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Photograph of Queens native Amy Ryan, nominated for best supporting actress for her role in Gone, Baby Gone

2008_02_osccloon.jpgAt 8:30PM (following a half-hour red carpet special), the 80th Annual Academy Awards ceremony will begin, finally putting an end to the "There Will Be Oscar" or "Oscar Country for Old Men" type headlines.

You can prep yourself with the Oscar nominees list as you watch (or avoid) red carpet coverage. You could read NY Times movie critic A.O. Scott's slightly curmudgeonly but totally valid essay on the Oscars: "I am nonetheless bothered by the disproportionate importance that the Academy Awards have taken on, and by the distorting influence they exercise over the way we make, market and see movies in this country." (Scott does make it clear he enjoy the Oscars; NY Times' David Carr, aka the Carpetbagger, has a companion essay about just reveling in the Oscarness.) The Daily News' Jack Matthews has his guesses about who will win tonight - for instance, he thinks Daniel Day-Lewis will win Best Actor, but Viggo Mortensen should win for his work in Eastern Promises. The Post offers up alternative awards - Best Bloodbath goes to Sweeney Tood.

We'll be back later to liveblog Hollywood's biggest night. We can't bear to watch Ryan Seacrest on E! - he was talking to the great actor Tom Wilkinson (nominated for best supporting actor in Michael Clayton, previously nominated for In the Bedroom) and all Seacrest could discuss was Wilkinson's fondness for the TV show Friends and talking about George Clooney.

2008_02_marion.jpg8PM: Red-carpet show on ABC - Regis Philbin is hosting, with classic Philbin mania. First interview: Geroge Clooney, who is with girlfriend Sarah Lawson. Clooney hijacks the interview by asking how Notre Dame basketball did, Philbin closes out by asking for an invite to Clooney's Italian villa.

Then Shaun Robinson interviews Best Actress nominee Marion Cotillard - wearing a stunning mermaid style Jean-Paul Gaultier dress - charming and sweet. Brooke Burke speaks with John Travolta and Kelly Preston; apparently it's not the night to ask about Tom Cruise's Scientology video.

Best Actress nominee Laura Linney briefly chats to Regia, then Best Supporting Actor nominee Javier Bardem fends what must be the billionth question about the Anton Chigurh hairstyle. All these interviews are so stilted! Miley Cyrus is now talking to Regis - why? Because Hannah Montana is a Disney show, and ABC is owned by Disney. Then again, the Hannah Montana concert movie was #1 at the box office a few weeks ago.

Guh, Brooke Burke refers to Juno as the "little indie that could" when talking to Jennifer Garner. How do the folks behind Little Miss Sunshine feel? Anyway, Garner, who is excellent in Juno, gives a shout out to her stylist - and Nicole Richie's enemy - Rachel Zoe. Helen Mirren is witty and classy when chatting with Regis.

2008_02_ddl.jpgDaniel Day-Lewis is wearing his golden hoop earrings; his wife, Rebecca Miller (writer-director and daughter of Arthur), is wearing a dress with huge brooches and red bow straps and seems destined for a Fug list. The next interview is Regis discussing Daniel Day-Lewis with Cameron Diaz and that's it. He also chats with the oldest Oscar fan who camps out at the bleachers and then interviews the fans who won a lottery to watch the Oscars inside the Kodak Theater (we bet they are terrible seats).

Chats with Ellen Page, Hillary Swank, the performers for one of the Enchanted Best Song numbers, orchestra leader Bill Conti (he'll be playing music before winners finish his speeches; his credits include scoring Rocky and The Karate Kid). Yada yada yada. Oh, no! Regis is walking through the Kodak Theater and calls Javier Bardem "Xavier!" A pregnant Cate Blanchett pretends (maybe?) to waddle over to hug Laura Linney. Okay, this nonsense is over.

8:30PM: Opening film - it's a computer-animated montage of various movie things - car from Cars, King Kong, Easy Rider, Cary Grant running in North by Northwest, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Harry Potter flying through - as a car travels to Hollywood. We imagine this was produced during the writers' strike, because it doesn't require any actors or much writing. It seemed chintzy, but it's probably necessary.

Jon Stewart is on - he mentions the writers' strike, "The fight is over. So tonight, welcome to the make-up sex." And he tweaks Vanity Fair's decision to cancel its famous post-Oscar party, because VF wanted to respect the writers with something along the lines of, "If they want to respect the writers, how about they invite some writers for once!" Jokes about the psychopathic killer movies, check. Teenage pregnancy joke, check. Anton Chigurh joke - "Hannibal Lecter's murderousness with Dorothy Hamill's wedge cut" - check. Hillary Clinton joke, check. Some other jokes:
- Noting Diablo Cody, exotic dancer turned Juno screenwriter in the audience, "Hope you're enjoying the pay cut."
- It's Oscar's 80th birthday, "which automatically makes him the frontrunner for the Republican nomination."
- When there's a black man or woman President, it means "an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty." (Cut to Spike Lee and Wesley Snipes, laughing.)
- On Barack Hussein Obama's name, Stewart says it's a lot to overcome when you have a name that sounds like horrible other men, like "Gaydolf Titler" in 1944.

Jennifer Garner presents the Oscar for Best Costume Design, which we bet Atonement will win if only for the amazing green dress Keira Knightley wears. But Alexandra Byrne wins for Elizabeth: The Golden Age, which did have some over-the-top designs. First commercial break, but not before a flashback to the 1969 Oscars ceremony, where Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn both won Best Actress in a tie.

George Clooney introduces a montage of previous Oscars telecasts. If you've watched too many Oscars ceremonies, it's got the all the clips you're familiar with - Rob Lowe and Snow White, Isaac Hayes doing Shaft, Bob Hope's great jokes, Billy Crystal as Hannibal Lecter, Adrien Brody's kiss with Halle Berry, but it's sweet to see the Charlie Chaplin clip. Back to Jon Stewart, who says he's watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPhone.

2008_02_oscaranne.jpgAfter a serious Steve Carrell realizes he's actually presenting the Animated Feature Oscar with Anne Hathaway, not Best Documentary, the pair present the Best Animated Film Oscar to Brad Bird, for Ratatouille. Brad Bird mentions his guidance counselor's doubt that he could make movies helped prepare him for the movie business. A nervous Katherine Heigl - wearing red (it's the color of the night - Anne Hathaway was also in red) presents the Best Makeup Oscar to the La Vie on Rose team - Didier Lavergne, Jan Archibald; close-up of Marion Cotillard, who looks like she's about to cry.

Where are the big categories? Traditionally the Oscars throw the viewers a bone, by presenting Best Supporting Actor or Actress early. But Jon Stewart introduces the first Best Song performance - it's Amy Adams singing the Happy Working Song from Enchanted. She sounds great, but after the great scene from the movie, with all the rodents and creatures (see it here), it's a pretty spare treatment. Can it be that we yearn for some crazy Debbie Allen dance number?

Back from commercial break, Jon Stewart tells us that the Kodak Theater attendees spend commercial breaks snarking about what the viewing audience is wearing. Then it's Dwayne "Don't Call Me The Rock Anymore" Johnson presenting the Best Visual Effects Oscar to the Golden Compass crew - Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, Trevor Wood - who give a short, nice speech. Go behind the scenes production teams!

Cate Blanchett, glorious in a flowy purple and silver dress, presents the Best Art Decoration Oscar to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street's Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo. Ferretti and Lo Schiavo won the Art Decoration Oscar for The Aviator; Feretti has also worked on other Scorsese films, including The Age of Innocence, Brining Out the Dead, Gang of New York.

Jon Stewart waxes about Cate Blanchett's amazing acting abilities, from Elizabeth to Bob Dylan and says she played a pitbull chasing Josh Brolin in No Country for Old Men and she's even playing himself, Jon Stewart, right now: "She cannot be stopped!"

2008_02_javier.jpgMontage of supporting actor awards being presented in years past, which means supporting actors awards will be presented! Last year's supporting actress winner Jennifer Hudson presents the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Expected, after all the attention for the role, but Hal Holbrook could have been an upset (Holbrook looked so cute with Dixie Carter!). Bardem gives a rousing speech, noting the horrible haircut and the faith the Coens had in him, and ends with a thank you in Spanish to his mother - saying this is for mothers and fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, etc. His mother, who is his date, is touched and Tommy Lee Jones pats her shoulder.

Hilarious montage of what Stewart claims would have been a necessity for a writers' strike afflicted Oscars show: An Oscar Salute to Binoculars and Periscopes. And then Stewart shows a bit of An Oscar Salute to Bad Dreams. Keri Russell, who starred in August Rush but got better reviews for the Waitress, presents the Best Song performance of "Raise it Up" from August Rush, with performers from Harlem's IMPACT Repertory Theatre. There are about thirty or forty performers, and they're terrific.

9:28PM No jokes here - Owen Wilson presents the Best Live Action Short Film Oscar. The winner is Philippe Pollet-Villard for Le Mozart des Pickpockets, and Pollet-Villard says he can't speak English very well, but manages to thank his producer and family before saying merci in French.

Oh, no, it's the animated Bee Movie Bee voiced by Jerry Seinfeld! Okay, the montage of the Bee's other movie appearances (in the Swarm, Rushmore, A Room with a View, Election), is funny, but we rather the show end sooner. He presents the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film to Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman for Peter & the Wolf.

2008_02_tilda.jpgMontage of best supporting actress awards, which leads to last year's supporting actor winner, Alan Arkin, stepping out to present the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. And the winner is...Tilda Swinton, for Michael Clayton! A mild upset, as Ruby Dee or Cate Blanchett had been expected to win. But Swinton - wow! She's stunned and says the Oscar looks exactly like her agent, who deserves the award. She also said Michael Clayton writer-director Tony Gilroy walks on water and mentioned George Clooney wearing the Batman suit on set ("You rock!"). She's awesome - if you haven't yet, see her in The Deep End or Orlando.

Jessica Alba, in a lovely third trimester gown, mentions the Scientific Academy Awards handed out a few weeks ago. Insert a joke about the pregnant actresses and Jack Nicholson's virility. Then Josh Brolin and James McAvoy, after riffing on previous famous movie lines, present Best Adapted Screenplay to Ethan Coen and Joel Coen's adaptation of No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. They previously won best original screenplay with Fargo.

Sid Ganis, the Academy president, tries to enlighten the average non-Hollywood Joe or Jane about the Oscar nominating and voting process with a montage (of course a montage) about the, uh, process, but not the Price Waterhouse Coopers part. The Academy's voting is super secret - as the Barbra Streisand-Katharine Hepburn tie in 1969 showed, votes can be close (Streisand reportedly only joined the Academy that year and probably voted for herself - had she not voted, she would have lost by one vote!).

Then the third song nominee - it's the second of three Enchanted songs. Kristen Chenoweth, Broadway star and actor on ABC's Pushing Daises, sing "How Do You Know?" with a cast of characters. She has a terrific voice and stage presence.

10:00PM Back from commercial break, Jon Stewart gives out an award to a pregnant actress - Jessica Alba, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman are in the running. But the award is for Angelina Jolie, who is totally pregnant! Stewart accepts on her behalf, noting it's hard getting 17 babysitters on Oscar night. Then he introduces Halle Berry and Dame Judi Dench as the next presenters.

2008_02_jonahseth.jpgBut the Superbad boys, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogan, appear, claiming that Halle and Dame Judi couldn't appear, so they were plucked from the audience. The pair argue over who is Halle and who is Judi Dench, before the presenting the Best Sound Editing Award to Karen M. Baker for Per Hallberg for The Bourne Ultimatum and the Best Sound Award to Scott Millan, David Parker, and Kirk Francis, also for The Bourne Ultimatum. We'll tell you this much - if the Oscars had nominated The Bourne Ultimatum for Best Picture, there would be a bigger audience.

Montage of Best Actress winners... could it be, the Best Actress award at 10:09PM? Wow, last year, Helen Mirren got her award at 11:52PM! Forest Whitaker, last year's Best Actor winner, comes out and presents the Best Actress Oscar to Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose. (Cate Blanchett jumps and starts clapping in her seat.) She is crying, thrilled, saying director Olivier Dahan "rocked" her world. She thanks the Academy, then "Thank you, life; thank you, love...it's true there are some angels in this city."

10:19PM Back from commercial, it's Jon Stewart and the 11-year-old performer from the Impact Rep, playing Wii Tennis. Then Colin Farrell is "chuffed" to be introducing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova performing Best Song Nominee "Falling Slowly" from Once. Hansard is using the same beat-up acoustic guitar from the film, with tons of really nice guitars hanging in the back as decoration. It's a beautiful song and the soundtrack is great. This version has lot more to it - the Academy orchestra's string section is playing along - and they end with a shot of the pit and Bill Conti conducting and then the Kodak audience.

Jack Nicholson comes out - wearing not sunglasses, but possibly slightly tinted glasses - to introduce a montage of the Best Picture winners from the past 80 years. This will probably clock in at three minutes - time to get another snack or make a bathroom break! Actually, it's a good time to remember that some Best Picture winners don't stand up to the test of time.

2008_02_nicolekid.jpgRenee Zellweger presents the Best Film Editing Oscar to The Bourne Ultimatum's Christopher Rouse. Rouse reveals that his father is Russell Rouse, who won an Oscar for writing Pillow Talk! Cool! Nicole Kidman, who is pregnant yet still seems like she's Botoxing, comes out to introduce Honorary Oscar recipient Robert Boyle, who was the production designer for North by Northwest, The Birds, Marnie, Fiddler on the Roof, and Mame. Boyle is helped on stage because he is frail; he thanks "Hitch" for giving him his first big film.

10:42PM Jon Stewart jokes - thank God - that a glitch requires the show to be restarted. Then it's Penelope Cruz, presenting the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The winner is Austrian film The Counterfeiters, about a Jewish counterfeiter in a concentration camp.

Hee. Patrick Dempsey is introduced as "versatile and handsome"; McDreamy presents the final Best Song nominee, Enchanted's So Close, performed by Jon McLaughlin. We think Amy Adams is actually in the production number, dancing with an actor. Once the song is over, John Travolta makes his appearance by waltzing with one of the extras, and then he heads to the mic to present the Best Song Oscar. The winner is "Falling Slowly" from Once! Wow! Once is the real little movie that could - it was made over 17 days in Dublin for, as Glen Hansard says, "A hundred grand [Euros]." He implores everyone to "Make art!" Unfortunately, the orchestra starts playing the music and Marketa Irglova doesn't get to say anything.

2008_02_hansard.jpg10:57PM Best move of the night: Jon Stewart has Marketa Irglova come out and give her speech because she didn't get to give one. And she gives a lovely speech about independent musicians and having hope. Then Cameron Diaz comes out, stumbling a bit, and presents the Best Cinematography award to Robert Elswit for There Will Be Blood. Elswit thanks the production designer, director Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis.

Hillary Swank comes out to introduce the In Memoriam montage of actors, noting that some actors made their marks over many decades while others were taken too soon, "with their best yet to come." Some of the names: Roscoe Lee Brone, Laszlo Kovacs, Michaelangelo Antonioni, Suzanne Pleshette, Deborah Kerr, Jack Valenti, Kitty Carlisle Hart. The biggest cheers seem to be for Ingmar Bergman, and the segment ends with a shot of Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. Fade to black and commercial.

11:09PM: Amy Adams presents the Best Score Oscar - after a few examples of famous scores including Oscar orchestra leader Bill Conti's Rocky theme - to Dario Marianelli's score for Atonement. Tom Hanks comes out and introduces U.S. soldiers in Baghdad, who then announce the nominees for Best Short Documentary Film. Which is an interesting move, since many of the feature length documentary nominees are Iraq or Afghanistan war-related. The Best Documentary, Short Subject, winner is Freeheld, about NJ police officer Laurel Hester who was dying and wanted to give her partner her benefits.

2008_02_diablo.jpgHanks presents Best Documentary, Feature, to Taxi to the Dark Side. Director Alex Gibney notes that his father, a Naval interrogator, encouraged him to make the movie, angry over "what was being done to the rule of law." The film was picked up by HBO.

11:24PM Just a few more awards - Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Picture. Let's bring this in before midnight! Harrison Ford comes out to present Best Original Screenplay - the winner is Diablo Cody, for Juno. She might be the Oscar winner to show off her sexy lady tattoo. She dedicates the award to the other nominees and thanks the production team, star Ellen Page, director Jason Reitman, and her family "for loving me exactly the way I am."

11:30PM Return from the commercial break directly into the Best Actor of Years Past montage. Dame Helen Mirren present the Best Actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis for his role in There Will Be Blood. After kissing Mirren, he says, "That will be the closest I'll ever get to a knighthood." He gives a nice speech (thanks Paul Thomas Anderson, his co-stars, his wife) and pays tribute to his grandfather, father (former British poet laureate) and his sons. Guess George Clooney was right, when he called himself the "Hillary Clinton" in the Best Actor race, next to DDL's "Barack." So, was Johnny Depp John Edwards?

11:39PM Back from commercial to a clip of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau's Best Director introduction from a past telecast - god, were they awesome actors. And wow, now there's a montage of the past 30+ years of Best Director winners, which reminds everyone that the winners are typically white men (okay, Ang Lee won two years ago). Martin Scorsese comes out to present Best Director (aka "Best Achievement in Directing") to Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, making this the first time a pair of directors has won. In fact, back when Fargo received a Best Director nomination, the Academy (and Directors Guild) only allowed one person, so Joel Coen got the nod.

Denzel Washington comes out to present the Best Picture winner.... And it's No Country for Old Men. Joel and Ethan Coen come out of the wings, waiting for mega-producer Scott Rudin to come to the stage. Rudin, previously nominated for The Hours, is thrilled and thanks Cormac McCarthy, who had quite a 2007 (Oprah picked his book The Road for her Book Club). And we're loving the cuts back to Frances McDormand (Joel's wife), who is cheering and happy.

The show ends at 11:48PM. It was definitely an Oscars ceremony that paid tribute to the smaller, independent (with some studio aid) film, with No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Juno winning the major awards. It's great that the Academy is honoring well-made, interesting films, but the ceremony did feel a bit anti-climactic (save for wins for Tilda Swinton, Marion Cotillard and Once). What did you think?