79th Annual Academy Awards: Minute by Minute

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The most popular guy in Hollywood tonight is a dude who's a little over a foot tall and shiny.

No, not E! red-carpet host Ryan Seacrest.

It's Ocsar night, which means three-plus hours of showbiz people thanking their agents, publicists, families, co-stars and occasionally their families. And we're here to chronicle every little, excruciating detail. So let's get to it:

5:34 p.m. Pacific time: I wonder if the little opening montage of the nominees is done to give time to let everyone get to their seats. Still, Peter O'Toole deadpanning "Somebody else won" and Peter Morgan explaining just what he means by "I'm here for 'The Queen'" is good stuff.

5:37 p.m. Host Ellen DeGeneres is living her dream to host the Oscars, and she's doing it in white shoes. 'K. One minute later, she makes the evening's first mention of this being "the most international Oscars ever." We suspect this might be a theme.

5:40 p.m. "It's not that we don't have time for long speeches, it's that we don't have time for boring speeches." Ellen's advice: Tell them you're just a homeless, illiterate kid from the Bronx -- even if you're not -- and you'll be fine.

5:43 p.m. Cue the choir! "Celebrating the nominees" appears to be another of the night's themes. We're more inclined to think her earlier assertion that tonight will be mostly about the winners is more accurate.

5:47 p.m. The night's first award, for art direction, goes to ... "Pan's Labyrinth." Shoulda been a best picture nominee, but the movie looked gorgeous on screen. Well deserved.

5:49 p.m. Ever notice how they always have a pretty young actress present the technical awards? Just saying.

5:57 p.m. Not sure what the point of the Will Ferrell-Jack Black-John C. Reilly song is, but it's good. And yeah, we'll say it with them: Helen Mirren is hot.

6 p.m. Two in a row for "Pan's Labyrinth." Yeah -- in your face, "Click"!

6:01 p.m. First speech cut-off of the night, for "Pan's" makeup artist David Marti. And it was like 30 seconds in -- what gives, Oscar conductor man?

6:03 p.m. So, Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith are presenting the awards for animated and live-action shorts. Get it? 'Cause they're short, see? And in case you didn't, they make a joke about not making short jokes.

6:05 p.m. Your best live-action short winner? "West Bank Story." As its director describes it, it's a "comedy-musical about Israelis and Palestinians that takes place between two falafel stands." I think I might want to see that.

6:12 p.m. The idea of a "sound effects choir" toiling away on a soundstage somewhere at every studio is kind of cool. But they could have hired Michael Winslow and he'd have done this alone and saved everybody money.

6:14 p.m. Steve Carell + awards show = comedy gold. Case in point tonight: "Sound editing is a lot like sex -- it's usually done alone, late at night, surrounded by electronic gadgets." Good assist from Greg Kinnear too: "And if you really wanna do it right, it's best to pay top dollar for a real professional." And then the sound guy drops the mike out. Good bit overall.

6:17 p.m. "Letters from Iwo Jima" wins for best sound editing.

6:19 p.m. "Dreamgirls" picks up its first award of the night, for sound mixing. But that also means that "Apocalypto" sound mixer Kevin O'Connell is 0-for-19 at the Oscars. You gotta feel kinda bad for the guy.

6:23 p.m. Nearly an hour in, we get to the first acting award of the night -- Alan Arkin for "Little Miss Sunshine." Does this presage bigger things for the Not-So-Little Indie that Could? I might've given it to Mark Wahlberg, who ate up his part in "The Departed," but it's hard not to like an old pro like Arkin. Did "Norbit" kill Murphy's chances?

6:25 p.m. Marty Scorsese, he's a good sport. Just for doing the here's-my-script bit with Ellen, he should get a couple extra best director points.

6:26 p.m. Gaaaa! Interpretive dance returns to the Oscars! OK, the way people turned themselves into penguins was kind of neat, but still, I thought we were rid of this forever following Rob Lowe and Snow White back in the '80s.

6:34 p.m. "An Inconvenient Truth," and Melissa Etheridge's song from the film, is about global warming. In case you didn't get that, there was a bunch of environmental advice/sloganeering on the screen behind her as she played her nominated tune.

6:36 p.m. Hee hee -- the orchestra plays off Al Gore just as he's about to "announce" his candidacy for 2008. D'you think the Academy would even stand for someone stealing its thunder like that? And will Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani get to go on stage later?

6:42 p.m. Anyone know why Jack Nicholson is going completely bald tonight?

6:44 p.m. George Miller wrote and directed "Babe" and "Mad Max." He wins an Oscar for "Happy Feet," which is cute and everything, but still. And it subverts the usually good-as-gold Oscar rule of not betting against the Pixar movie.

6:53 p.m. William Monahan picks up "The Departed's" first Oscar, for best adapted screenplay. It was a great, profane, incredibly sharp script, and you gotta love a guy who starts his acceptance speech with "Valium does work." One note, though, Oscar announcer lady: The movie it's based on, "Infernal Affairs," came from Hong Kong, not Japan.

6:54 p.m. Chris Connelly, do you really think most of the people watching would know that the award for best animated short was a "surprise"? Tom Hanks saves the bit with his fake-enthused "You bet, Chris! More fun!"

7 p.m. Well, sure, the two actresses from "The Devil Wears Prada" will present the costume award. I was about to write off Anne Hathaway and Emily Blunt's bit as a little too hammy, until they cut to Meryl Streep's stone-faced reaction shot. Brilliant. Oh, and "Marie Antoinette" wins the award. No surprise there.

7:05 p.m. Tom Cruise, ladies and gentlemen. Insert your own joke here.

7:09 p.m. It's hard to be snarky about the Humanitarian Award. So: Well done, Sherry Lansing.

7:11 p.m. Also a good sport: Clint Eastwood, who agrees to take a picture with DeGeneres for her MySpace page. Eastwood's wife looks a little miffed that Ellen reaches across her to hand the camera to Steven Spielberg.

7:15 p.m. Pretty big surprise for the cinematography award, where "Children of Men" was the heavy favorite. Instead, it's win No. 3 tonight for "Pan's Labyrinth," courtesy cinematographer Guillermo Navarro.

7:17 p.m. The interpretive dancers use props for their "Little Miss Sunshine" bit. That's cheating, isn't it?

7:20 p.m. "Visual effects -- they enable us to see aliens, experience other universes, move in slow motion or watch spiders climb high above the city landscape. For me, just a typical night in the mid-'90s." Ah, Robert Downey Jr., your dangerous drug addiction amuses us all.

7:21 p.m. So Jack Nicholson plays a cancer patient in his next movie; hence the clean pate.

7:23 p.m. The visual-effects guys from "Pirates of the Caribbean" try out Ellen's advice and talk about how they're just "four blind kids from the Bronx." The ceremony does not stop for a tearful standing ovation, although there is some polite laughter.

7:24 p.m. Hey, there's Borat! Why cut to him in the foreign-language film segment? They know he's not really a Kazakh, right?

7:31 p.m. Another surprise here, especially given the fact that "Pan's Labyrinth" has already won three awards tonight. But kudos to "The Lives of Others" and its stupendously named director, Florian Henckel von Dommersmarck.

7:33 p.m. Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long for DeGeneres to make a "Snakes on a Plane" joke.

7:36 p.m. Jennifer Hudson has, thankfully, shed the weird bolero jacket thing she was wearing on the red carpet, and tearfully and graciously accepts her totally unsurprising best supporting actress Oscar win. Good save, by the way, mentioning Jennifer Holliday just before being played off.

7:39 p.m. In other news, "American Idol" Season Three runner-up Diana DeGarmo may not have an Oscar, but she did just save a bundle on her car insurance.

7:41 p.m. Eva Green is pretty. Gael Garcia Bernal is short. They present the Oscar for documentary short to "The Blood of Yingzhou District." We hope you had that one in your Oscar pool.

7:45 p.m. Jerry Seinfeld makes an unexpected appearance to present the documentary feature, which makes sense because he was once in a documentary. He asks what's up with nominating people for awards and also what's up with making movie theater patrons pick up their own garbage. Around the country, theater employees vow not to clean up after "Bee Movie." Also appropriate that his pro-pollution bit precedes the presentation of the documentary prize to "An Inconvenient Truth."

7:48 p.m. The director of "Gossip" (Davis Guggenheim) insists that Al Gore join him on stage. Guggenheim, formerly known as Elisabeth Shue's husband, contributes to the Gore '08 campaign, but Gore again opts not to declare his political intentions, urging us all to find the will to act.

7:51 p.m. Clint Eastwood kicks off the well-deserved lifetime achievement award tribute to Ennio Morricone. Eastwood, so good working off-the-cuff with Ellen earlier, struggles with his scripted bit. "I should have worn my glasses," he says.

7:56 p.m. After a montage shows the beauty and diversity of Morricone's scores, Celine Dion takes the stage to show how fragile and easy to undermine Morricone's work can be. After the requisite standing ovation, Morricone, who speaks in Italian, translated by the versatile Mr. Eastwood. Our Italian is a bit iffy, but we can't help but suspect that Clint is leaving something out.

8:07 p.m. "The Oscar nominated star of 'Volver' and the Volverine himself..." The writer of that intro for Penelope Cruz and Hugh Jackman either deserves a pat on the back or a whack upside the head. They present the award for original score to Gustavo Santaolalla of "Babel." He won last year for "Brokeback Mountain." "Para todos Latinos, gracias," he closes.

8:11 p.m. Academy President Sid Ganis is challenged to celebrate the achievements of the Academy in only 60 seconds. He does an entertaining job, but that sound you heard was a billion people worldwide standing up and using the toilet.

8:13 p.m. Noted screenwriters Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire give the original script Oscar to Michael Arndt for "Little Miss Sunshine," which we insist should technically be considered a remake of "National Lampoon's Vacation." We miss Wally World.

8:17 p.m. But "Pan's Labyrinth" always has three awards, Chris, not two. Surely that should be easy to keep track of.

8:23 p.m. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Yup, that still sounds funny), Beyonce and Anika Noni Rose have a diva-off to belt the nominated songs from "Dreamgirls." Beyonce has told anybody who would listen that she had to turn down her vocals for the movie, but the gloves seem to be off tonight. She's bellowin'. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's obvious from some of the missed notes that they're doing it live.

8:28 p.m. For all of those "Dreamgirls" songs, John Travolta and Queen Latifah give the best original song Oscar to Melissa Etheridge for her didactic "An Inconvenient Truth" anthem. This whole Oscar night has turned into one big Gore '08 commercial.

8:30 p.m. My DVR cuts out, convinced that the Oscar show was supposed to be over by now. Actually, we still have five categories to go, 210 minutes into the show. Impressive.

8:40 p.m. In this decidedly international year at the Oscars, Michael Mann was asked to put together a surprisingly clear-eyed montage of depictions of America and Americans in movies. It features clips from a variety of unlikely movies including "American Dreamz," "Rocky IV," "Talladega Nights" and "Birth of a Nation."

8:41 p.m. Kate Winslet cuts to the chase and gives the editing award to Martin Scorsese's legendary cutter Thelma Schoonmacher for "The Departed." Only Oscar scholars realize that the editing award is usually a reliable best picture precursor.

8:45 p.m. Jodie Foster gets the honor of kicking off the annual Necrology, voice breaking at the memory of a recently departed friend. Opening position goes to Glenn Ford, while ghoulish-but-respectful applause went to departed talent like Don Knotts, Maureen Stapleton, James Doohan, Peter Boyle, Jack Palance and, loudest of all, Robert Altman in the anchor position. Anna Nicole Smith didn't make the cut.

8:57 p.m. As we near the four-hour mark, Ellen makes her first joke about ending the show on-time. Philip Seymour Hoffman has the job of making the least-surprising announcement of the night. Who will win best actress? Could it possibly be Helen Mirren? Yes. Yes it could. She makes no mention of "Caligula." She makes a joke about Elizabeth Windsor's dignity and hairstyle, thanking her. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the queen," she says, holding up her Oscar.

9:04 p.m. Forest Whitaker wins best actor for what was a fantastic supporting performance in "The Last King of Scotland." Poor Peter O'Toole. The soft-spoken Whitaker makes a passionate speech about his path from Texas to South Central, through his early years acting ("Fast Times at Ridgement High," baby) and his connection to the profession. He thanks everybody, including God, his ancestors and the people of Uganda. The band knows better than to play him off the stage.

9:11 p.m. "The original Three Amigos" Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg show up to present best director and talk about sleeping with Margot Kidder. Could it be that these three legends of '70s cinema are on hand to help Martin Scorsese get his long-overdue Oscar? Welcome to the club, Marty. The standing ovation is immediate. He tries to silence the crowd, but they're having none of it. "Could you double-check the evelope?" he begins. He ends by thanking all of the people over the years who have wished this for him. It's a great moment and the show should really end right here. Please?

9:15 p.m. Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton reveal the winner of the wide-open best picture race. And the Oscar goes to... "The Departed." Thank heavens.

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