11:40 PM: BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese opens the envelope.
Joel and Ethan Coen drag their asses to the stage. Ethan looks like he'd like to drop through the floor. Joel comes through with a nice anecdote about how they've been making movies since he was 11. One, about shuttle diplomacy, is called Henry Kissinger: Man on the Go. I'd like to see that one. Nice to see Joel's wife, Frances McDormand, in the audience smiling for her husband and her brother-in-law.
11:45 PM: BEST PICTURE: Denzel Washington does the envelope opening.
It's No Country for Old Men, as I hoped it would be. Even Ethan Coen smiles. I saw it. You did too. Producer Scott Rudin makes a moving tribute to the ailing Sydney Pollack, to No Country author Cormac McCarthy, and to the love of his life without whom he says — holding up the Oscar — "this would be hardware." And so that's all the hardware for this year. Do you think most of the hardware was deserved. Or would you, paraphrasing Daniel Day Lewis, like to bludgeon someone with it?
11:35 PM: BEST ACTOR TIME. Helen Mirren, looking regal, steps up and says "cojones" with real punch.
Nominees all look nervous — Clooney fidgets, Depp pulls at his goatee, even Tommy Lee looks squiggly. If Daniel Day Lewis doesn't win, I'm going out to picket ... He does. Nice bow to Queen Mirren — "the closest I'll ever get to a knighthood," he says, as she taps him with the Oscar. And one of the great performances in modern cinema gets its due.
11:30 PM: Indiana Jones tell us about writing:
Oscar for Original Screenplay goes to Diablo Cody for Juno. The ex-stripper and phone-sex operator misses the chance to tell the Academy it's fo'shi. OK, she's a first-timer and the weepy acceptance speech is understandable. But can you blame me for wishing she'd just smart-ass this crowd?
11:07 PM: Amy Adams does the musical score honors. She couldn't be cuter. Atonement wins, as it should.
Tom Hanks intros soldiers in Baghdad to read nominees for Best Documentary Short. Winner is Freeheld. Hanks himself gives Best Documentary Feature to Taxi to the Dark Side, denying us the chance to hear Sicko's Michael Moore stick it to the system.
Have you noticed that this year's winners seem more ready than ever to do the trite thing? Somebody, please, shake this show up.
11:00 PM: Cameron Diaz presents Best Cinematography (she can't say the word) to Robert Ellswit for There Will Be Blood. Me, I couldn't be happier. He's an artist and a gentleman.
Hilary Swank presents the death march collage, ending with Heath Ledger. There must be a better way to pay tribute than these pro forma clips that seem to cut off emotion instead of nurture it.
10:42 PM: Penelope Cruz presents the Foreign-Language Film Oscar to The Counterfeiters, the first Austrian film to win the award. In the old days, the camera wold have flashed to the audience to find Cruz's new love, Javier Bardem, flashing her a wink. Not this time. Dullness is setting in.
To prove my point, Patrick Dempsey sets up the umpteenth song from Enchanted to be nominated this year. "So Close" gets one of those dreary production numbers that can put you in a coma.
Out comes John Travolta with a little dance move to give the prize to "Falling Slowly." Some justice is done and since Glenn Hansard and Margeta Irglova are costars and lovers the moment is sweet.
10:20 PM: Colin Farrell, after a trippy entrance, intros song nominee, "Falling Slowly" from Once and for once tonight a song arrives that has life inside and outside of the movie.
Jack Nicholson, with a mischievously lewd smirk, intros a montage of the 79 movies that have won the Best Picture Oscar. It's an anti-climax since the Best Picture award is a long way off. We've been faked out.
Editing goes to The Bourne Ultimatum. Good call, but loved the photo of the old man they used for Roderick Jaynes, the editor of No Country for Old Men. There is no Roderick Jaynes. He's the Coen brothers. Would have liked to watch that walk to the podium.
Nicole Kidman presents honorary Oscar to production designer Robert Boyle whose rambling speech sends me off to peek at a Sopranos repeat on A&E. You can't blame me, it's the episode where Tony goes to war with Johnny Sack.
10:00 PM: Bad baby jokes about Angelina Jolie from Jon Stewart. Lame.
Seth Rogen, pretending to be Dame Judy Dench — oh never mind. Double lame. Sound editing and mixing awards to The Bourne Ultimatum. Getting drowsy.
Forest Whitaker steps up to give Best Actress Oscar — I'm waking up. And boy do I wake up as favorite Julie Christie and new princess Ellen Page go down in the flames of France's Marion Cotillard for being brilliant as Edith Piaf in the little-seen La Vie en Rose. It's a terrific surprise. And Cotlllard gives a charming acceptance speech about love, life and "angels in the city of Los Angeles." Maybe there are.
9:45 PM: Josh Brolin and James McAvoy trade great movie lines (doesn't work) before presenting the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar — as they should — to Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men. I hope it's a trend. The Coen brothers, as ever, look miserable to be there. Sorry guys, it's your night.
Long, boring segment follows on Oscar's secret ballots.
Out comes Miley Cyrus, suddenly Hollywood's IT girl, to intro another nominated song from Enchanted. Kristen Chenoweth tries to sell the number with relentless perk. I'm not buying it. Why didn't they nominate Eddie Vedder, so he could sing "Guaranteed" from Into the Wild?
9:15 PM: Best Suppoting Actor is Javier Bardem. It had to happen, friendo. His words in Spanish to his mother are particularly touching being directed at his parents, his grandparents and Spain. A class act.
9:35 PM: Best Supporting Actress to — SURPRISE! — Tilda Swinton for Michael Clayton. She looked as shocked as Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan and Ruby Dee. Saorise Ronan is too young to be too disappointed. Swinton's un-awed speech, no crying for this lady, is a refreshing surprise. Nice that she's giving her award to her American agent who she says looks just like Oscar, buttocks and all. Good joke about how costar Clooney still dressed in his Batman suit on the Clayton set. You want an Oscar shock, you just got it.
8:45 PM: George Clooney presents 80 Years of Oscar clips — again, too fast and jumbled.
Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway present Animated Feature Oscar to Brad Bird's Ratatouille. Good one
Katherine Heigl — too gorgeous to be nervous — presents Makeup Oscar to La Vie en Rose. Another good one.
Jon Stewart threatens that all five nominated songs will be presented in full production numbers. Amy Adams of Enchanted forced to sing "Happy Working Song" minus all the digital rats and vermin that enlivened the movie. I feel for her all alone out there.
8:30 PM: Show time!
Hollywood movies digitally combined. Cool, but too fast and jumbled. Host Jon Stewart arrives, welcomes everyone to the "makeup sex" after the strike. Fun crack on Hillary Clinton echoing Away From Her by forgetting her husband. Bad Yom Kippur joke on Atonement. Good stuff on possible black or woman President signifying an asteroid attack
Jennifer Garner presents Costume award to the appalling Elizabeth — the Golden Age. Bad start. Who voted for that one on his or her Oscar poll? What happened to Atonement or Sweeney Todd?
8:17 PM: Ellen Page doesn't overdo the dress thing. She looks like she's laughing at the whole thing. Yeah, Juno!
Regis backstage with Bavarian brides — what the hell? Yikes, it's for an upcoming song number. Writers, why couldn't you have stayed on strike? Regis calling Javier Xavier! I can't write another word till show begins. Has there ever been a duller Red Carpet special? Speak up, people.
8:12 PM: Jennifer Garner is asked: "Who are you wearing?" The globe is now spinning again! Daniel Day Lewis is not asked who drank his milkshake. Cameron Diaz inanely discusses Daniel Day Lewis's acting technique.I need a break.
8:10 PM: Regis intros the woman who represents the glory of Hollywood — Miley Cyrus. What she has to do with the Oscar nominated films of 2007 remains a mystery to all but the ratings dudes. Miley is so money.
8:00 PM: It begins with the Red Carpet, a triumph for hair and makeup. Thank God the writers strike is over so we can watch Regis Philbin suck up to the stars. George Clooney manages to look unembarrassed by it all. Sheesh, that guy is good. So far, no star is asked: who are you wearing? Is the world ending? Stay tuned.