Live Report from the Academy Awards

Tonight’s the night. In about half an hour, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards will start broadcasting live from Hollywood, California. There are many, many attractive people here, and out on the red carpet, Avatar star Sam Worthington made a point to tell the entire crowd that “this is f-ing unbelievable.” I’m sitting here live in the press room, where they’ll be bringing all the winners to talk to reporters after their victories, and I’ll be telling you what they’re saying as soon as they say it. Keep it right here on Fancast to get the latest as it happens.

Right now, there’s nothing going on but press people having conversations about movies they liked, whether or not The Blind Side is quietly racist, and the weird guy with giant placards outside who thinks nominating Inglourious Basterds is as bad as nominating a snuff film. Yeah, it can get a bit crazy here when all of us chickens get together to cluck.

It’s almost showtime, and I’m stoked to see how my personal comedy got Steve Martin brings the funny with Alec Baldwin. Unfortunately, thanks to a glitch, they didn’t give us the sound so we missed the whole NPH opening. But thankfully we’ve got it back in time to here Steve say “Damn Judi Dench.” And props for The Jerk reference with Gabourey Sidibe, who announced at the Oscar Luncheon that she was a huge fan of Steve’s first starring role. Steve and Alec just going around the room cracking on people is just good comedy fun, and a great dig on the fact that everyone knows Jeff Bridges is going to win Best Actor.

Penelope Cruz out to present Best Supporting Actor, which everyone thinks Christoph Waltz of Inglourous Basterds is going to win. Matt Damon, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Plummer and Stanley Tucci know it, too. No one is surprised as he wins, because holy cow was he amazing in that movie. His Academy Award is a welcoming embrace, and he can’t thank us enough. And we can’t thank him enough for making Col. Hans Landa that amazing.

The Blind Side is profiled. That movie was one of the few Oscar movies I felt that I could recommend to absolutely anyone and they’d enjoy it, including my brother, who doesn’t care about movies at all.

I’m liking the animation montage, and I hope it’ll get people to actually see The Secret of Kells. Is there any doubt Up will win this award for Best Animated Feature? No. Not a very surprise-heavy ceremony this year. Here we go. The Pixar award train is just unstoppable.

Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus in giant bright dresses. Seyfried was on the red carpet earlier, and she seemed to be having some trouble walking around in that big skirt. Best Original Song, I’m guessing the Crazy Heart song will win, but it’s interesting that this year the songs aren’t actually being performed as they have been traditionally. “The Weary Kind” wins. Jeff Bridges stands up in salute, because he loves him some T-Bone Burnett.

Chris Pine talks about District 9, which is one of the most original sci-fi movies I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t tell anybody, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Avatar. That’s a short profile – guess they’ve got to bang them out quickly to keep the time going.

Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey – this has high comedy potential. “It’s a collaboration between handsome gifted people and skinny mole people.” Well done, Mr. Downey. Here’s Best Original Screenplay, which I’m betting Basterds will win, because it takes a truly original script to rewrite World War II like that. But it goes to The Hurt Locker. Well done. That movie was unbelievably intense, and giving it to a reporter from Iraq is a good call. Good speech. Everyone thinks Iraq is over, but it isn’t.

Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick? Interesting. I’d like to see Ferris Bueller join The Breakfast Club. Here they are to give a tribute to the late, great John Hughes, who made some of the most memorable movies of my generation. The whole Brat Pack is on stage. Amazing to see them all.

Ryan Bingham, winner of Best Original Song, is the first visitor to the press room, and about four years ago, he was living in a van, and now he’s here for writing “The Weary Kind” with T-Bone Burnett. Burnett is apparently feeling sick, which may explain why he didn’t bother to give an acceptance speech.

I don’t use this word much because it sounds so cheesy, but Carey Mulligan was enchanting in An Education. And Zoe Saldana is sci-fi queen this year with Star Trek and Avatar. Stuff to think about when watching short film nominations, which nobody has seen.

Mark Boal just showed up, Best Original Screenplay winner for The Hurt Locker, and he told the press room he’s a lot more hopeful about his chances for Best Picture now that he’s won. He had an eye-opening experience in Baghdad at the end of 2004 and thought this dangerous job would be an interesting way to look at the war in a broader sense. His advice for screenwriters is that it always helps to have a genius for a director. But he’s got no advice for those who want to make Iraq movies without suffering from the war-movie curse that dooms those movies to obscurity.

Ben Stiller, in full Na’vi regalia, because somebody had to do it. It feels a bit awkward, but Stiller excels at exploiting awkwardness for comedy purposes. Or comedy porpoises, which is something else entirely. I love his promise to stand as far away from the Best Makeup winner as possible so as not to demean their moment of triumph. Spock ears rule the day!

Jeff Bridges gets to present his buddies’ movie A Serious Man. The Coen brothers and Jeff Bridges are great together – they’ll be working on True Grit coming up soon, and Bridges made a reference to The Big Lebowski when he won his Independent Spirit Award on Friday night, too. That award will really tie the room together.

The live chat folks seem to be judging the Oscar telecast as stiff and boring so far. What do you think? It’s a bit short on tension and surprise this year, admittedly. Most everything seems a foregone conclusion for most of the big six categories. Ten nominees doesn’t seem to have made the Best Picture race any more wide open.

Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal presenting Best Adapted Screenplay. Geoffrey Fletcher wins for adapting Push, the challenging novel by Sapphire. The fact that Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire is in the movie’s official title might tell us just how important the source material is. Fletcher is a very humble man, and he was very emotional at the Spirit Awards, and even moreso tonight. That’s when you draw a blank like he did. Steve Martin claims to have written that speech, the perfect thing to say as always.

The great Roger Corman wins a lifetime achievement award, and he’s got plenty of free movies you can watch right here on Fancast. Lauren Bacall right alongside him. Give it up for the old school.

Robin Williams opens the Best Supporting Actress category with an off-color zinger about testicles. Some things never change. This is Mo’Nique’s category, hands down. Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Penelope Cruz are also-rans this time around – no knock on any of them, but there’s no holding a candle to Mo’Nique’s tour de force, sending her into the stratosphere. She thanks the Academy for ignoring politics and going with performance. “Sometimes you have to forego doing what’s popular to do what’s right.” Well said.

Colin Firth is wonderful. An Education was an interesting movie, but I have to say I was a bit sullied by watching far too much Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to really get into a movie about a guy in his 30s romancing a 16-year-old. As I said, Carey Mulligan was enchanting, though.

Sigourney Weaver, Avatar star, presents the Best Art Direction award to Avatar. I thought she’d at least wear a blue dress. Whoa, an emotional speech coming now. Anyone who opens with “I am supposed to be dead” will definitely get our attention.

Steve Martin gets to call his former L.A. Story co-star Sarah Jessica Parker a “clothes whore” while Keanu Reeves looks on, puzzled as he always is. She and Tom Ford are presenting Best Costume Design. The Young Victoria wins, perhaps making up for Emily Blunt being snubbed for a Best Actress nomination.

Steve and Alec bust out a fantastic Paranormal Activity spoof. I think I enjoyed that more than the real movie. And now Taylor and Kristen (SCREEEEECH) are presenting a horror movie tribute. Nice inclusion of Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors, then a switch to Jack Nicholson in the original version of that movie – a Roger Corman film, incidentally.

Morgan Freeman spoofing his own penchant to narrate everything to bring in the Best Sound awards, giving us some awesome memories of The Dark Knight. Well done. I’ve just now noticed that they did, indeed, bring back “And the winner is…” instead of the nice and loser-free “And the Oscar goes to…” Kooky. I wonder if it makes losers feel more like losers. The Hurt Locker takes both sound awards – it’s beating Avatar in the technical awards! I think that’s a sign of things to come.

Elizabeth Banks is the gorgeous actress hired this year to host the Science and Technical Academy Awards. I got to go to that ceremony last year – the food was delicious. Jessica Biel was hosting. They also had a magician as the opening act. It’s very different from the big-time Oscars we’re watching now, I’ll tell you that much.

John Travolta, who owes the second half of his career to Quentin Tarantino, gets to profile Inglourious Basterds – which I would be completely fine with as a Best Picture winner. It’s an amazingly well-crafted movie. I was literally on the edge of my seat watching that.

Mo’Nique is here in the press room! She says she still doesn’t think she’s an actress. She’s “a stand-up comedian who won an Oscar.” She’s wearing the same thing in her hair that Hattie McDaniel wore when she accepted her Academy Award. When asked how Hollywood would be different if women had more natural figures and didn’t shave their legs, she says “they would win Oscars.” She is owning this room, demanding that the reporters who supported her when she had nothing be the ones who get to ask her questions now when she’s on top. She says this role was “so not about my acting career. This role has shaped my life.” It’s helped her to love unconditionally. She says she’s married to an angel. “Don’t judge it, just be it and leave it on the floor.” Mary Jones was left on the studio floor, and she never brought it home. Reporters told her that “Someone needs to teach Mo’Nique a lesson. Someone needs to show her how the game is played.” And she’s proud that she didn’t have to “play the game” and the award didn’t go to whoever went to the most dinners.

They pulled out the In Memoriam segment while Mo’Nique was here, so I missed most of it. Did they get everybody? I expected a world-record length for it this year, since 2009 was so morbidly copious in the amount of celebrities who died.

Now we’ve got J.Lo and Sam.Wo. Let’s see if Worthington drops the f-bomb. My fingers are crossed! No… but interpretive dance! INTERPRETIVE DANCE! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE INTERPRETIVE DANCE! An inexplicable Oscar mainstay. But Michael Giacchino wins Best Original Score for Up, and he insists that creativity is not a waste of time. Get out there and do it, people!

Uh-oh. Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper. Holla if you want them shirtless. They’re presenting visual effects – if Avatar doesn’t win, a lot of people hate James Cameron. But Avatar wins, so therefore Cameron is beloved.

Matt Damon’s here. He’s an Oscar-winning screenwriter. We forget that sometimes. He’s presenting Best Documentary Feature. Burma VJ is reportedly absolutely amazing. The Cove is probably going to win because dolphins are universally beloved. Except for those reports that say dolphins have been documented killing other dolphins for fun. Food Inc. made me become a vegetarian for a week, which is really saying something for me. Congratulations to The Cove and Fisher Stevens, whom you may remember from the Short Circuit movies.

Tyler Perry says “they just said my name at the Oscars! Enjoy it now because it’ll probably never happen again!” At least he’s aware of it. He’s often said he’s no director, he just wants to tell stories. The man is funny, and he announces The Hurt Locker as Best Film Editing. Wow. It’s winning the technical awards over Avatar. Holy cow. That’s surprising.

Giant film buff Quentin Tarantino is presenting Best Foreign Film. He’s the guy to do it, since Inglourious Basterds was half a French film anyway. The Secret In Their Eyes gets a surprised reaction in the press room as the winner, but the joke thanking the Academy for not considering Na’vi a foreign language is a good one. An energetically frantic speech there.

The Visual Effects team from Avatar is in here, and they’re not tired of talking about their movie – they worked on it for four years and they have plenty to talk about. They stress that everything in Avatar is inspired by stuff in the real world, so look for things just as amazing in the world you actually live in.

Ah, they’ve brought back the “five stars” format for Best Actor. Michelle Pfeiffer tells a story from The Fabulous Baker Boys to hype Jeff Bridges. Vera Farmiga gets to talk up George Clooney and his mischievous smile. Julianne Moore is Colin Firth’s co-star in A Single Man, which is a very interesting film – but Moore is always on the ball, and Firth is fabulous. Tim Robbins talks Morgan Freeman and The Shawshank Redemption, which remains one of my favorite movies of all time. “Being a friend is getting the other a cup of coffee. Can you do that for me, Ted?” Colin Farrell, who is Bridges’ co-star, oddly gets to tell rowdy drunk stories about Jeremy Renner. Renner and Firth are the only guys with a sliver of a chance to beat Bridges here, but they likely won’t. Yay for Kate Winslet – she’s fantastic all the time in everything. They’ve got the five-shot going – look for surly responses from the losers, if any! No surprise here for Bridges. Crazy Heart is all Bridges and pretty much only Bridges. Man, Bridges IS The Dude, man. And The Dude abides.

The Cove crew is here in the press room, reassuring everyone that their movie is a love letter to the Japanese people, despite how it seems they’re depicted in the movie, and there’s a Japanese reporter accusing them of not having all the facts straight. It’s a bit testy here, discussing dolphin meat and whale meat, but they really want the Japanese people to see their movie.

Best Actress time, the only category with some suspense going for it. Forest Whitaker gets to talk up his Hope Floats star and Razzie winner Sandy Bullock, who many think is the favorite just because she’s the purtiest and most star-like. Maybe they will, just to encourage her to make better choices in her movies. The lovely Michael Sheen gets to gush about Helen Mirren and her hot tattoos. Mirren was crazy interesting in The Last Station, half out of her mind. Peter Sarsgaard gets to apologize for his character’s treatment of Carey Mulligan in An Education. She’ll be back here, so she’s not winning this time around. Gabby Sidibe has Oprah power behind her – I think she might upset Sandra Bullock to complete her Hollywood fairy tale. Knowing Hollywood’s awful double standard about rail-thin ingenues, I fear that Gabby’s not going to get another chance to shine this brightly, so she needs and deserves it now. Stanley Tucci loves him some Meryl Streep, calling their two movies the highlights of his career. As Steve Martin said at the top of the show, she’s lost more than anyone. She’s nominated all the time, but she’s only one twice, if I recall properly. And now, Sean Penn, our erstwhile Harvey Milk, is here to present the award at long last.

Alas, my upset pick does not come to fruition. Sandy Bullock, whom I’ve had a mild crush on since Demolition Man, is now an Academy Award winner. “Did I really earn this, or did I just wear you all down?” She’s become the first actress to ever win the Best Actress Oscar and the Worst Actress Razzie in the same year. She’s showing respect to everybody else in her category, which makes it seem like she’s not sure she deserves to win. Now she’s breaking up at the thought of her mother and what she’s done. There we are, America’s Sweetheart Sandra Bullock. She’s a funny girl, that’s for sure.

Speaking of funny girls, now we’ve got Barbra Streisand hyping the Best Director category, opening with a line that will make anybody but Kathryn Bigelow or Lee Daniels winning disappointing for everybody, as they could make Academy Award history. And Bigelow of The Hurt Locker does, marking the first time a woman has ever won the Best Director award. Looks like that “Lockergate” stuff didn’t screw their movie’s chances after all. They’re knocking Avatar out.

Tom Hanks, Kip from Bosom Buddies, announces with absolutely no fanfare the Best Picture winner is The Hurt Locker, completing their knockout blow against Bigelow’s ex-hubby James Cameron’s Avatar. Not a huge surprise, but still a hell of a development. The Hurt Locker has been “honored beyond anything we could have ever imagined.” There’s a shout-out to producer Nicolas Chartier, the guy who was banned from the ceremony for sending campaigning emails to members of the Academy. The wins are dedicated to men and women in uniform all around the world. “They’re there for us, and we’re there for them.”

Steve Martin ends with a great line: “The show is so long, Avatar now takes place in the past.”

I’m still sitting in the press room, because they saved all the big winners for after the show for some reason. So stick around!

In a press room that’s very hostile towards Sandra Bullock’s win, Jeff Bridges is finally here. He describes the ups and downs of his career thusly. “What does the Dude say? Strikes and gutters, man.” THE DUDE ABIDES. He’s been writing music since he was a kid, just like Bad Blake, but unlike Bad, he doesn’t have a good family or a strong marriage. He’d love to form a country band with T-Bone Burnett and the guys. He’s a bit disappointed that Crazy Heart didn’t make the 10 Best Picture nominees, but “bitch, bitch, bitch.” “Movies are more than just entertainment. They’re connecting us. Music is the same way. A common link for all of us.” He loves the success of The Big Lebowski, surprised that it’s had such lasting love since when it came out, it didn’t do much at the time. A shout-out to Lebowski Fests! He says his girls are the tail on his kite that keep it centered. And he listened to Benji Hughes on his iPod this morning.

Now Christoph Waltz is finally here, answering questions in German, because he’s cool like that. I hope he gets to speak in English at least once. Here we go. His American award season experience is “dizzying, mind-boggling, very intense, fantastic and tomorrow I’ll probably be sorry that it’s over.” He said meeting someone like Quentin brings back a lot of what you originally intended to do when you got into acting in the first place. Waltz says he knew it was really good, but he didn’t see awards coming at all. He says he would advise every beginning actor not to think of awards before starting a job. Four German questions took up most of his mic time.

Pete Docter, director of Best Animated Film Up, says “no one has ever regretted being able to draw. Draw, draw, draw. You’ll catch things you normally might not notice.” The line between animation and real life is getting blurrier and blurrier with things like Avatar making technology even better, but he still insists that it’s always about storytelling, assuring us that actors will always be needed. When asked about pressure at Pixar to top their last film, he says it’s a friendly, supportive rivalry, and Brad Bird and the rest of the guys always watch what he’s doing and offering suggestions, and if they’re good, he gets to take credit for them! He also says 3-D can be a gimmick or it can be legitimate, just like anything else. They purposely made Carl’s depressed scenes flat and blew out the 3-D whenever things were really exciting. It’s a great new tool, a new toy to play with.

The whole Hurt Locker crew is here now, including Best Director Kathryn Bigelow. She hopes she’s the first of many female directors to win, but she prefers to think of herself as a filmmaker, and longs for the day where the modifier could be a moot point. Never give up on your dream. She never dared to hope for awards, but the love from the critical community was like wind in her sails, creating momentum that would not stop, and she appreciates it greatly. She’s asked about beating James Cameron – she says he and all the nominees are phenomenal, talented filmmakers, and it’s very humbling for her to be in that company, in that conversation. She’s speechless when asked what she’ll say to Cameron, though. A reporter’s father is a veteran, and claimed he really knew what the supermarket scene felt like, and they thank her for making the movie. She gives thanks to Mark Boal, standing beside her, for writing the screenplay. She’s been making films for 30 years, so when she says ‘don’t give up on your dreams,’ she means it quite literally. “Work on stories you truly, truly believe in, because then no obstacle is too great.” There’s hope that the Oscar attention will bring more eyeballs to their film, but they’re already grateful for their success, and they know how many filmmakers don’t get their films made at all, and how many don’t get any distribution whatsoever. Lockergate central figure Nicolas Chartier sent them a very beautiful email. He’s very excited.

And now, last but not least, Sandra Bullock is here to sparkle at us and likely work the room beautifully. Her advice for acting students? “Don’t aspire to be in these shoes, walk in your own. Everyone’s really good at telling everyone how to live their life, but don’t listen to it.” Her mother beat it into her head to be original. Savor what you are and not what everyone else wants you to be. She didn’t think she was the favorite. She isn’t sure she earned it or just hung around long enough to wear people down. She didn’t aspire to it and didn’t think the opportunity would ever present itself for her to rise to this occasion. This came out of left field. She said no to this film at first, and she had to be convinced to take the part. She thinks you can’t pick one of the actresses in her category that rises above the others. She feels she shares it equally in five parts, because “we ladies need to stick together.” Sandra Bullock speaks German. This I did not know. That’s pretty hot. She’s asked about the power of the same-sex kiss with Meryl Streep and its headlines over her naked scene with Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal. She says Ryan is a freak of nature in how good he looks naked, but no one expects Meryl Streep would roll with the flow like that. “She’s an awesome broad. She’s an extraordinary actor but she’s also a free, fun human being.” The story of George Clooney throwing her into a pool – she’d sworn to Clooney and Tom Cruise that she would get them back for that in a public forum, “but George Clooney looked so tired tonight.” She suggests we ask him about it instead. She says her Razzie and her Oscar are going to sit side by side. “You take the good with the not-so-good. I had the best time at the Razzies last night. It probably means more that both of them happened at the same time, because it’s the great equalizer. It doesn’t let me get too full of myself, it cuts me off at the knees.” She claims her husband doesn’t cry – he had something in his eye, some dust from the dance number. She wants food, a burger, sit down, take the shoes off and eat and not sweat it and not worry the dress will bust open, and then a nap. That’s her celebration tonight. She still wants to do everything. She doesn’t like to be told she can’t do something. Just because she does commercial films doesn’t mean she couldn’t do art-house films. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do next, she was waiting for this to die down. She’s going to make mistakes and make people roll their eyes, but she’s going to keep trying to work in every genre she can until they stop hiring her for the work.

And there we go. 9:51 PST and we’re finally done. Thank you, good night, and I’m going to go eat a burger and take a nap myself. Good night, Cleveland. Rock on, Chicago.

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Foreign Language FIlm: The Secret In Their Eyes
Best Original Song: T-Bone Burnett & Ryan Bingham, “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart
Best Original Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
Best Adapted Screenplay: Geoffrey Fletcher, Precious
Best Cinematography: Mauro Fiore, Avatar
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Live Action Short Film: Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson, The New Tenants
Best Animated Short Film: Nicolas Schmerkin, Logorama
Best Documentary (Short Subject): Music by Prudence
Best Makeup: Star Trek
Best Art Direction: Avatar
Best Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Best Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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