7:00 PM

Tonight I’ll be blogging all during the Academy Awards ceremony. It’s part of my attempt to master the brave new world of journalistic multitasking, in that I’ll be 1) watching the broadcast and 2) trying to come up with commentary. I’m hoping it will turn out better than my last such proect, which involved 1) reading Chris Fujiwara’s recent biography of Otto Preminger and 2) washing my wife’s car. That one was a mess. I can, however, point to some limited success with 1) attending press screenings and 2) napping.

Just caught the last moments of Hugh Jackman’s interview with Barbara Walters, in which he swiveled his pelvis in her face and knelt down to embrace her in her chair. Glad I missed the rest of that.

I hope Jackman isn’t stupid enough to attempt a comic monologue at the opening. The last Oscar host to deliver a really funny monologue was Steve Martin in 2003. They should open the show by having Christian Bale come out and start screaming obscenities at everyone.

While the celebs are posing on the red carpet, may I ask if you read the Oscar piece by Michael Cieply in the Sunday New York Times? Industry bigwigs are pissed that The Dark Knight didn’t score a nomination for best picture, and they’re planning to spend less resources this year angling for a prize. So we won’t have anymore quality releases like Jumper.

7:30 PM

The ceremony has begun.

Hugh Jackman’s number is hideous until he brings Anne Hathaway out to duet with him in a song parodying Frost/Nixon. Instead of trying to do a wacky song on the Holocaust movie The Reader, there’s a song joking that he hasn’t seen it.

7:48 PM

Eva Marie Saint, Whoopi Goldberg, Anjelica Huston, Tilda Swinton, and Goldie Hawn give the best supporting actress award to Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. How sweet of her to thank Almodovar.

7:55 PM

Steve Martin gets the biggest laughs of the broadcast so far. See?

Best original screenplay to Dustin Lance Black for Milk. A big hand for gay marriage in the Kodak Theater, and a real barn-burner of a speech from Black.

8:02 PM

The introduction of the screenwriting nominees is handled pretty well, with screenplay typescript superimposed over a clip from each film. Best adapted screenplay goes to Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire.

I’m just guessing about this, but the acceptance speeches seem longer this year, which is good. I’d rather hear the awardees than look at a dance number.

8:06 PM

Best animated feature to WALL-E. I wonder if the other nominees even bothered to show up.

Best animated short to La Masion en Petit Cubes. Nice work, but not a patch on Lavatory Lovestory.

8:18 PM

Oscar for art direction to Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Michael O’Connor wins best costume design for The Duchess

8:25 PM

Old-age makeup has been confirmed once again as a sure Oscar-grabber with the award to Greg Cannom for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Robert Pattinson, the heartthrob vampire in Twilight, has appeared at the podium to deliver an award. He seems to have all the presence of a bar of soap.

8:35 PM

Best cinematography to Anthony Dod Mantle for Slumdog Millionaire.

Jessica Biel name-checks Jerry Lewis, who’s shown sitting with his family in a theater box. To be honest, there are only three reasons I’m watching this thing: Melissa Leo, Richard Jenkins, and Jerry Lewis.

8:45 PM

Toyland wins best live-action short, a real robbery—On the Line was better.

8:58 PM

“The Musical Is Back,” declares Jackman in a grotesque dance number directed by Baz Luhrman (Moulin Rouge, Australia). Let’s hope it doesn’t stay long. Try yawning and discreetly checking your watch.

The most obvious (and most obnoxious) change in the Oscar show is that the themed montages reference not the Hollywood classics but 2008 releases of dubious merit, as if they’re trying to plug current DVD releases.

9:05 PM

Best supporting actor to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. He really did deserve it.

9:15 PM

A nice little film by the Maysles brothers about the nominated documentary makers. The statue goes to James Marsh for Man on Wire. Best documentary to Megan Mylan for Smile Pinki.

9:26 PM

Once again The Dark Knight loses out to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, for best visual effects.

Best sound editing to The Dark Knight. Best sound mixing to Slumdog Millionaire. Best editing to Slumdog Millionaire.

9:41 PM

Eddie Murphy takes the stage to present the Jean Hersholt award to 82-year-old Jerry Lewis. For the first time, Jerry seems truly elderly.

9:53 PM

A.R. Rahman takes best score for Slumdog Millionaire. The two songs performed from Slumdog are the live musical highlight of the program, and “Jai Ho” takes the Oscar for best original song, making Rahman a double award winner.

10:07 PM

Best foreign feature to Yojiro Takita’s Okuribito.

10:12 PM

Ah, my favorite part, the death roll. Cyd Charisse, Bernie Mac, Ollie Johnston, Van Johnson, Michael Crichton, Nina Foch, Pat Hingle, Harold Pinter, Kon Ichikawa, Abby Mann, Roy Scheider, Robert Mulligan, Richard Widmark, Claude Berri, Vampira, Isaac Hayes, Ricardo Montalban, Manny Farber, Jules Dassin, Paul Scofield, Stan Winston, James Whitmore, Charlton Heston, Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman.

10:20 PM

Best director goes to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. I guess best picture is a done deal, though most people have been saying that for weeks. Incredibly, he thanks just about everyone associated with the movie but Loveleen Tandan, his codirector in India.

10:34 PM

Sophia Loren, Shirley Maclaine, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, and Halle Berry give the best actress award to Kate Winslet for The Reader. You coulda knocked me down wih a feather—I thought for sure they’d give it to Anne Hathaway. I notice that Melissa Leo got her only screen time when her nomination was noted.

10:40 PM

Robert De Niro, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Adrien Brody, and . . . Michael Douglas? What did he win an Oscar for? Well, I’ll look that one up later, but in any case, they all gather onstage to give the best actor award to Sean Penn for Milk. Mickey, you wuz robbed.

10:55 PM

Best picture goes to Slumdog Millionaire. In another of the show’s bizarre aesthetic decisions, the montage that represents each feature integrates clips from older films that sometimes are only maginally related—a clip from Raging Bull mixed in with Milk, for example.

12 AM

The end credits for the Academy Awards telecast played out alongside an endless montage of scenes from upcoming studio releases, part of this year’s strategy for freshening up the Oscars. This back-to-the-future philosophy was evident also in the program’s montage sequences: on the theory that no one wants to see the usual images from Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz one more time, the producers instead assembled montages sorted by genre and sampling all sorts of 2008 releases that weren’t up for awards at all. Interesting idea, but it turned out to be a huge drag, cutting the show off from the past and shackling it to a year’s worth of movies that wasn’t all that good.