Just got home from working the early shift at Variety. Grabbed a burrito on the way and am now set up in front of my computer to live-blog my heart out. I can't wait to see what music director Michael Giacchino has up his sleeve. The Acad hasn't seen fit to give him an Oscar yet -- he was robbed last year when he was nommed for "Ratatouille" -- but Oscarcast producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon had the good sense to tap him for the show this year.
5:35: Well, it's an interesting start with host Hugh Jackman doing a song and dance medley themed to the best picture nominees. OK. Anne Hathaway singing? OK...
5:39: Jackman is having fun with stars in the front row: Frank Langella, Mickey Rourke, Brad and Angelina. It's a little Vegas-y, but ... OK.
5:41: Clips of past supporting actress winners. Audio clips of supporting actress winners being named. Interesting.
5:42: Five past supporting actress winners -- Tilda Swinton, Eva Marie Saint, Whoopi Goldberg, Anjelica Huston and Goldie Hawn -- come out to talk up each nominee. Hmmm, are they gonna do this for all categories?
5:47: Penelope Cruz (pictured right) wins supporting actress for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." "Has anybody ever fainted here? I might be the first one." She goes on a bit but brings it home in telling us about staying up late as a kid in Spain to watch the show, and what it meant to her: "This ceremony was a moment of unity for the world." Film and the arts are a universal language, she said, "and we should do everything we can to protect its survival." Gawd, she's gorgeous.
5:52: Original screenplay award, presented by Tina Fey and Steve Martin. Is there an awards show that Fey hasn't made in this awards cycle? There's a stylized touch to the presentation of the nominees that's kinda cool.
5:55: Dustin Lance Black's ascent is complete. He wins for "Milk." Good for him. Learning of the Harvey Milk story gave him the hope to "live my life openly as who I am, and maybe even fall in love and one day get married." And Black (pictured left) has a message for gay and lesbian youth: "Very soon, I promise you you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours."
6:01: Simon Beaufoy wins adapted screenplay for "Slumdog Millionaire." Lots of thank yous. His year is complete too.
6:03: Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston are on stage presenting the first of what are called "Movie Yearbook" clips. Black gets off the first line that made me laugh out loud: "I make more money doing animation than live action...Each year I do one DreamWorks project, and I take all the money to the Oscars and bet it on Pixar." Cut to a shot of Jeffrey Katzenberg laughing like a good sport. But really, after all the MPTF madness of the past few weeks, I actually feel a little sorry for him.
6:06: "Wall-E" takes animated picture. No surprise. Black roars with approval. His fee for "Kung Fu Panda 2" just went down. "Wall-E" helmer Andrew Stanton thanks the usual suspects and then adds a shout-out to his high school drama teacher for casting him as Barnaby in "Hello Dolly." Hey, that's a cool tidbit. (At left is a pic of the "Slumdog" kids, just because.)
6:10: Glamour quotient on Oscar ads is definitely down: JC Penney. Hyundai. "We're all in this together" Jeff Bridges (I think) tells us in the voice-over of the Hyundai spot. I feel a little better. Now Gwenyth Paltrow and Dave Matthews and Brian Grazer and Tina Turner are shilling for American Express. Carl's Jr. Vons.
6:14: Music on the intros and outros is cool. Swingy, bouncy.
6:15: Sarah Jessica Parker and Daniel Craig are doing the set up for art direction award. Band's still noodling, giving it a nightclub kind of feel. I like this. "Curious Case of Benjamin Button" wins. Big shout-out to David Fincher for being "a wonderful human being."
6:19: Parker and Craig stick around for the costume design award. "The Duchess" wins. Tight bodices and hoops get 'em every time.
6:23: "Button" takes the makeup award. Winner Greg Cannom thanks litany of people and "New Orleans."
6:25: The "Movie Yearbook" clip package for romantic pics. A way of getting more popcorn fare into the telecast? Lost of kissing in the rain, and we end on a "Wall-E" shot of Wall-E and Eve. Sweet.
6:29: Commercial break. Wonder when we'll get the first movie ad?
6:30: "Good Morning America" plug. Followed by "Dancing With the Stars" plug. Always interesting to see what ABC tubthumps on the telecast.
6:31: Ben Stiller doing the Joaquin Phoenix joke, with paste-on mountain man beard as he presents the cinematography award with Natalie Portman. "I just want to retire from being a funny guy." Portman: "You look like you work at a Hasidic meth lab."
6:34: Anthony Dod Mantle wins for "Slumdog Millionaire." He's a little subdued.
6:37: Commercial break. MasterCard and JC Penney. Where's the movie ads?
6:38: Jessica Biel doing the Sci-Tech roundup clip package. She needs tech support for her dress, it's pretty awful.
6:40: More commercials. Aha! "The Soloist" gets the first blurb. And now Audi. I feel better when Oscars are advertising things out of my price range.
6:43: Judd Apatow-directed short with Seth Rogen and James Franco recapping the year's comedy pics. Cute but not uproarious. It is broadcast TV, after all.
6:51: "Castle" gets first ABC primetime series promo. They're selling the Nathan Fillion starrer more as a rom-com than they have been in the past few weeks.
6:52: Another number from Hugh Jackman, noting the revival of musicals. Beyonce joins him. It's a medley, but it's pretty good. Beyonce can sing anything. Wait, here comes Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens and a couple from "Mamma Mia." "The musical is back!" Jackman declares after the rave-up ending with "Somewhere." Baz Luhrmann gave us that number, Jackman informs us.
6:58: Second movie spot. The Sandra Bullock comedy "The Proposal." Hey, it's got Betty White in it, it must be good.
7:02: Clips of supporting actor winners. Here comes past winners Christopher Walken, Alan Arkin, Joel Grey, Kevin Kline and Cuba Gooding Jr. Same drill as with the ladies. I suppose this is a nice way to give the nominees a little extra spotlight in the seconds before they get it, or don't.
7:07: Heath Ledger wins for "Dark Knight." The late actor's mother, father and sister accept for him. "This is ever so humbling," says his father, Kim. Says mom Sally Bell: "Tonight we are choosing to celebrate and be happy with what he has achieved." (Pictured below, Sally Bell, Kim Ledger and Kate Ledger)
7:13: Bill Maher presenting docu award, and noting that he had one this year, "You know, the one about religion that didn't get nominated."
7:15: "Man on Wire" wins for docu. Philippe Petit hams it up with a bit of sleight of hand and by balancing his Oscar on his chin. Hey, it'll make the clip packages for years, he's no fool. (See pic at the very end of the post.)
7:20: Another "Dancing With the Stars" promo. And a funny one for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" with Tom Cruise.
7:23: Will Smith follows the action movie clip package, makes a joke about how action movies may not get Oscar respect but they do have something else -- "fans." Vfx nod goes to "Button." "Dark Knight" wins for sound editing.
7:30: Smith calls sound mixers "the superheroes" of the movie industry. "Slumdog" bags it. The three winners are breathless, literally. "I dedicate this award to my country," says Resul Pookutty with emotion that should remind us that even when awards season gets old, in "Slumdog's" case the achievements are incredibly meaningful on a level that those of us Hollywood natives can't really understand. "Slumdog" also gets it for film editing.
7:39: Clever promo for ABC's upcoming comedy "In the Motherhood" playing off all the Oscar thank yous to moms.
7:41: Eddie Murphy presents the Hersholt to Jerry Lewis. No matter what, you gotta give him credit. That MDA telethon has done a lot of good, you can't take that away from him. Jerry gets a standing ovation. He's extremely low-key, by King of Comedy standards, and he's looking his age. "The humility I feel is staggering." Ah, but all's right with the world, humble Jerry does a little hamming and face stretching at the very end.
7:49: Another "Castle" promo.
7:50: Music slot. Giacchino leads the orchestra in medley of nommed scores. Very elegant.
7:53: Alicia Keys and Zac Efron present original score. "Slumdog's" AR Rahman wins. "I'm grateful to have come all the way."
7:56: Here's the slot where Peter Gabriel isn't. He'd have a hard time following the "Slumdog" dancers and drummers anyway on "O Saya," I have to say, unless perhaps he brought "Wall-E" with him. Well, John Legend is doing a good job on "Down to Earth" anyway, and he brought along the Soweto choir. And give it up - here comes "Slumdog's" "Jai Ho," with Legend chiming in at the end. Nicely done.
8:00: "Jai Ho" wins! Rahman (pictured right), whose suit is to die for, BTW, looks a little stunned. Citing the hopeful theme of the movie, he observed: "All my life I've had a choice of hate and love. I chose love, and I'm here."
8:04: Plug for "Brothers & Sisters" upcoming two-hour seg.
8:05: Wow, big surprise in the foreign film category. Japan's "Departures" bests "Waltz with Bashir" and "The Class," to win. Nobody looks more surprised than director Yojiro Takita. "I am here because of films... We'll be back, I hope," Takita said.
8:10: During the commercial break, I'm thinking, there hasn't been a lot to make fun of this year! Is that good or bad?
(OK, that was kind of a silly comment. In hindsight after thinking about it some: No. 1: The presentation of the acting awards was squirm-worthy at times, as the cameras zeroed in on each nominee trying to look modest while the past winners on stage gushed and gushed about them. At least Cuba Gooding Jr. was funny in his spiel about Robert Downey Jr. No. 2: Jackman's opening dance number was a miss -- sorry, just not funny. The outre lyrics by "Sarah Silverman Program" scribes Dan Harmon and Rob Schrab were just...not funny. Other than that and the musical medley, which was entertaining, Jackman didn't seem to make his presence felt that much. He was pleasant enough, but that's about it. Not particularly engaging. No. 3: The shtick about taking us through the steps of making a movie felt a little bit too "Sesame Street" for comfort. No. 4: The Acad doesn't have to worry. Tonight's show wasn't anywhere near as bad as last year's Emmycast. In fact, it was only really bad in small doses. Mostly it just felt looooooong.)
8:11: Here's Queen Latifah, looking beautiful and gift-wrapped with a big bow on her bright blue frock (which is different than the gown she wore on the red carpet). She's singing "I'll Be Seeing You" over the clip reel of those lost in 2008. Classy touch. Super-classy to linger on Paul Newman at the end.
8:17: Another "Jimmy Kimmel Live" post-Oscar special spot.
8:18: Acad prexy Sid Ganis gets a round of applause but no speech. Are we running late?
8:19: Reese Witherspoon doing the director honors. She's always lovely, but she's had better hair and dress days. She's just not as radiant as usual, IMHO.
8:20: Danny Boyle, natch. Jumps up and down three times, a message to his kids. Warners gets thanked for giving "Slumdog" up to Peter Rice at Fox Searchlight. Am I imagining things or does Boyle look a little bit relieved to not have to make any more acceptance speeches, at least not this week.
8:26: Best actress -- coming atcha from Shirley MacLaine, Sophia Loren, Halle Berry (who looks really fantastic), Marion Cotillard and Nicole Kidman. Kate Winslet gets the nod. Shampoo bottles, dad whistling, she's going on and on. I can imagine the producers looking at their watches and gritting their teeth.
8:35: Best actor. C'mon Sean Penn! Here comes Robert De Niro, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Adrien Brody and Michael Douglas to do the honors. Adrien Brody's working on his Joaquin Phoenix look. Oh boy, we are so going way over.
8:42: Mickey Rourke looks like he wants to scream: "Get on with it already."
8:43: Sean Penn gets it for "Milk." He earned it, for sure. Standing ovation. "You commie homo loving sons of guns." "I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often." He gets serious in referring to Prop. 8, and calling on those who voted for the same-sex marriage ban to think of the "great shame" they will one day feel. "We have got to have equal rights for everyone," Penn said. And he closes with a shout-out to Mickey Rourke, "my brother." Somebody slipped Penn a humility pill.
8:50: "Slumdog Millionaire" gets the call. Wow, look at that mob on stage. I was rooting for a "Milk" upset but looking at those faces, especially the kids, it's hard to be anything but happy for them.
8:55: Credits roll with clips of upcoming pics. Funny choice of closing credits music, Beck's remake of Dylan's "Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat" (is there a connection I'm missing?).
9:00: Clever ABC promo setting stars of their upcoming shows "Castle," "Cupid," "In the Motherhood" and "Better Off Ted" at an Oscar party.