It’s rainy in Los Angeles on Sunday, which we could probably turn into some sort of commentary on the somber nature of four of the five best picture nominees at this year’s Academy Awards. Bright and sunny isn’t the theme this year, so let’s get hunkered down for three hours of celebrating the best in morally gray, no-happy-ending cinema (plus Juno) of the year!
Now that everyone’s off the red carpet, it’s time for Jon Stewart to take over. Ladies and gentlemen, the 80th annual Academy Awards:
8:30 p.m. A CGI-heavy montage of iconic characters and stars fills the screen, ending with Gov. Terminator delivering the fake Oscar statues to the Kodak Theatre. Personally, we’d have preferred to see the scene acted out by the costumed characters who hang out in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater up the block.
8:32 p.m. Stewart hits the stage, leading with a bit about the writers’ strike: "The fight is over, so tonight — welcome to the makeup sex." The Vanity Fair Oscar party was cancelled "out of respect for the writers," he says. "You know how you can show respect for the writers? Invite them to the Vanity Fair Oscar party."
8:35 p.m. This is not edgy, outsider-y Jon Stewart. But the Hillary Clinton-Away From Her joke doesn’t go over all that well. Hollywood has not completely caught Obamamania, it seems.
8:37 p.m. If you had seven mintues in the "first Norbit joke" proposition bet, you win: "Too often the Academy ignores movies that aren’t good."
8:38 p.m. Not sure if that’s Seth Rogen sititng behind Dennis Hopper, but if so, that’s just fantastic.
8:39 p.m. Ooh, politics! "Oscar is 80 this year — which makes him automatically the front-runner for the Republican nomination this year." OK, that was easy — but the "Have you all studied … and picked which Democrat you’re gonna vote for?" is not bad. And, of course, they get a reaction shot of Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes when he makes the following joke: "Usually when you see a black or woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty."
8:44 p.m. The night’s first award, for costume design: Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Gotta say, the costumes were just about the best part.
8:45 p.m. Oh boy — a night of 80th-anniversary remember-when clips is headed our way. The reason you don’t all get plaques, Barbra Streisand, is because the Oscars is not pee-wee soccer.
8:52 p.m. Guaranteed laugh: Jon Stewart and Steve Carell busting on each other. "Thank you, Jon — you never cease to amaze me with you constant need for attention." Also good: Carell doing his scared-to-death thing.
8:54 p.m. Ratatouille wins best animated feature. All those who are surprised? Of course not. This was a huge gimme in the pool. That said, I like Brad Bird’s acceptance speech about his junior-high guidance counselor.
8:55 p.m. No, Katherine Heigl, we will not forgive you for being nervous. You’re a professional actress. Suck it up.
8:57 p.m. Come on, Norbit … come on, Norbit … D’oh! It’s La Vie en Rose for best makeup instead — although if they can make Marion Cotillard look like that, I guess it’s deserved.
8:59 p.m. The performances of the best song nominees are just about never a highlight, but we’re big Amy Adams fans, so "Happy Working Song" isn’t so bad. Although it would’ve been cool if they could have wrangled some birds and rats and whatnot.
9:02 p.m. "I wasn’t around when Michael got his," Catherine Zeta-Jones says. That noise you heard was someone making a Michael Douglas-is-old joke at every Oscar party in America.
9:07 p.m. It’s fitting that human visual effect The Rock presents the VFX award, and you know what? His joke about being scared at the face-melting scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark actually works. The Golden Compass wins; expect a press release from the Catholic League denouncing the voting any minute now.
9:11 p.m. The art direction award goes to Sweeney Todd. Not much to add here.
9:13 p.m. "The scene in No Country for Old Men where Josh Brolin is being chased by the pit bull? Cate Blanchett."
9:15 p.m. Forty-five minutes into the show before the first acting award of the night, for best supporting actor. Hey, it’s Jennifer Hudson! Remember her?
9:18 p.m. I’m having a hard time getting over the juxtaposition of Jennifer Hudson presenting an award to any of these five guys — it’s a damn strong field. But if you didn’t have Javier Bardem, you weren’t paying attention.
9:22 p.m. Comedy montage time! A "salute to binoculars and periscopes" — yeah, not so great. Bad dreams, slightly better. But even when you’re joking about wasting time, you’re still wasting time.
9:24 p.m. Nominated song No. 2 is from August Rush, which no one I know saw. Wait, maybe my mom did. I’m not sure.
9:28 p.m. We have an Owen Wilson sighting, ladies and gents. And he looks pretty good, presenting the award for best live-action short. Based on the clips I want Le Mozart des Pickpockets to win. Woot!
9:31 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee presents the animated short award. I have no clip-based feeling here, but Peter and the Wolf, which does look pretty cool, wins.
9:36 p.m. Last year’s big Oscar surprise Alan Arkin shows up to present best supporting actress. From one surprise winner to another, as Tilda Swinton is the winner for her ultra-intense performance in Michael Clayton. "Happy birthday, man," Swinton says to her trophy, adding, "I have an American agent who is the spitting image of this," comparing her agent’s butt to Oscar’s. She also salutes Clooney for wearing the nippled-Batsuit on set. Funny and gracious both.
9:44 p.m. Jessica Alba, celebrating the start of her third trimester in full-bump, shows up as the recent host of the Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards, an award given to the youngest Hollywood babe the Academy thinks will keep the geeks awake without causing cardiac arrest.
9:46 p.m. Stewart comments on Alba and Blanchett’s pregnancies, detecting a trend, following with "Then again, the night is obviously still young. And Jack [Nicholson, duh] is here."
9:47 p.m. James McAvoy and Josh Brolin team up to read funny movie lines, culminating in Brolin apologizing to Nicholson for a subpar Jack impression. They’re presenting the award for adapted screenplay and since one of them starred in one of the nominated movies, it would really stink if… Whew. Indeed, Brolin gets to smile as the Brothers Coen are the winners for their adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. It’s their second writing Oscar, joining the one for Fargo a decade back.
9:49 p.m. Academy president Sid Ganis shows up to let everybody take a bathroom break. He introduces yet another clip package, this one showing the process of Academy voting. There are briefly funny moments — Brad Bird covering his eyes and dropping a pen — but it’s just another of those reasons why this show runs long every year. "Wow. That was amazing," Stewart says. "I always thought it was superdelegates."’
9:53 p.m. Miley Cyrus introduces "That’s How You Know" from Enchanted, performed by Kristin Chenoweth, who had nothing to do with the movie. Unlike poor Amy Adams who had to stand alone in the middle of the stage, Chenoweth is accompanied by a chorus of New York stereotypes.
10 p.m. Stewart wants to make it clear that Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett and… Nicole Kidman is pregnant also. "And the baby goes to… Angelina Jolie."
10:01 p.m. Dame Judi Dench and Halle Berry are announced, but Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill show up instead and fight over which of them gets to play the Halle Berry part. This ought to be funny, right? Wrong. It’s a bit without a punchline and they eventually dwindle into presenting the nominees for sound editing. The Oscar goes to the team from The Bourne Ultimatum, a worthy Oscar winner if ever there were one. The two winners claim to have had a back-and-forth prepared, but it’s sweet relief even for them when they get played off the stage.
10:05 p.m. More not funny Halle-related patter. The second sound prize, this one for mixing, also goes to The Bourne Ultimatum. Unfortunately, we have to point out that this means another loss forTransformers soundman Kevin O’Connell, his 20th.
10:08 p.m. Time to knock off another major award, as last year’s best actor winner Forest Whitaker follows a montage to present best actress to… Marion Cotillard for La Vie En Rose. Since this blog is being written in a collective zap2it voice, the writer doing this section won’t share his opinion on her ticky, acclaimed performance. "Thank you life! Thank you love!" she says. "It is true there is some angels in this city."
10:18 p.m. In a funny bit, Stewart returns from break playing wii tennis with the young singer of that August Rush. Colin Farrell’s up next to introduce Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing the remarkable "Falling Slowly" from Once. Playing on a stage that echoes the music store setting from the film, it’s a beautifully understated performance of the finest song nominated in the category this year.
10:22 p.m. "Well I love the movies," says Jack Nicholson. He then goes into a long list of things that movies do to us. He’s here to present an Oscar tribute to best picture winners, but not just the good ones. Cavalcade. Gigi. Crash. We get a clip from every single one.
10:28 p.m. After that seemingly endless montage, it’s time for Renee Zellweger to present the film editing award — usually one of the unsung key awards of each Oscar evening — to Christopher Rouse for The Bourne Ultimatum, thus shattering the hopes of Roderick Jaynes, fictional editor of No Country for Old Men. "Film editing. Wow. Someone just took the lead in their Oscar pool on a guess," Stewart says.
10:31 p.m. Nicole Kidman is presenting tonight’s honorary award to Robert Boyle, for a seven-decade career in production design and art direction. This guy worked on North by Northwest and The Birds and Fiddler on the Roof. And he’s 97! "That’s the good part of getting old," the amazingly spry Boyle says after his ovation. "I don’t recommend the other." Kudos, sir. Well-earned kudos.
10:41 p.m. Penelope Cruz hands the best-foreign language film for Austria’s The Counterfeiters.
10:44 p.m. Yet another song, "So Close," from Enchanted performed. Despite the fairy tale costuming, pink and lavender set piece and raspy stylings of John McLaughlin, "Falling Slowly" was still more romantic in its perfect simplicity. Just saying.
10:49 p.m. Ooh, sweet, sweet justice. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won for their song "Falling Slowly." Seriously. Oh, why did the orchestra play off Marketa? Glen was very brief.
10:52 p.m. Announcer lady cuts to commercial, but not before saying that the telecast will be back with more from Jon Stewart. Really? I mean, he’s the host, so … never mind.
10:57 p.m. Stewart brings Marketa out to say her thanks. What a classy thing to do whoever made that decision. And you know what? It was a darn fine speech, which boiled down to "hope, at the end of the day, connects us all." Huzzah!
10:59 p.m. Cameron Diaz, who is notorious for not being the best candidate for Hi Def considering her skin issues, presents the cinematography award to Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood. Nice guy, but this writer (the third for the night) was distracted by how he looked like the love child of Al Gore and Bill Clinton.
11:03 p.m. Hilary Swank introduces the death montage, for those entertainment professionals we lost in the past year. Always a somber note, especially when some people’s photos (Suzanne Pleshette, Heath Ledger) get more applause than others. This all make us wonder: Who decides the order? It’s not just chronological. Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman died very close together, yet one was listed later for prestige purposes. But where was Brad Renfro?
11:08 p.m. So much Amy Adams, but we at Zap2it aren’t complaining. We’re looking forward to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day after all. Adams hands the best score award to Dario Marianelli for Atonement. Cute cut to the film’s stars James MacAvoy (always Mr. Tumnus in our hearts) and Saoirse Ronan. Hey, where’s Keira Knightley in all this?
11:11 p.m. Tom Hanks introduces the Iraq segment, some of our soldiers who introduce the nominees for best documentary short. It’s an interesting idea, but why do all the nominees seem kind of amused by it? Award to Freeheld‘s Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth. Very choked-up yet articulate thank you speech.
11:16 p.m. The documentary feature award goes to underdog Taxi to the Dark Side. Documentaries are great and worthwhile, but it’s such a telling thing that these subjects are all hard to take or rather depressing. Winner Alex Gibney: "Let’s hope we can turn this country around, away from the dark side and into the light." Yes.
11:23 p.m. The Stewart-introduced "internationally acclaimed movie star or an auto dealership," aka Harrison Ford, sounds kind of measured and robotic (like 2001‘s H.A.L.) and presents the best original screenplay Oscar to Diablo Cody for her teen pregnancy comedy Juno. We all knew it was gonna happen, or at least hoping so. "What is happening? This is for the writers … the superhuman Ellen Page." You know, this is why we have a love-hate relationship with the Academy. Right now, it’s love. A tattooed, animal print-wearing, skull earrings type of love.
11:30 p.m. Always love to hear Helen Mirren say interesting things like "cajones." Many expect Daniel Day-Lewis to win best actor for his love of milkshakes in There Will Be Blood … and so he does. Tickling little bit when he goes on one knee and has Mirren (former winner for portraying The Queen) to "knight" him. Is our Danny boy a poet? He calls the Oscar statue the "handsomest bludgeon in town" and also mentions "the first devilish whisper" and how the film "sprang like a golden sapling out of the head of Paul Thomas Anderson." A good actor and an uber-cool speech maker.
11:41 p.m. They’re really packing in the meaty awards now. Best director is plural this time. Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen win for No Country for Old Men. Is anyone surprised? Not really, but that doesn’t mean it’s not deserving. Joel reveals how he and Ethan were inspired as children to play Henry Kissinger: Man on the Go. We’re so there if they decide to revive that project.
11:46 p.m. No Country for Old Men wins for best picture. The Coens hung out in the wings so they could return to stage, but it really wasn’t that presumptuous. The end. Hey wait, we’re 15 minutes over three hours. Only? How can that be? Even Stewart keeps his coda short.
Overall, this wasn’t really a wowing Oscars, but a rather comfy one considering the recently deceased writers’ strike. Your thoughts?