Now it is time to live-blog the Oscars! And tonight I am your man. Me and the Oscars are oldest pals. Obsessive-compulsively, I’ve watched every supercast from start to stop since 1988, when Eddie Murphy handed out the Best Picture award to The Last Emperor. I was ten.
I used to love the bloody Oscars. In junior high, I read that 1000-page book Inside Oscar from cover to cover. Back in my school days, you could ask me who won what when and, like a teenage Raymond Babbitt, I could tell you. (“Who was Best Supporting Actress in 1972, Greg-Greg?” “Eileen Heckart, Butterflies are Free. DEFINITELY Butterfliesarefree!”)
The Oscars started getting less lovable around 1999 or so, right around when they started running that deadly fashion pre-show. I hate dresses, so now I only like the Oscars, but my charge tonight is to stuff this live-blog full of love. You won’t hear me complaining about the thing going on forever; I dig long award shows!
If I’m gonna win the EW Oscar pool, Little Miss Sunshine needs to go all the way in this, the hardest year of all time when it comes to picking the Best Picture winner. EW.com’s panel of experts (a.k.a. all my bosses) has Babel and The Departed running head to head, with Lil Miss coming in third, but I dunno—feels to me like Little Miss Sunshine night. I think The Departed is too violent for the old folks, and besides they’ll give Best Director to Scorsese. But I wonder if Babel and Little Miss’ll split the anti-Departed vote, and end up pushing The Departed through to victory. Babel? I don’t know. I liked it, but most everybody I know hates it. Then again, most everybody I know hated Crash too. It’s a nail-biter!
8:30 p.m. And so Errol Morris begins the night. The doc-maker interviewed a bunch of the nominees against a nice white background. First up: Peter O’Toole. WOW, HE LOOKS SO OLD. I’m giving up drinking right now. And then dozens of nominees—no idea who most of them are—follow. The audience chuckles. Nicely clipped together! Much better than that sketchy penguins thing that opened the pre-show, but not as good as the first time Billy Crystal inserted himself into scenes from the Best Picture nominees. That was back in 1997. See? I know Oscars!
8:35 p.m. And the first standing ovation of the night goes to—everyone! The announcer salutes the nominees, they salute each other. I wince a little bit: This is the most nakedly self-congratulatory we’ve ever seen the Oscars get.
8:36 p.m. Ellen takes over, in a wine-red pantsuit. Mom’s in the crowd.
8:37 p.m. Ellen can’t believe she’s hosting the Oscars. I can’t believe she’s hosting the Oscars either, but she did an ace job with the post 9/11 Emmys. “It’s my job to relax you… to make you forget that it’s a make or break night, for you,” she tells the audience. She talks about the billion people watching, and keeping the speeches short. She also invites people to make stuff up: “Tell ‘em you lived in your car—ooh, they love that.” She is not killing yet.
8:42 p.m. Ellen’s nice. Too nice. “Hi Leonardo Di Caprio,” she says. “I don’t have a joke. I just thought the ladies wanted to look at him for a second.” Oof. That’s about where this opening monologue is at.
8:43 p.m. Somebody throws Ellen a tamborine. Nooo! A church choir sings and claps up and down the halls. This is going badly. And that’s it? Time for the first award!
8:45 p.m. The first award is for Art Direction? No Supporting Actor or Actress? That’s killing me. Pan’s Labyrinth wins it. I am already losing the Oscar pool!
8:48 p.m. Maggie Gyllenhaal brings us news of “the brumagic densitometer” and the science and awards dinner. They’re really hooking us in this year, aren’t they?
8:53 p.m. Will Ferrell, white rose in hand and hair poofed out, sings a number about being a comedian at the Oscars. Jack Black jumps out and joins him. Black’s got the best lines, like “Peter O’Toole… I’m gonna beat you down with my Nickelodeon award!” Festive, but not hilarious.
8:56 p.m. I tried to see all the nominated films this year, but who has the time to catch up with Click? Best Makeup goes to Pan’s Labyrinth. I am back on track in the pool.
8:59 p.m. Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith are the highlight of the show so far. That’s bad news. Jaden flubs a line: cute. The Danish Poet wins Animated Short Film.
9:04 p.m. West Bank Story wins Live Action Short Film. I actually saw this movie! It was playing in the same shorts program at Sundance that my friend Alex Chung’s movie played in back in 2005. Should’ve been my boy Alex up there tonight. “I made a comedy-musical about Israelis and Palestinians that takes place between two falafel stands,” says the guy who won. Yep, that’s exactly what it was about.
9:10 p.m. Ellen apologizes for saying Penelope was from Mexico. Poor Ellen is nervous tonight.
9:12 p.m. The “sound effects choir” huffs and puffs. This is the dopey kind of stuff I love the Oscars for. Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear drolly present Sound Mixing. Letters from Iwo Jima is victorious. Dreamgirls, my pick for this and Art Direction, is killing me tonight.
9:18 p.m. Wait, no. THIS is Sound Mixing. (Isn’t it?) This live-blogging thing has my head on backwards. It’s sweaty in here! So the other one was Sound Editing. Ha! And Dreamgirls did come through. Nicely done, Dreamgirls.
9:21 p.m. Money time. Best Supporting Actor. I picked Eddie Murphy to take it, but I’m crossing fingers for an Alan Arkin upset, just to shake the night up some. Tell us who, Rachel Weisz! Hounsou wipes his sweaty head pre-announcement and gets a laugh. And it’s….Alan Arkin! Good for him. He puts his Oscar down and reads his speech off a little piece of paper. Does the job, but send the soul soaring it does not. Was it Norbit that doomed Eddie, the Dreamgirls curse, or the fact that he said back at my very first full Oscars in 1988 when he was presenting Best Picture that “I’ll probably never win an Oscar for saying this,” but Oscar hasn’t “recognized black people in the motion picture industry.” Did he curse himself?
9:25 p.m. An “incredible dance troupe” is interpreting something or other. Behind a screen, they transform into penguins. MIND-BLOWING.
9:30 p.m. James Taylor is singing, and I am going to fast-forward my DVR because actually it is 9:35 and because of technical difficulties and an interruption (I will STOP answering the phone), I am five minutes behind on the “live” part of this thing. Nice to see Randy Newman back at the piano. Watch me fly!
9:34 p.m. Melissa Etheridge is singing about global warming. See you later! 9:37, here I come!
9:35 p.m. “Anything you might want to announce?” Leo asks Al Gore. No luck. Gore instead congratulates Leo for his activism. In the audience, Jerry Seinfeld seems ready to roll his eyes. Leo congratulates Al. They riff. Leo asks again. Announce, Al, announce! Al stammers, seems moved, and then gets ready to go for it, but then orchestra cuts him off. Ho ho ho. I like both these guys—Leonardo gave the best performance of the year, by ANYBODY, in The Departed—but Oscar’s not on his game tonight. Not yet the best Oscars ever.
9:44 p.m. Happy Feet wins Best Animated Feature. No Cars? I picked poorly this year. Bad for me, but good for the show, and thus good for America. Mega surprises tonight.
9:46 p.m. A montage about writers by Nancy Meyers. Like I said, I love this stuff. Every year these clip-jobs get me excited to see old movies! Good to see Frederic March and Gary Cooper in there for Design for Living. That’s a great forgotten film. Check it out.
9:52 p.m. Best Adapted Screenplay. Helen Mirren announces Borat’s full title and the audience cracks up. Easy crowd. Let’s go Departed! And it is The Departed. I don’t think it’s gonna win Best Picture, but The Departed was my favorite movie of 2007. I love violence.
9:54 p.m. William Monahan gets cut off, by music that sounds an awful lot like Brahms’ Lullaby. Cold.
9:58 p.m. All right, this blog went live a bit ago. BOOM. I haven’t mentioned yet: Jack Nicholson is bald. And I don’t know why.
10:02 p.m. Meryl Streep is the best! Even sitting in the audience, she’s the queen. Coming in tonight, I just wanted a Great Oscar Moment or two as fantastic as her overlapping rap number with Lily Tomlin about Robert Altman from last year. I watched that bit, oh, 17 times or so last year on my DVR.
10:04 p.m. Marie Antoinette wins Best Costumes. Milena Canonero mentions her husband, and the camera cuts to a guy who looks like the old character actor who played Wil Wheaton’s dad in Stand By Me. She’s not married to the guy who played Wil Wheaton’s dad in Stand By Me, is she? That would be far out. And also: I got this one right! Went with EW’s pick, even though I didn’t want to. Thanks, EW.
10:08 p.m. Tom Cruise presents the humanitarian award to Sherry Lansing. Remember when he opened the Oscars in 2002, talking about movie magic and movie dreams and all of that? If I remember right, he even had his braces on. THAT was a great Oscar moment. Defended it and argued about it with EWers all the next day at work. How was this Tom Cruise moment? Not as good. But, ooh, movie clips…
10:11 p.m. Ellen sidles up to Clint Eastwood in the audience. One year Meredith Vieira did that at the beginning of the show, anybody remember that? I remember it because I remember thinking Oscar had hit a new low right there. But here at least Ellen is kind of funny! She’s warming up a bit. Almost two hours into the show: just in time!
10:14 p.m. Best Cinematography now, presented by Gwyneth Paltrow, whom I adore. Oscar goes to….Pan’s Labyrinth? No, no! Those tracking shots in my second favorite movie of the year, Children of Men, were classic, better even than the one that opened Touch of Evil! I can’t believe it. Nothing is working out tonight. And it bodes well for Pan’s Labyrinth, which I didn’t even pick for Best Foreign Language picture.
10:16 p.m. The orchestra pipes in and cuts off the cinematographer. The conductor’s going crazy tonight. Get up and get off!
10:21 p.m. Visual Effects. Robert Downey Jr. cracks a funny joke about seeing spiders in the mid-90s and takes a deserved bow. The Oscar goes to Pirates.
10:24 p.m. If it’s Catherine Deneuve and Ken Watanabe onstage, why then it must be time to talk about foreign language pictures. (Remember when Indochine won? For some reason I do. My recall on the Oscars is weird. Like, somehow I know all the lyrics to the parody song that Billy Crystal sang about The Godfather III back in 1991.)
10:25 p.m. The guy who directed Cinema Paradiso has given us a clip job on international cinema. Very impressionistic! Some good movies in here. Dersu Uzala, that’s a great Kurosawa. RENT IT! Day for Night, nobody is better than Truffaut. No Man’s Land—that one beat Amelie. (That upset was what made me think The Lives of Others was maybe gonna top Pan’s tonight. We’ll see.) Uh: Tsotsi. That wasn’t such an all-timer.
10:29 p.m. Okay, with all that buildup, now it is time: Best Foreign Language Picture. Actually, I liked the buildup: this year’s Oscars are not that funny or magical yet, but I would give them points for classy. Anyway, the winner is….The Lives of Others! Gotta give props to EW senior editor Thom Geier for this one: he talked me into betting on it. But now, WHAT DOES IT MEAN? How could Pan’s do so well up till now and lose this one? (Actually, I know the answer to that—thanks, Thom!) This Oscar night: classy, and CRAZY.
10:34 p.m. Best Supporting Actress. George Clooney’s onstage. His speech last year was the other great moment from 2006. This year he gives it to Jennifer Hudson. Zero surprise to that one. Suspense: will the orchestra have to cut her off? She thanks God again—and that’s the last straw! You thank God once! The conductor goes in for the kill.
10:42 p.m. Documentary Short Subject. The Blood of Yingzhou District. Now about that Jennifer Hudson speech. Through the night, EW’s foremost expert on awards-show acceptance speeches—senior writer Karen Valby—has been texting me. She knows acceptance speeches: everyone so often you’ll get called into her office so she can play you Streep winning for Angels in America at the Emmys, or Mariska Hargitay at the Golden Globes, on youtube. She watches the great awards speeches over and over; she is a scholar. Tonight she told me she “is hoping for a Chris Cooper or Adrien Brody moment,” or “for some of Sophia Loren’s panache (Roee-berrto!).” Basically, Karen wants to watch awards shows and cry. And she just texted me and summed up Hudson’s speech pretty accurately, I thought. She said, “Blah.” Still, it is amazing to me that Hudson, formerly a regular person like you or me, can keep it cool enough to give a better speech than the one Hilary Swank gave when she won FOR THE SECOND TIME.
10:46 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld, presenting Best Documentary, does some comedy on going to the movies. Maybe I am wired from live-blogging, I got nothing but half a protein smoothie and a lot of caffeine-free Diet Pepsi in me, but I’m just not laughing at the Oscars that much tonight.
10:48 p.m. Al Gore wins! Time to announce! More kudos are delivered to Gore onstage. And you know what? He deserves them all. An Inconvenient Truth was the third-best movie of the year. “People, we need to solve the climate crisis!” AL! Karen texts her verdict: “Moving, brief, rousing, not about him. Well done!”
10:52 p.m. Clint Eastwood, very frisky, talks about Ennio Morricone. I will never get tired of clip montages. This one is less stirring than the others we’ve seen tonight, but then again it’s a smaller pool of films to pluck from. Morricone’s score for The Untouchables undeniably should’ve won an Oscar.
10:55 p.m. Celine Dion is singing a song to Morricone. This is Oscar cheese gone too far. There are limits. This is the lowlight of the show.
10:59 p.m. Ennio takes his standing ovation. Bob Altman dropped the bomb that he’d had a heart transplant, Stanley Donen danced. What is this honorary Oscar winner gonna do to stand out? Dance, Morricone, dance! Feeling the heat, he talks for a long time in Italian. Clever! Oh wait, perhaps he doesn’t speak English. Clint Eastwood translates, gracefully. DOES CLINT EASTWOOD KNOW ITALIAN? It’s a slow night. My friend Alex, the one who made the short film, texts to observe that Ennio looks like Robert McNamara. And Morricone’s wife Maria is sitting two down from Karen from The Office: lucky!
11:07 p.m. The music from Babel wins Best score. I think this guy is two-peating, right? I thought The Queen would take it, but I’ve given up on my pool, and now I’m glad, because the score was one of the best things going for Babel. It was so good I almost can’t understand how anybody could hate the movie: it has great music!
11:11 p.m. Sid Ganis, Academy president, does a neat thing telling us about the Academy in 60 seconds. Give the show this: All the boring old Oscar stuff is well-produced this year. Like I said: CLASSY. And yet STILL a little boring.
11:15 p.m. Michael Arndt wins Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine. Good! The movie needed to pick up this category if indeed I’ve called it and it’s gonna win.
11:22 p.m. Dreamgirls medley. Here’s Jennifer Hudson again. “Jennifer’s left breast is making me nervous,” wrote an EW editor in an IM chatroom I’m hanging out in. Now that she mentions it: YES! Hudson is a trooper. Beyonce gets in the mix and starts singing “Listen.” I’d rather hear “Check On It.”
11:25 p.m. They finish up with a choir. Another choir.
11:29 p.m. Best Song. Melissa Etheridge for An Inconvenient Truth. Hollywood really does hate Dreamgirls, doesn’t it? More props for Al Gore from Melissa.
11:35 p.m. Will Smith introduces a Michael Mann clip job on “his look at America through its movies.” RANDOM. The haters are gonna hate this one. Talladega Nights bumps up against Network and Paths of Glory and Reservoir Dogs and Buster Keaton and Oh Brother Where Art Thou and The Good Shepherd and Do the Right Thing and Superman Returns and Jarhead and Dr. Strangelove and Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan and even American Dreamz (so Michael Mann actually recommends American Dreamz?), and it ends on James Brown in Rocky IV. Now even I am sated. No more clip jobs! I’m full up till next year.
11:43 p.m. Best Editing. As this category goes, so goes Best Picture, says the conventional wisdom. Thelma Schoonmaker wins for The Departed. Scorsese beams. Things are looking bad for Babel.
11:47 p.m. Naturally it is time for another montage. This is an Oscar first: Jodie Foster gets choked up introducing the dead-people slideshow. Lots of history happening tonight, DON’T YOU JUST LOVE IT? I am not that stimulated tonight but I can’t help it: I love the Oscars. As for the dead-person applause-o-meter, the crowd sets it off for Altman. And once again we get that Oscar perennial where, after the montage, the camera pans to the lights in silence and just ever-so-lightly fades out. Love that every year, never get tired of it, makes me think about death.
11:51 p.m. “Well, that’s our show,” says Ellen. No way! It’s Best Actress time. Go get it, Helen. Wouldn’t we all rather hear a Meryl Streep speech? “This is the biggest and the best gold star I’ve ever had in my life,” Mirren says. Ho-hum. Then she thanks Queen Elizabeth. “Ladies and gentleman,” she says at the end, with the dopiest of smiles on her face, “I give you, THE QUEEN!” What does that mean? Her Oscar is the Queen? Reminds me of James Cameron. Karen writes in to say “Helen Mirren is so darn relaxed and likable (and smoking hot). Alas, her win was no surprise and her speech offered no sentiments that moved me to tears. Still, classy broad.”
12:02 a.m. Best Actor. Forest Whitaker. NOW BRING IT, FOREST! Make Karen cry! It’s late. He’s breathless again, like at the Golden Globes. Oh boy. Can he do it, can he do it? Like Arkin, he reads from a note. He looks up into the rafters and grabs at the sky. Will Smith is ready to break. Okay, he’s done now. And he really nailed it! Now don’t we all love him? Karen sure does: “He believed every word of his speech, he didn’t thank his lawyer or agent or publicist, and finally, finally!, i got a shiver.”
12:06 a.m. The original three amigos. Spielberg, Coppola, and George Lucas present Best Director, after some snappy banter. Getting these guys together: another reason why earnest movie suckers like me pay respect to the Oscars. Scorsese wins it. Good thing, because he looked like he was gonna throw up pre-announcement. Big standing ovation. His speech, with him talking fast, wasn’t enough to qualify as a Great Oscar Moment. Not a lot of those tonight!
12:12 a.m. Ouch. Before we go to the finish, gotta introduce The Queen. Momentum-killer! Just when we thought we were barrelling toward the close…
12:14 a.m. Bald Jack and beautiful Diane, Best Picture. The Departed. So Babel and Lil Miss split the vote? I lost big. That’s what I get for trying to outthink EW master prognosticator Dave Karger. I beat him last year by calling Crash and I got a big head.
12:21 a.m. Karen’s review is in: “Forest made me cry (Forest’s wife made me cry too), the costume designer made me tear up a little, i liked when alan arkin gasped back a little sob, and jodie foster losing her friend and the clip of adriana barraza made me feel choked up a little too. all in all, not the emotional bypass i was hoping for…mwah.”
12:22 a.m. So I think we did good work tonight, people. I brought the Oscar love, a lot of you on the message boards brought the Oscar hate. Something for everyone here! Not the greatest Oscars ever, it was no 2002, and, tragically, no Great Oscar Moments, but I am strangely okay about it all. Enjoyed the plenty of surprises, liked the shiny polish on the show. I like the Oscars too much, even at their worst: I’m no hater! Thumbs up to the Errol Morris montage, post-monologue Ellen, the foreign-language movie montage, Forest Whittaker’s speech, and Marty and The Departed’s wins. I could watch for another three hours and 45 minutes. God bless you all!