Oscars: Always great television

Oscarsstewartlive_2First thing that jumps out at me is there are a lotta TV stars on the presenter roster already, not to mention our host with the most, Jon Stewart, who’s already off to a nice, low-key but irreverent start.

Post show thoughts: Stewart wasn’t just good, he was great. Very Carson-esque. Not too showy, didn’t hog the spotlight, looked like he was having fun. Very little schtick, just a few good lines peppered in here and there. Stewart’s bit about watching “Lawrence of Arabia” on an iPod screen was funny and brief. Overall, Gil Cates deserves another round of applause (after delivering the director’s cut last month on the studio contract that broke the logjam of the writers strike) for keeping the show moving, and keeping the focus on the business at hand.

Jennifer Garner, who’ll always be Sydney Bristow of “Alias” fame to us, delivered the costume design honor. George Clooney intro’d a nice clip package, and we claim Clooney as a guy with TV roots (after all those pilots.) Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway came out to announce the animation honor (“Ratatouille” won, as it should have) to the theme of “Get Smart” (Carell toplines the upcoming feature Oscargeorgeclooney_2 remake of the 1960s Mel Brooks-Buck Henry sitcom.)

Oscarskatherineheigl_3And “Grey’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl, who looks absolutely stunning in an old-school platinum blonde way, handled the makeup honors, appropriately enough. No doubt Oscar announcer was carefully drilled in the proper pronunciation of Heigl (Hi – gelle), after Heigl pulled a total Izzie at the Emmys last September and scolded the announcer for mispronouncing it.

Oscarsjavierbardem_2Oh look, here comes Jennifer Hudson announcing best supporting actor kudo. She’s the ultimate made-by-TV star — plucked from obscurity via “American Idol.” BTW, winner Javier Bardem proves he’s nothing like his “No Country” character by sweetly acknowledgling mama with a little Espanol in his remarks.

Seems like Gil Cates is making liberal use of all those best-of Oscar clip segments assembled for the worst-case-scenario telecast if the writers strike had still been going and there had been no stars at the Kodak. oscar’s salute to binoculars and periscopes.

6:21 p.m.: Well, now we know. “Dancing with the Stars” gets the first house ad on the show, with ABC plugging the show’s return next month.

6:23 p.m.: Stewart confirms our suspicions, intro’ing a clip package, “Oscar’s salute to binoculars and periscopes” which would have been used for a four-and-a-half-hour writer-free telecast, he quips. “Thank god we didn’t have to show that,” Stewart sez.Oscarskerirussell

6:24 p.m.: And here comes Felicity, aka Keri Russell, intro’ing a song nominee, the gospel-flavored “Raise It Up” from her pic “August Rush.” She looks fabulous too.

6:28 p.m.: Presenter Owen Wilson handles the short film honors. He looks a little nervous but otherwise healthy. Good to see.

6:31 p.m.: Jerry Seinfeld in his “Bee Movie” guise handles the animated short film honors. Sorry to typecast, Jerry, but even in CG animation — you hear that voice, you think of that apartment set and look around for Kramer, George and Elaine to come barging in.

6:34 p.m.: These vintage Oscar clip package are proving my point about the TV-wattage of the Oscars these days. In these older clips it would seem as if TV stars (other than Johnny Carson) weren’t even allowed in the auditorium.

Oscartildaswinton6:38 p.m.: Tilda Swinton wins supporting actress for “Michael Clayton.” I was pushing for Amy Ryan of “Gone Baby Gone,” and not just to gather for further evidence for my TV star theory. Swinton gives Endeavor’s Brian Swardstrom the first on-air mention of an agent of the night, noting that Oscar’s physique looks just like his, including the rear end.

6:42 p.m.: Interesting ad trend we’re seeing. Diet Coke just ran a spot urging people to run to the web to enter a contest to win the red dress that Heidi Klum wore on the red carpet. Earlier, Dove ran a spot feature thesp Amy Brenneman asking viewers to vote on one of two non-pro created commercial spots for one of their new products. I know this isn’t a brand-new thing just for tonight, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

6:44 p.m.: Jessica Alba intro’s the sci-tech awards. She’s intro’d as the “always fantastic” Jessica Alba, but she was merely a good-looking gal from Pomona, Calif., before James Cameron made her a star on the Fox sci-fi skein “Dark Angel.” Need we say more? Yes, as soon as we get more.

6:49 p.m.: Not a trace of writer-strike, writer-solidarity, writers-rock messages during the presentation of adapted screenplay honors. Winners Joel and Ethan Coen, for “No Country for Old Men,” looked a bit bemused. I guess they’re a bit weary from the circuit. But it might not be the last time they come up on stage tonight so maybe they’re holding back something for the rest of the picture.

6:51 p.m.: Here’s a segment on How the Oscar Winners are Determined, with your host Sid Ganis. Boy, these guys really did prepare for every possible contingency. Stewart’s demeanor sez as much when the clip is over. “Wow, that was amazing,” he said, very nearly rolling his eyes. “I always thought it was superdelegates.”Oscarsmileycyrus

6:52 p.m.: Now here comes the queen of kidvid, Miley Cyrus, intro’ing nommed song “That’s How You Know,” from “Enchanted.” And who’s singing it? Kristin Chenoweth, who admittedly made her name on Broadway but for the past few years has been kept busy on the small screen, at the moment on ABC’s “Pushing Daisies.”

7:00 p.m.: “Oprah’s Big Give” gets the top of the hour promo plug. No surprise.

Oscarsrogenhill_27:02: Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill doing a riff on which one of them is more like Halle Berry and which is like Judi Dench (which frankly seems like it could’ve run on last night’s “Saturday Night Live”). Rogen’s hot as can be as a comedy pic star of the Judd Apatow school…but where’d he get his laffer street cred? A little NBC dramedy called “Freaks and Geeks.”Oscarsmarioncotillardstage_2

7:13 p.m.: Marion Cotillard wins for best actress — the true dark filly in the category. Cate Blanchett’s gape-mouth reaction, one of genuine and gracious excitement for another person’s good fortune, is why you watch these things. Cotillard’s remarks were totally from the heart, and when these things are delivered with a French accent from a teary-eyed beauty, us Yankees turn to mush. “You rocked my life,” Cotillard informed the director of her Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en Rose.” “It is true, there are some angels in this city.” Sure to be on clip reels for years to come.

Oscarsglenmarketa_27:18: Colin Farrell tells us he’s “chuffed” to intro the singers of the nommed song “Falling Slowly” from “Once.” We certainly get what he means but would love it if someone could provide a precise definition — I’m already dying to use it in a sentence. BTW, what a beautiful song and perf by “Once” stars Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova — I gotta see this movie.

7:22 p.m.: Jack Nicholson is at the podium declaring “I love the movies” as he intro’s the clip package detailing the past 79 years of best pic winners. Guessing this one would’ve gone longer, way long, in other circumstances. Jack seemed to supress a laugh when he read the line “Movies are a common link that touches the humanity in all of us.” I’m guessing he was thinking about all the humanity he’s touched in other ways — golf clubs, etc.

7:29 p.m.: “Bourne Ultimatum” wins for editing, duh. Christopher Rouse mentions that his dad won one nearly 50 years ago, nice touch. “Someone just took the lead in their Oscar pool, based on a guess,” Stewart quips as he reclaims the spotlight.Oscarsnicolekidmanstage_2

7:31 p.m.: Nicole Kidman comes out to prove that she looks better pregnant than any other woman on the planet (and there was quite a pregnancy sweepstakes going on tonight with Cate Blanchett, Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie also in the family way) — with the possible exception of Katherine Heigl. It’s time for the honorary Oscar tribute to production designer Robert Boyle. Goodness knows, he’s done some good ones, for “Hitch” (who he credited with introducing him to his wife, screenwriter Beth Taffel), Norman Jewison, Don Siegel, et al. “I have had the good fortune to be a part of this, and I thank you all for being there for me.” Very classy.

7:43 p.m.: Austria bags the foreign language pic award for “The Counterfeiters.” Penelope Cruz intro’s the category, looking gorgeous but a little mermaid-ish in her black frock.

7:45 p.m.: McDreamy (aka Patrick Dempsey) intro’s the last nommed song, “So Close,” from “Enchanted.” And we have another dance number, a recreation of the ball scene from “Enchanted.” So far, so good, nothing too nutso. It probably helps that I really enjoyed that movie.

Oscarsmarketa_27:50 p.m.: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova win for best song. “What are we doing here, this is mad,” Hansard sez. “We made this movie for 100 grand.” Loved the way he said kept saying “ting” and closed with “Make art, make art.” I really gotta see this movie. A finger-wag to telecast producers for playing Marketa off before she could say a word.

7:57 p.m.: How cool! Jon Stewart (and Gil Cates) amend the error by bringing Marketa back out on stage for her due. Nobody sounds as passionate as the Irish (whoops, I now realize she’s from Czech Republic). She dedicated her win to all the other independent musicans out there who spend most of their time struggling. And “no matter how far out your dreams are, it’s possible. The song was written from a perspective of hope…Hope at end of the day connects us no matter how different we are.” This was worth her getting an encore.

7:54 p.m.: ABC’s “A Raisin in the Sun” telepic gets a plug.

7:59 p.m.: Cameron Diaz raises suspicions that she’s never actually pronounced the word “cinematography” as she reveals the winner of the d.p. sweepstakes, Robert Elswit for “There Will Be Blood.”

8:02 p.m.: Hilary Swank intro’s the package paying homage to those who passed during the last 12 months. Notable applause for Jack Valenti, Deborah Kerr and, at the end, Heath Ledger.

8:07 p.m.: “Eli Stone” plugOscarswaderoth

8:11 p.m.: Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s go-to good guy, intro’s a satellite clip of fresh-faced servicemen and women in Baghdad to announce the winner of docu short subject. “Freeheld,” about the struggles of same-sex couple, brought up two teary documentarians, Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth, who were no so overcome that they forgot to plug the upcoming Cinemax airing of their doc, and they gave a shout-out to HBO’s Sheila Nevins. “Even a 38-minute movie can change minds and lives,” said Roth.

8:15 p.m.: Alex Gibney and Eva Orner’s “Taxi to the Dark Side” wins the feature doc award. Gibney delivers the first overtly political statement of the night in condemning the Iraq war and what it has wrought. “Let’s hope we can turn this country around and move away from the dark side and back to the light,” he said. Now we know why the military folks didn’t intro this category.

8:21 p.m.: Another “Raisin in the Sun” plug.

8:22 p.m.: Great line from Stewart in intro’ing presenter Harrison Ford. “He’s either an internationally acclaimed movie star or an auto dealership.”

Oscarsdiablocodystage 8:25 p.m.: Diablo Cody’s charmed year with “Juno” is complete. She’s probably the only Oscar winner, male or female, to ever accept her trophy with a big tattoo of a girl in a bikini visible. Which only made it that much cooler. “What is happening?” she asked, not rhetorically. She was crying, for reals, and probably thinking about all those days on the picket line when she proclaimed “This is for the writers.” She thanked a list of folks, including “Juno” helmer Jason Reitman, and sweetly thanked her family “for loving me exactly the way I am.” And when she walked off stage she looked like she didn’t know what state she was in as she was gently turned around toward to stage left — you can’t ask for much more in an Oscar moment than that.

Oscarsdanieldaylewis8:34 p.m.: Daniel Day-Lewis gets the milkshake (and lucky him, he gave George Clooney a peck on the cheek as he walked up to the stage.) “That’s the closest I’ll get to a knighthood,” Day-Lewis quipped after genuflecting when Helen Mirren handed him his gold for lead actor for “There Will Be Blood.” He seemed to be channeling his “Blood” character in observing that the award “sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson.” OK, so it sounded a bit rehearsed, but his twinkly eyes and grin, and the nod to his grandfather and father, put it over.

8:41 p.m.: Joel and Ethan Coen get the call back, with directing honors “No Country for Old Men.” “I don’tOscarscoensrudin_2 have a lot to add to what I said earlier. Thank you,” Ethan said. Joel had a bit more in him, relating a story of how as kids they went to Minneapolis International Airport with a Super-8 and a suit to make a movie about shuttle diplomacy, “Henry Kissinger: Man on the Go.” “What we do now doesn’t seem that much different from what we were doing then,” he said.

8:45 p.m.: Whaddya know, “No Country” claims the top prize. Doesn’t seem to get much of a rise out of Ethan and Joel as they quickly turn around back stage. “No Country” producer Scott Rudin has also done this before. It’s kinda hard to believe him when he calls it a “complete surprise.” But he does come up with a nice way to close out the night in noting something he learned from Sydney Pollack: “With the opportunity to make movies comes the responsibility to make them good.”

Amen, Shalom, Salaam to that. Good night.

Post-credits plugs: Long roundup spot for ABC’s midseason slate (“Ugly Betty,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Samantha Who,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Boston Legal,” etc. Theme is “Spring is here” and emphasis on “New episodes.” And another plug for “Raisin in the Sun.”