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3:00 PM: "Drew, I'd like for you to live-blog the Oscars."
That was the e-mail this morning. "Oh, no," I thought. "I just RT'd my link from last year about why I don't report on the Oscars or watch the Oscars or anything. Besides, with both Awards Campaign and In Contention in the HitFix family, we've got awards covered like crazy." I was filled with a sudden dread at the idea that I might have to eat some crow and suddenly spend my day reporting on this thing that I so studiously avoid all year long.
Then there was a knock at the front door. HitFix is, of course, positively swimming in it. I mean, look around the website. Swanky, right? I had no idea how dedicated Greg Ellwood was to the idea of me doing Oscar coverage until I opened the door and found his ultimate weapon waiting there for me. He arranged for Apple to deliver a prototype Apple TV to the house for me to watch the show. And I'm not talking about the box you hook up to your existing HD screen. I'm talking about the long-rumored but not-remotely-confirmed actual 70-inch all-included HD television that Apple's developing. I'm not sure how he got it delivered, but an Apple representative, dressed like a Secret Service agent and built like a cartoon superhero, informed me that he was going to have to stay and take the device back at the end of the show.
But for now, I figure I have no choice. I just got everything hooked up in the playroom and turned it on. There are so many apps and possibilities in the programming on this thing that just finding the channel for the Oscars is a bit of a science project. I found one onscreen icon that has a picture of the E! logo and "Alternate" written underneath it. I figure anything that is established as an alternative to the sort of coverage that drove me away from watching the Oscars in the first place is a good thing. And since the whole set appears to be driven by Siri controls, all I had to say is "Alternate, search Oscars," and about ten seconds later, I was watching a red-carpet feed.
I was surprised to see Albert Brooks as the first face I recognized on the red carpet. Surprised, but pleased. I didn't realize he'd be at the show even without his nomination. What was stranger was seeing Lars Von Trier behind him on the carpet, being interviewed by someone else. And it looks like Kirsten Dunst is with him. So... what the hell?
3:30 PM: I've been watching for about a half-hour now, and I'm thoroughly confused. I finally decided to live-blog this year's awards because I'm not sure I'm seeing the same thing everyone else is. Could Steve Jobs's final joke be a TV that actually allows us to see into an alternate reality, where the awards being given match my own particular taste in a way that they never will in the real world? Could I watch the Super Bowl on this channel or the Presidential election in 2012? If so, how much do I have to pay to get this to be a regular feature I can use all the time?
No time to consider that. Instead, while I have this window into what appears to be the world as it should be, not as it is, I should make notes and tell you what's going on in the ceremony there. And if any of you are seeing this same channel, please, tell me so I know I'm not crazy.
So far, the nominees who have stopped by to be interviewed included Tilda Swinton, Antonio Banderas, Albert Brooks, Olivia Colman, and Lynn Ramsay. It's been a bizarre half-hour, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what's going on here. I wasn't planning on being glued to the TV all day, but now that I am, I'm going to make some food, get settled in, and try to really start updating regularly around 4:00. The arrival stuff is never the most interesting part to me anyway.
4:30 PM: Sorry I'm late updating again, but I'm just so freaked out by this. My Twitter feed is abuzz with reports that Sacha Baron Cohen just threw ashes on Ryan Seacrest, but the channel I'm watching is equally abuzz with reports that Lars Von Trier just told Ryan Seacrest that he hopes to end today "with one more Oscar than Hitler." What is it with Von Trier and Hitler? Jeez. Kirsten Dunst just dragged him off the red carpet, cutting her own interviews short in the process.
4:45 PM: The show's getting ready to start, and I just heard them mention who the hosts are.
… wait, hosts? I thought Crystal ended up with the gig. That seemed so boring. So safe. So maybe here, someone else got the job. Last year's co-hosting thing didn't really work out, so I wonder why they're trying again.
Oh.My.God. It's the Muppets. I guess in this world, Scott Weinberg's fondest dreams came true and the Academy decided to let the Muppets give it a try. Now I'm curious to see how the set works so that they can efficiently get the Muppets on and off the stage and somehow sell the illusion for the worldwide audience.
I wish my kids were home. If I knew the Muppets were going to be hosting the thing, I would have wanted them to watch with me. They're out at a birthday party right now, though. Damn.
I asked the Apple rep if I could use the built in DVR function on the Apple TV to record the awards. "Sure," he said. "Of course, I'm taking it with me at the end of the show, so I'm not sure what good that's going to do for you."
Double damn. Oh, well.
4:50 PM: It looks like the show is about to start. A little over a half-hour now until the actual showtime. They just showed a clips package on the nominees, and it was nice. I saw "Young Adult," "The Skin I Live In," and "We Need To Talk About Kevin" heavily represented, all big surprises for me, but the real shock was seeing Anna Paquin's name and a clip from "Margaret." Am I to understand that in the Oscar show I'm watching, Paquin got nominated?
Okay, maybe I am interested this year.
5:00 PM: Kristen Wiig is being interviewed now about how it's been as a nominee this year, and it's great seeing her this happy and relaxed and even sort of giddy. She thanked Annie Mumolo for about the billionth time, and it still sounds heartfelt. She talked about how their new script is coming together "slowly but surely" and how it's a very different thing than she's done before. Good. This nomination should make it a little easier for her to take chances, and that can only be a good thing.
5:10 PM: There's a strong Spanish-language contingent at the Oscars this year, and it looks like they all ended up on the red carpet at the same time. Demian Bichir and Antonio Banderas, who's nominated for "The Skin I Live In," were posing for some photos together and chatting, and Gerardo Naranjo, the surprise nominee for Best Director of "Miss Bala," just joined them.
5:20 PM: I love it. ABC just showed a bit set backstage, where the Muppets are all getting ready for the Oscars. Kermit seems nervous, and I can't help but wonder if he's nervous, or if Steve Whitmire is legitimately nervous. Whatever the case, these new Muppet performers really have the characters down, and it felt like one of those great pre-show stings from "The Muppet Show," especially with the bit about Melissa McCarthy and Miss Piggy fighting over mirror time.
5:25 PM: By far my favorite red carpet moment was just now when Nick Nolte and Patton Oswalt, both nominated for Best Supporting Actor, ended up side-by-side on the carpet, and Oswalt started doing his Nolte, and Nolte started responding and when you closed your eyes, there was no difference. Bliss.
5:30 PM: Holy cow. The inside of the Kodak (or whatever the heck it's called now) Theater has been done to look like the inside of the Muppet Theater, only bigger. That's kind of amazing. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined they'd go that far, but it really works. It's sort of beautiful. I love how they've got Jack Nicholson seated in the Statler and Waldorf box with Statler and Waldorf. Looks like we're in for a heck of a show.
I just heard them say at the end of the pre-show coverage that Rodney Rothman, Nick Stoller, and Jason Segel were brought in with the Muppets as the head writers for the show this year. That's interesting. It makes me wonder just how different things are going to get.
I'll say one thing... if they weren't the guys in charge, I doubt anyone else could have pulled off that joke about Kermit the Frog have a Fassbender-sized member and made it somehow sort of charming.
5:40: I guess it was the old Billy Crystal idea of having the Muppets show up in scenes from the Oscar-nominated films, but it's a good one when done properly. It's sort of edgy stuff, considering the films themselves. Watching Janice from the Electric Mayhem run alongside the bus and distract Mark Ruffalo was funny, and I liked Kermit the Frog in the scorpion jacket from "Drive." Watching the end of the world with Muppets waiting for the planet Melancholia to hit was strange, though. And I'm sure somebody's going to regret having Gonzo the Great play Tilda Swinton in that "We Need To Talk About Kevin" joke. That was just weird.
But that entrance by the Muppets was pretty spectacular at the end, you have to admit. Still not quite sure how they pulled that one off, and it did indeed look like they walked up to the podium without any puppeteers in sight.
The opening monologue being divided up between all the main Muppets was great, though. I like that they managed to turn all nine of the Oscar-nominated Best Pictures into a "Who's On First?" style comedy riff. And now, finally, I know what they all are, and if I needed further confirmation that I have somehow tapped into an alternate dimension, this list would do it:
"We Need To Talk About Kevin"
"Midnight In Paris"
"The Skin I Live In"
"A Better Life"
And the funny thing is, I'm sure that list is just as divisive and controversial in that dimension as the real list is in ours.
Still, should be an interesting next couple of hours.
5:45: Tom Hanks looks good presenting. I was surprised that's all the Muppets for now. Funny bit about the celebrity seat filler. Lots of nervous energy going on. I guess Best Cinematography is up first, and Hanks reads off the nominees:
Seamus McGarvey, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
Emmanuel Lubezki, "The Tree Of Life"
Newton Thomas Siegel, "Drive"
Jose Luis Alcaine, "The Skin I Live In"
Manuel Alberto Claro, "Melancholia"
And it looks like… Lubezki! And a nice speech, too. Very simple. It's about time.
5:50: Next up, Hanks presents Best Art Direction, and reads off the nominees:
BEST ART DIRECTION
Production Design: Beth Mickle; Set Decoration: Lisa K. Sessions
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2"
Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"Midnight in Paris"
Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
"The Skin I Live In"
Production Design: Antxon Gomez; Set Decoration: Carlos Bodelon
And it's... Dante Ferretti. I guess some things are just set in stone, eh?
6:00 PM: These Chuck Workman montages demand a certain amount of film literacy, and I'm a little confused by the theme of this one, since so many of the films they're showing material from were not Oscar-winners or even nominees. Just moments people like. I like the clips, but again… not sure I get it.
Now, this is weird. Some of the categories seem to be lining up exactly between this dimension and our regular reality. In Costume Design, the nominees were exactly the same, with "The Artist" winning as well. Make-up was the same thing as well, and played out the same way with "The Iron Lady" winning. So it feels like Mark Bridges and Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland were all destined to win their awards this year, and so be it.
And, yes, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez did that weird embarrassing vamp in the other dimension as well. Yikes.
I liked the second clips reel, where people talked about their first movie memories. How great is it that Brad Pitt sounded like the most honest person there naming "War Of The Gargantuas" as his first film instead of something classic and perfect and respectable?
6:10 PM: The Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar looked pretty much the same, and I don't think there's any dimension where "A Separation" didn't win. If nothing else, it's an interesting note for a moment where we seem desperate as a country to pick a fight with Iran, and I hope more people see the film and it forces them to think of Iran as more than an abstract.
Of course, it was a little more exciting in this dimension because of Tim League charging the stage, drinking Shiner Bock out of a hollowed-out Oscar, and temporarily wrestling Farhadi to the ground. You guys missed that.
The Best Supporting Actress category looked pretty different, though. Christian Bale came out to present, and he read the nominees off as clips were played.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Jeannie Berlin, "Margaret"
Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Melancholia"
Judy Greer, "The Descendants"
Melissa McCarthy, "Bridesmaids"
I thought the sustained applause for Jeannie Berlin was particularly nice. She looked very happy to be there, and it carried right into her win. When she took the stage, she tried to speak about Lonergan and the long battle to get the film released, but she was overcome with emotion, and she ended up just choking out a "Team Margaret" before she left the stage.
As far as our timeline goes, let's just say Octavia Spencer's real-life tears were moving and impressive as well. Good for her.
Jack Nicholson and Statler and Waldorf have been knocking them out of the park, though. Best idea ever, and I hope they end up making all three of them a permanent part of the show.
6:30 PM: Jason Segel came out with the Muppets to talk about the history of test screenings and how Judd Apatow taught him all about the value of test screenings. They launched into Chris Guest's prepared piece about the test screening of "The Wizard Of Oz," which was a nightmarish honesty, and not a joke. That's exactly how terrifying focus groups are. Exactly.
Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper were next up to present Best Editing, but the nominees I watched them read were fairly different.
BEST FILM EDITING
Matthew Newman, "Drive"
Thelma Schoonmaker, "Hugo"
Morten Hojbjerg and Molly Marlene Stensgaard, "Melancholia"
Joe Bini, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
Dino Jonsater, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
I thought the speech that Thelma Schoonmaker gave when she won was pretty remarkable, and while I can't sum it up, I would say the point she made about the way language was handed down from Georges Melies to Martin Scorsese with all the other filmmakers between them was gorgeous. Dead on. Glad she won.
"Hugo" also took it for Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing, so in the alternate timeline, it's been a pretty big night for "Hugo" overall.
6:45 PM: The Muppets came back to introduce the Cirque Du Soleil piece on movie memories, which I imagine had to be pretty easy to set up since the Cirque Du Soleil performers are using that theater every night right now anyway.
I'm not sure what I thought of the performance overall, and the routine afterwards in which Robert Downey Jr. and Gwenyth Paltrow introduced the Best Documentary categories, sort of laid an egg. It seems like even when you bring in the best, you end up with stiff and unfunny introductions because it is ultimately just an awards show.
The Best Documentary category this year ended the way it was supposed to in every timeline, with "Undefeated" winning, and the Animation categories were still presented by Chris Rock, with "Rango" winning there as well. Overall, I think what I'm starting to realize is that even in an alternate universe, I don't really care about any of this.
Oh, no… I thought seeing a different list of nominees and winners would energize me. I thought I was going to be happy because this was totally different. But it's not that different. And even when it is different, it's not making me jump up and down like I thought it would.
7:00 PM: Here's how I'm sure that I'm watching a different version of the Oscars. On my broadcast, the Emma Stone/Ben Stiller thing was funny.
"Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" won, though. So that was good.
7:05 PM: Melissa Leo presented the award for Best Supporting Actor, and this was a pretty different list.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Patton Oswalt, "Young Adult"
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
Nick Nolte, "Warrior"
Ben Kingsley, "Hugo"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"
It's been interesting watching my broadcast all night, where there were repeated jokes about no one wanting to shake hands with Albert Brooks, and where Patton Oswalt's running red-carpet commentary was fairly great.
But was there any doubt that Christopher Plummer was going to take it in every timeline? None at all.
7:15 PM: The Muppets opened the next segment with a pretty great bit where they explained all the rules of the Oscars and laid out a quick history lesson about the show and what it takes to put it together. They even made Tom Sherak funny in his cameo appearance in the pre-taped segment.
Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson then came out to present Best Original Score, and the following nominees where highlighted in the clips package:
Cliff Martinez, "Drive"
Jonny Greenwood, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
John Williams, "The Adventures of Tintin"
Howard Shore, "Hugo"
Alberto Iglesias, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
And the surprise win went to Williams, who gave a lovely speech about his lifelong collaboration with Spielberg and how it continues to surprise him when he sees the images that Spielberg hands over, and how he looks forward to each new one.
The Best Song category was handled exactly the same, and I have to give credit to Galifianakis for mispronouncing his own name. Well-played.
Seeing a member of "Flight Of The Conchords" accepting an Oscar for Best Song is surreal, and I had to triple-check to see that it actually happened in the real timeline. Very very strange, but genuinely nice to see. And now I can honestly say that my three-year-old knows every word to an Oscar-winning Best Song.
7:30: Was anyone else a little embarrassed by the overt vamping by Angelina Jolie? All I could think is that fashion is a brutal mistress, and no matter what anyone else says, there is such a thing as too thin.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
John Logan, "Hugo"
Lynne Ramsay, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
Hossein Amini, "Drive"
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, "The Descendants"
Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
I was surprised, based on its overall lack of representation, that "The Descendants" won, but hats off to them for roasting Jolie before they ever started speaking.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Kenneth Lonergan, "Margaret"
Diablo Cody, "Young Adult"
Paddy Considine, "Tyrannosaur"
Woody Allen, "Midnight In Paris"
Asghar Farhadi, "A Separation"
On my telecast, here's how you know it wasn't the real timeline. Woody Allen actually showed up to give a trenchant, somewhat brilliant acceptance speech that tied his film together with the general acclaim given to films like "The Artist" and "Hugo" and the way nostalgia and technology are coming together. He got a standing ovation, and I got the feeling it was for his comments as much as for his screenplay.
8:00 PM: This used to happen to me when I was more of an avid Oscar watcher. There comes a point where the show starts to blur together and just get weird, and it doesn't help that my wife is watching the real show in one room while I watch this show in my office, and it's all starting to become this strange jumble, where I see the Bridesmaids making penis jokes and Terry George picking up an award and there was some footage of disfigured middle Eastern women and there was some bit where Beaker got his own face blown off by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and there were flying books and William Joyce and girls giving away popcorn and then finally they started to get to some of the biggest awards. It seems like it's been on for thirty hours at this point, and I'm wondering how Oscar bloggers maintain even a feigned interest in the awards for five solid months, much less five solid hours.
Here's the thing… I'm wondering if it makes any difference at all if I discuss "real" awards or "alternate" awards or any awards at all. At this point, if you care about the Oscars, you're watching them… right? And if you don't care, would you be reading someone's moment-by-moment description of something that you could simply turn on?
I see all the effort expended and all the time spent and all the words that are written, and I get weary. I love movies. I love discussing them at the end of the year, and putting my own feelings in some sort of order via lists, but I wouldn't believe for a moment that my opinion supersedes someone else's genuine reaction to the films they've seen. I publish a list to say, "These films mattered to me," not "These films ABSOLUTELY ARE THE BEST OF THE YEAR," because there's no way to say that, no way to seriously mean that.
In my world, would the Best Director nominees look like this?
Gerardo Naranjo, "Miss Bala"
Lynne Ramsay, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
Lars Von Trier, "Melacholia"
Nicolas Winding Refn, "Drive"
Pedro Almodovar, "The Skin I Live In"
Yep. Probably would. And in my world, Von Trier won and gave a speech that made the Academy instantly regret giving it to him. And yet, in my world or in the real world, nothing changes either way tomorrow. There's no difference at all to audiences, and there's no difference in what gets made or what doesn't.
I'm vanishing down a rabbit hole here, and I'm starting to think this is a bad thing, this glimpse of an alternate reality. I think it's only reinforcing my basic thoughts on awards season. I get less and less able to pretend that any of this is important to me, and I get that it's a basic wiring issue. Some people love this and they love the tradition and they love the history of it and the build-up to it and the pay-off in the end.
And some people just like movies.
8:10 PM: The "In Memorium" sequence was done with a fair amount of restraint this year, and I like that they asked people not to applaud so it wasn't a competition to see whose death was 'biggest." It's always an emotionally tricky moment, and they handled it as well as could be expected.
8:20 PM: Natalie Portman's been laying low since her win last year, so it was nice that she showed up to present, and she personalized the presentation with the way she spoke directly to the various nominees.
Demian Bichir, "A Better Life"
Ryan Gosling, "Drive"
Antonio Banderas, "The Skin I Live In"
Michael Shannon, "Take Shelter"
Gary Oldman, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
I especially liked her interplay with Michael Shannon, who seemed so pleased to be there, and who was so proud of his "Take Shelter" team in all of the pre-show red carpet interviews.
Demian Bichir's speech when he won was the one time tonight that I found myself getting emotional, and it was because of the eloquent way he spoke about how we have to change the paradigm if we're ever going to figure out the issue of immigration reform in this country. It was great seeing a true underdog take the award, as well, and a nice highlight for the evening.
8:30 PM: I'm not sure how they managed to avoid the genetically-engineered for Oscar superiority "The Help" in my timeline but they did. And while I think Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer did great work, I'm glad that Colin Firth introduced the following nominees in my timeline:
Kirsten Dunst, "Melancholia"
Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids"
Anna Paquin, "Margaret"
Olivia Colman, "Tyrannosaur"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need To Talk About Kevin"
And I have to say, Tilda Swinton may have won just a few years ago, but it was great to see her pick up her second Oscar for a very difficult piece of material.
At this point, it's a quick slide into that last category.
8:45 PM: And just like that, it's done, and "Hugo" has a Best Picture Oscar for the mantle.
All the campaigning, all the wringing of hands, and it all comes down to one quick announcement and then everyone's off to their after-parties, and tomorrow, it all starts up again.
The Apple representative has already got everything unplugged and he's loading the TV onto his truck, and my view of this Alternate Dimension has left me realizing that, more than ever, it doesn't matter to me because it all seems to wildly arbitrary and fleeting.
These films are going all going to hang around, and over time, some of them will become better loved, some of them will fade, and some will be rediscovered, and through it all, you'll love the ones you love, you'll hate the ones you hate, and no gold statue will change that.
If you enjoyed the spirit of this experiment, thanks for playing along. If you're one of the people who e-mailed me to ask if I had a brain tumor, thank you for your concern. Long story short, if you can't have some fun with the pomp and circumstance of an Oscar Sunday, then you're taking it all too seriously.
Next year, I'm totally live-blogging "Carnival Magic" during the Oscars.
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