present the award for Best Foreign Language Film. Austria's The Counterfeiters wins and Stefan Ruzowitzky accepts, name-checking several great Austrian directors who had to flee the country because of the Nazis, and is off the stage in a flash.

9:45 - Another song from Enchanted. Again, my TV's on mute. I contemplate getting up to put my laundry in the dryer, but I don't want to move. I'm not sure that I can move.

9:48 - John Travolta comes out in a non-homosexual way and awards the Best Song statuette to Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová for "Falling Slowly." Laura Linney looks very happy for them in the audience. Hansard gets a bit teary-eyed as he makes his acceptance speech, and Irglová is cut off before she can say anything. You stay classy, producers!

9:52 - Steven Spielberg, who also digs Once, briefly speaks about his Oscar win in a prerecorded clip.

9:53 - Have any of you seen the Netflix mailer I was going to return tomorrow? I thought I'd put it with my laptop case, but now I don't see it. If those movies don't get back to Netflix by Monday evening, they'll hold The Darjeeling Limited hostage and I'll be forced to read a book or something on Wednesday. That would be terrible!

9:54 - Oh, I forgot to add: Warm Water Under a Red Bridge and the women-in-prison classic Caged are the rentals I'm returning. Don't act like you weren't curious; you know you secretly long to know everything about me, like my astrological sign and my favorite Tina Turner song. Normally I'm a very private individual, but since you've been so well-behaved during this long ordeal, I'll give you this: Capricorn (I don't know much about astrology, but that usually makes people slap their hands to their faces like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone and go running in the opposite direction, so my sharing this is a big deal, what with me risking the rejection of people I don't know and all) and "River Deep - Mountain High."

Okay, so "River Deep" has some fucked up lyrics. That's pretty much a given with a Phil Spector production. But that scream near the end, that's what soul music, rock music, and Tina Turner are all about. You can put Tina through hell, making her sing a vocally demanding song 500,000 times (as she put it to a Rolling Stone reporter in 2004), until she's drenched in sweat and has to strip down to her bra in the recording booth, and not only is she going to triumph, she's going to sound so fierce doing it that every time the song plays on the radio and The Screech happens, a drag queen angel get its wig.

9:57 - Jon Stewart brings Markéta Irglová out to give the speech she was cruelly stopped from making moments earlier. There's another shot of Laura Linney in the audience, looking pleased. What's with all the Laura Linney shots tonight? I'm not complaining, but it's usually Jack Nicholson who gets the constant reaction shots.

9:58 - Cameron Diaz comes out and, probably baked, flubs a line. She recovers nicely and presents the Best Achievement in Cinematography Oscar to There Will Be Blood's Robert Elswit, who promptly thanks art director Jack Fisk, also known as Mr. Sissy Spacek, and director Paul Thomas Anderson.

10:01 - It's downer time as two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank brings on the In Memoriam segment. Jean-Pierre Cassel gets no applause, leading me to believe none of these people watch foreign films. The clapping for Ingmar Bergman just means they've seen Woody Allen movies.

10:08 - Earnest as ever, Amy Adams reads the nominees for Best Original Score. Dario Marianelli wins for Atonement and gives a boring speech.

10:12 - Tom Hanks introduces enlisted men and women to announce, via satellite from Baghdad, the Best Documentary, Short Subjects category. In a perversely funny twist, a servicewoman announces that Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth won for Freeheld, which happens to be about a lesbian couple's fight to be treated equally under the law. You can read an interview with filmmaker Wade by clicking here.

10:17 - Hanks presents the Best Documentary Feature award to Alex Gibney and Eva Orner for Taxi to the Dark Side, about U.S. torture practices. Michael Moore, whose Sicko was nominated in the same category, is enthusiastic about Dark Side's win.

10:23 - If ever an actor knew how to drain a screenplay of its humor and passion, it is Harrison Ford. So it's only fitting that Indiana Jones is brought out to present the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. Diablo Cody, who is dressed like Betty Rubble, wins. Her speech does not sound prepared, and she's rather emotional as she holds up her Oscar and says, "This is for the writers."

10:29 - After an overview of past Best Actor winners, Helen Mirren emerges, looking appropriately regal, to get the inevitable Daniel Day-Lewis win out of the way.

10:34 - Finally, the inevitable Daniel Day-Lewis win is out of the way. "That's the closest I'll ever come to getting a knighthood, so thank you," he says to Mirren after she hugs him. His speech isn't bloated or self-important, just simple and charming.

10:38 - I wonder how many hideous mistakes I've made so far in writing this. The person who guesses closest without going over gets a prize.

10:41 - Martin Scorsese gets almost as much applause as Diablo Cody as he strides out to present the Best Achievement in Directing award to the Coen Brothers. That's right, I'm calling it for the Coens. And it goes to the Coens. This year was not meant to be a year of surprises. "I don't have a lot to add to what I said earlier," Ethan says to laughter. "Thank you." Joel is wordier, but only by a bit, and they're off the stage within a minute.

10:44 - Denzel Washington, sans hair, announces the Best Picture winner, No Country for Old Men. Scott Rudin gives the acceptance speech with Joel and Ethan Coen standing behind him. Frances McDormand is laughing into her hand the whole time. Rudin ends things by thanking his partner, and Stewart ends things by thanking the audience. And my ass is still numb.

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