5:30 PM – And here we go again. The 83rd Academy Awards! Hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Will the Weinsteins’ marketing campaign for The King’s Speech pay off? Will Annette Bening upstage the unstoppable Natalie Portman for this year’s Best Actress award? Will the show directors frequently cut to a laughing, sunglasses-clad Jack Nicholson in the front row? We shall see.
5:36 – Anne Hathaway and James Franco are “inceptioned” in a particularly hammy montage of nominee clips.
5:37 – Morgan Freeman makes a cameo appearance in the montage as a dream narrator. I wish Morgan Freeman would narrate my dreams.
5:40 – Anne (in reference to her performance in Love and Other Drugs): “You know, it used to be, You get naked, you get nominated. Not anymore.” If only life were that simple. At least then, we might have a more exciting awards show.
5:42 – Anne and James do their best with weak material, clearly aiming for the teenage demographic. Anne soldiers on admirably, James looks like he’d rather be in an opium den.
5:43 – Anne: “It’s been a great year for lesbians.” At a loss for words? Join the club.
5:46 – Alice in Wonderland wins Best Art Direction, ensuing much booming laughter from Tim Burton, from the highest tower of his black castle (train your ears towards the Burbank hills at 2 a.m. tonight.)
5:49 – Inception wins Best Cinematography. Fair enough.
5:53 – Kirk Douglas makes an appearance! Everyone (including this writer) swoons before the indispensable star of Paths of Glory and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but what begins as a tear inducing cameo segues into a painful ramble, as Mr. Douglas struggles to present the Best Supporting Actress award. Still, he has some fun with his appearance, sadistically prolonging the award announcement for as long as possible. You can feel the audience about to explode.
5:59 – Melissa Leo wins Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter, and gives a truly weird acceptance speech to match Douglas’s equally bizarre presentation.
6:03 – Justin Timberlake appears and declares himself Banksy. Don’t we all wish?
6:05 – The Lost Thing wins Best Animated Short.
6:09 – Toy Story 3 wins Best Animated Feature. SC alumnus and director Lee Unkrich gives a warming acceptance speech, paying homage to animation cohorts, his family and countless others. Leave it to a Pixar nominee to give the most eloquent speech thus far.
6:16 – The Social Network wins Best Adapted Screenplay. Aaron Sorkin rises to expectations and raises the acceptance speech bar higher, walking the line between cool detachment and familial thanks smoothly. We should expect no less from the writer of the year’s coolest film.
6:20 – The King’s Speech wins Best Original Screenplay. David Seidler gives a tender speech.
6:26 – Anne earnestly performs a truly dreadful piano ballad about being stood up by Hugh Jackman for an Oscars dance. Who writes these numbers anyway? I felt like Jackman’s fake retractable claws were stuck into my brain.
6:27 – James trots out in drag, for no apparent reason, presumably to relieve Anne. He’d be great in a John Waters film.
6:29 – Another awkward presentation, this one by Russell Brand and Helen Mirren, with the latter speaking French and the former translating poorly. They say the Oscars curse pertains to post-award film roles, but that sounds far more endurable than having to present in one of these painfully scripted sketches.
6:29 – In A Better World wins Best Foreign Language. Denmark – 1. American audiences – 0.
6:34 – Christian Bale wins Best Supporting Actor for his excellent turn in The Fighter and delivers a charming, unpretentious, amusingly stream-of-consciousness acceptance speech. He thanks his wife, daughter and also gives a shout-out to the real Dicky Eklund, whose training services he recommends to all those present. I can only hope this means sightings of Gary Busey on the streets of Lowell this year.
6:45 – The Social Network gets Best Original Score. Imagine that. Trent Reznor at the Oscars! Here’s a day I thought would never come. Well done, gentlemen!
6:49 – Inception wins Best Sound Mixing. Cool. That seems the like the best word to sum up the crowd reaction. The speech is brief, but reminds us – In case you didn’t know – that Chris Nolan made Inception.
6:51 – Inception gets Best Sound Editing too. Well deserved, but by now it’s clear that Nolan has trained his crew to thank him “1000%” in the event of winning an award. The level of brown nosing here is on par with Caligula.
6:55 – Marisa Tomei! Aww. Who doesn’t love Marisa Tomei? America’s most endearing actress turns up to pay tribute to the Academy’s technical award honorees.
6:56 – James Franco (paying his own tribute to the same nominees): “Congratulations, nerds.” By far the funniest moment of the night.
6:59 – The Wolf Man wins Best Make Up. Really? Couldn’t they have gone for a more obvious choice like…
7:01 – …Alice in Wonderland, which just won Best Costume Design? Apparently, the Academy saw a different movie than the rest of the world’s population.
7:04 – A montage of interviewees describing their favorite Oscar-winning song is presented, including a spot from the Commander in Chief himself. What? Barack Obama watches movies?
7:08 – The nominated song from Tangled sounds suspiciously like “A Whole New World.” No one recycles hits like Disney.
7:15 – Strangers No More gets Best Documentary Short, as all of America runs to throw a new bag of popcorn in the microwave.
7:17 – God of Love snags Best Live Action Short. Director Luke Matheny, sporting a thunderous afro, gives a sweet acceptance speech, thanking his mom for providing the “craft services.”
7:20 – Another “comedic montage” – autotuning the nominees. In classic fashion, the Academy is about two years late on this trend.
7:22 – Oprah Winfrey: “We go to the movies to escape.” In this day and age, as revolution spreads through the Middle East and unions stand on the brink of crippling erosion, I’m not sure if that insight is as uplifting as Oprah meant it to be.
7:24 – Best Documentary Feature goes to Inside Job. A well deserved win. Director Charles Ferguson takes a page from Michael Moore’s book and points out that not a single Wall Street employee has been arrested in connection with the fraud that led to the recession. Thankfully, he is not booed off of the stage.
7:28 – Billy Crystal is in the house! Wow, remember him? Perhaps he’s been flown in to rescue the show!
7:29 – Bob Hope is digitally resurrected to deliver the Best Visual Effects award. Perhaps this gesture isn’t as immensely creepy in person as it is on TV.
7:35 – Inception gets Best Visual Effects. Christopher Nolan is only acknowledged twice.
7:37 – The Social Network gets Best Editing. Thank god for it. The film was unmatched in cutting. Everyone seems quite satisfied with this win.
7:44 – James Franco, clearly stoned out of his mind – not that I blame him – mentions the most “inappropriate movie titles of 2011,” including Winter’s Bone, Rabbit Hole and How to Train Your Dragon. Finally, someone who’s not taking this awards show seriously.
7:44 – Florence Welch turns up to sing “If I Rise” with AR Rahman, from 127 Hours.
7:46 – Gwenyth Paltrow sings the titular song from Country Strong. Did anyone actually see that movie?
7:47 – It’s a shame that Jonsi Birgisson wasn’t nominated for “Sticks and Stones” in How to Train Your Dragon. The awards show could have used the punch of joy that is that song.
7:48 – Randy Newman wins Best Original Song for Toy Story 3’s “We Belong Together.” Oh well. Consider it a rain check statuette for the first film’s “You’ve Got A Friend in Me”.
7:49 – Celine Dion serenades 2011’s departed names of Hollywood. You can’t help but envy them.
8:05 – David Fincher is robbed of a Best Director Oscar by the spring chicken Tom Hooper, winning the award for The King’s Speech. The Twitter universe experiences the equivalent of ten supernovas.
8:12 – James Franco is still visibly high.
8:18 – Natalie Portman wins Best Actress for Black Swan. Big surprise there. She also thanks everyone short of the film’s bottled water distributors for the award.
8:25 – Colin Firth wins Best Actor for The King’s Speech. Another winner from right out of left field! Still, Mr. Firth gives a gracious speech and best of all, thanks Tom Ford, director of 2009’s A Single Man, the film that Firth should have won the award for. Thus far, the Brits have the best speech record of the night.
8: 38 – The King’s Speech wins Best Picture. Yawn. So much for harnessing younger audiences. ABC can look forward to a swift plummet in ratings next year.
8:41 – In a cheap move to avert criticism of the show, the Academy ends the spectacle with the children of Staten Island’s PS22 chorus, performing “Over the Rainbow.” Somehow, as David Fincher, Javier Bardem and Michelle Williams depart empty handed, the song seems gutted of its wistful idealism.