11:34 p.m. Best Picture
Tom Cruise presents a good montage of the nominees and declares “The Artist” the winner. It’s not a shock, and Michel Hazanavicius said some wonderful things about Billy Wilder -- namely “Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder.” There’s no discounting the average Academy voter’s age (it’s 62), and there no discounting how much the people who like that movie found it charming. It’s profoundly old-fashioned, which feels just right for a night in which a black woman won a supporting-actress Oscar for playing a maid decades after Hattie McDaniel and some young women roamed the aisles of the Kodak Theater wearing cute hats and handing out snacks. It was 2012. It was 1929. That’s all. Good night. Thanks for reading and see you next year.
11:24 p.m. Best Actress
Ok, so maybe it’s just Natalie Portman’s saleswomanship. Colin Firth comes out and makes you believe he intimately knows every single one of these women. The writing is also better for him, too. The award goes to Meryl Streep for her Margaret Thatcher in “Iron Lady.” It happy upset of Viola Davis. She gives a Meryl Streep speech. It’s breathless and teary and sarcastic and sincere. Who but her devotes a quarter of her speech to her longtime makeup artist? With her win, the Academy gets that out of its system. There’s so-called racial guilt, and there’s Meryl guilt. Apparently, no one wants to see her lose for a 14th time. Davis will probably be back as a winner.
11:12 p.m. Best Actor
Natalie Portman arrives wearing a dress that looks like a skinned strawberry. Only she could do that and still be unself-consciously sweet. She addresses each of the nominees. I don’t like this revision, in which a single presenter stands there and salutes each man. This “congratulations, we love you” approach was better when five people took the stage to do it. Jean Dujardin wins and thanks Douglas Fairbanks, then shouts the way his character might in “The Artist.” He’s the first Frenchman to win. If you can believe this, he’s only the fourth to be nominated. Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer, and Gérard Depardieu are the other three.
11:07 p.m. The necrology
There’s no better way than the necrology to feel bad about all the news you didn’t read to realize so-and-so is no longer with us. I just had that. In a totally unrelated note, Roman Polanksi is technically the first Frenchman to win best director, which he did for “The Pianist.” He’s a French-born Pole, who now lives in France.
10:50 p.m. France win its very first directing Oscar
Michel Hazanavicius does what Renoir and Truffaut and Godard and Resnais and Chabrol and Malle have not done: win the director Oscar. He had to do it by basically making a Hollywood movie, but the barrier’s been broken. So there’s that. Meryl Streep presents the special Oscar winners, who were feted last month in a ceremony that looks likes it was a lot shorter and a lot classier than this one. They cut these awards to keep the show moving, but the clips they’ve shown -- of Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, and Dick Smith -- are more moving than the show. But there’s still the necrology.
10:38 p.m. The “Bridesmaids” problem
The show appears to have solved the headache about “Bridesmaids” not being part of the best-picture mix by bringing it up over and over again. Melissa McCarthy did a funny bit with Crystal in which she hiked up her leg outside his dressing room the way she does in the movie, then her other leg, as she does not do. And clips from the movie are rampant. It’s about here that I would invite the Academy not only to diversify its membership (14% are under 50) but to reconsider overhauling the voting system again so that popular entertainments have a shot and not only this group of so-called prestige movies we’ve got this year. The film’s cast presents the three shorts awards -- “The Shore,” “Saving Face,” “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” win -- and they’re great. Rose Byrne and McCarthy do a “Scorsese” drinking game. Which is exactly what’s going on at my house.
10:25 p.m. La Jolie
Angelina Jolie takes the stage in a great black dress whose slit she promptly kick her leg through. It’s more of threat that a come-on, which is very her. Really, at her current size, she looks like something Ray Harryhauser might have made. She’s there to give the adapted-screenplay award to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash. Faxon and Rash try to impersonate Jolie’s stance. They’re not thin enough. Original screenplay goes to Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris,” who presumably is home cleaning his clarinet.
10:17 p.m. Will Ferrell and Zach Galafianakis make noise
They come to the stage through the crowd in marching band tuxes and a cymbals, which they slam together. It’s not a Sacha Baron Cohen sabotage, but if you’re in the front row and planned on hearing the rest of the show, having these two banging in your ears can’t be fun. They don’t need a movie together. They need a straight man. Give them Tom Sherak. They award the original song Oscar to Brent Mackenzie for one of his “Muppets” songs. Before the commercial break, a couple of old-timey snack girls bring popcorn up and down the aisle. This go-to-the-movies schtick is dumb. Brian Grazer, we’re watching this show on TV!
10:07 p.m. The other reason they hired Billy Crystal
This is one of the things that Billy Crystal does that a lot other hosts can’t do -- except maybe Jimmy Fallon, were he ever to host the show. Crystal does a bit about what the audience is thinking. Viola Davis is thinking, for instance, thank God for a strong black woman part not played by Tyler Perry. Then he brings out Academy President Tom Sherak to bore us. When Sherak leaves, Crystal says, “Thanks for whipping the crowd into a frenzy.” That’s also why they hired him back. Then Penélope Cruz and Owen Wilson give Ludovic Bource the Oscar for his score for “The Artist.” There had been some controversy about the music from that movie because it includes music from Bernard Hermann’s classic score for “Vertigo,” whose misuse poor Bource has said he found annoying, too.
10:00 p.m. The truth
Christopher Plummer wins his supporting-actor Oscar and says he emerged from his mother’s womb prepared to give an Oscar speech. That is probably the most honest thing an actor has ever said in an acceptance speech. He wasn’t even going for comedy. He was just being Christopher Plummer.
9:50 p.m. Put Emma Stone in everything
It’s also important to remember that Emma Stone, who’s presenting the visual-effects Oscar to “Hugo” with Ben Stiller, is very funny. That was another crime of “The Help.” It missed her point. Stiller lets her do all the work in their routine. “It’s my first time presenting!” she says then goes off a great riff about what else they could do as part of their bit. There’s a gigantic red bow on her shoulder, and it’s probably overstating the case, but she really is a gift.
9:33 - 9:45 p.m. Wit!
It’s true that Debbie Allen is probably sitting at home watching this Cirque du Soleil aerial performance of “North by Northwest” and thinking, “I did this in 1989, and I didn’t need cables!” But it’s more inspired than the dance numbers have been in the past. Sorry, Debbie. Afterward, out come Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow for a smart bit that reminds us that there are very few stars as naturally fearless about mock-egotism as he is. They present best documentary to the basketball movie, “Undefeated,” whose directors are cut fully off before finishing. Downey is trailed by a camera crew and is put off by Paltrow, who’s put off by him. It’s not hilarious, but they’re good together. Later, Chris Rock, before presenting the animation Oscar to “Rango,” reminds us of all the things that can be done with animation then says: “And if you’re a black man you can play a zebra!” That’s pretty much why Billy Crystal is our host.
9:29: p.m. Seriously: Hugo?
An uncharacteristically chic Tina Fey and the facial hair wearing Bradley Cooper just presented the two sound awards to “Hugo,” and the editing award to the two editors of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who were so taken by surprise that they didn’t really say anything, just: “Let’s get out here.” Well said.
9:21 p.m. Focus grouping “The Wizard of Oz”
The Christopher Guest crew appears in a pre-taped gag about what might have happened with focus groups in 1939. It’s very funny until Bob Balaban says they’re going to screen “Gone with the Wind” next and Fred Willard says, “I hope it’s got monkeys.” These guys are great, but even if that line was innocent (and I’m sure it was), all you can do is suck your teeth at it.
9:11 p.m. It’s best supporting actress
The surreal conflict of what it means for Octavia Spencer to win an Oscar doesn’t really matter when you watch her win. When Christian Bale calls her name, the room cheered. She hugged Viola Davis and kissed Jessica Chastain, but the producers started to cut her off. She was probably too nervous to give the speech she wanted to give, anyway. But now the industry’s challenge begins: Hire this woman.
9:04 p.m. Iran wins its first Oscar
Sandra Bullock needs to do more comedies. She does a bit about foreign languages for the foreign-language film award, which goes to Asgar Farhadi’s “A Separation,” which is something of a heartening relief.
8:53 p.m. Our first clip show I don’t understand these montages, particular after Crystal says we don’t watch the movies the way we used to. If that’s the show’s theme, it’s already too defensive and, to have to watch it starring movies you can see only on a device and presented on a television kind of misses the point. In other news, Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez make a much better argument for seeing a movie on as enormous a screen as possible. They present Mark Bridges the costume Oscar for “Hugo” and the one for makeup to Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for “The Iron Lady.” The clips for both categories feature actors elaborating on the talent and hard work of the nominees. Also extremely classy.
8:46 p.m. There’s still time for “Hugo” to clean up
It just won for cinematography and art direction, which Tom Hanks presented with his usual eminence. Before the break, up in the box seats, it’s Shelia E. and Pharrell doing percussion. Brian Grazer produced this year’s show. That’s a classy, cool touch.
8:38 p.m. Billy Crystal’s best-picture musical number
It’s necessary to remember that the last time Billy Crystal did this, the world was different. There was no “American Idol” or “The Voice.” So to the people at home who are listening to Crystal sing and covering their ears along with their dogs and wondering why he didn’t just use Auto-Tune: Cher was the only person back then using something like it. Crystal is going for showbiz, but he’s been better. Somebody bring him some water.
8:30 p.m. We’ll, here we go
Morgan Freeman is narrating live. While he speaks, music plays over him, just like every Hollywood movie, which aggravating. But the Billy Crystal clip show starts. He’s in “The Artist.” He’s the comatose wife in “The Descendants.” He’s Billy Beane in “Moneyball.” Then he’s in “Midnight in Paris,” with Justin Bieber and Crystal’s Sammy Davis Jr. impersonation. He eats Octavia Spencer’s doody pie, then tries to stop the Bridesmaids from doing the same. Too late. Then it’s off to Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible.” These montages of his never get old, even if this one is a little limp. The “Bridesmaids” bit is funny and as tasteless as we’re likely to get tonight.
8:22 p.m. ABC’s Red Carpet Part V
As an indication of the great industry relief that’s in the air, Natalie Portman just told Robin Roberts that she’s looking forward to Billy Crystal’s hosting because he won’t be mean. It’s really hard to underestimate how stressful it is to have an “edgy” host waiting to eat you alive. Just to rub all that in our faces, Chris Rock just talked to Robin. He threatened that he could pull a Tonya Harding. His little Afro just pulled a DL Hughley, and it’s not funny.
8:13 p.m. ABC’s Red Carpet Part IV
Well, I think egg-white is a thing this year. Here’s Sandra Bullock talking to Louise Roe. Her shoulders are encrusted with something. She just told Roe she planned to have a sexy time. Her shoulders appear to have other plans. They’ll be fighting for Sparta.
8:00 p.m. ABC’s Red Carpet Part III
Wearing a mustache it’s taken me years of therapy to forget, Bradley Cooper just imitated Christopher Walken backstage with Jess Cagle. Then it was off to Gwyneth Paltrow who looked lovely as an egg-white omelet. She got dressed with Cameron Diaz, she said, which made sense since Diaz, looked like the yolk.
7:51 p.m. ABC’s Red Carpet Part II
So the E! ladies didn’t like Jennifer Lopez, and it doesn’t sound as if Tim Gunn likes what she’s wearing, either. It’s a kind of glittering art deco thing. Meanwhile, Nick Nolte has just been lent Jean Dujardin’s translator to talk to ABC. And, wearing sunglasses, and a little extra body beef, he looks like he just joined the cast of “American Chopper.”
7:42 p.m. ABC’s Red Carpet
Well, we’re over at ABC now where Colin Firth is talking. He always looks like he has to run to the bathroom. It’s not a great situation. That cute, Manny, from “Modern Family” just did a pre-taped bit in which he tries to see all the best picture nominees and shots a terrified look at his chocolate treat after Minnie presents her pie to Bryce Dallas Howard. And I think Jean Dujardin just tried to pick up Robin Roberts, like to sleep with/tap dance on her.
7:26 - 7:41 p.m. Sacha Baron Cohen broke E!
E! sideline commentary is like what Kurt Terry, Howie, Michael and Jimmy do for Fox except dreamy and catty and jealous. They love -- love! -- everything, except for anything worn by any woman George Clooney has brought (sorry Stacy Keibler). This can all be explained as killing time so that Seacrest can clean Kim Jong-il’s Bisquick off his tux. I’m switching to ABC preshow. Bye, E!
7:17 - 7:25 p.m. The Dictator attacks
Sacha Baron Cohen in a not-terribly-stealth attempt to promote his demagogue satire, “The Dictator,” just spilled on Ryan Seacrest an urn containing what he said were Kim Jong-il’s ashes. In all my years of watching Red Carpet nonsense, this is the first time I’ve felt bad for Seacrest. Did he ask for this? That’s rhetorical, and yet: Did he? But it might have turned out to be a brilliant sabotage since Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Tina Fey, and, currently, a stunning Jennifer Lopez have all expressed their sympathies. Just to demonstrate how much like high school E! is: After Cohen struck, all of Seacrest’s coworkers audibly cackled at him.
7:11 p.m. Oh, it’s “Let’s out Ryan” time!
Kristen Wiig, who’s with her “Bridesmaids” co-writer Annie Mumolo, just turned around and seemed surprise to be at the Oscars. So she’s human! They depart, leaving Giuliana Rancic to ask Seacrest about what it’s like to be so close to all those dresses, and he tells us all that it’s hard not to stop looking at the ladies. Where’s his Oscar?
7:03 p.m. “21 Jump Street” not Oscar-worthy
Jonah Hill, who brought his mother, just told Seacrest that being an Oscar nominee will let him make more serious movies. Until then there’s “21 Jump Street,” which Hill promises won’t get him nominated for anything. Jonah, don’t be so hard on yourself. You don’t have a Razzies yet, either.
6:53 p.m. Ryan, love your best actresses
Le Seacrest just talked to Michelle Williams then Rooney Mara. Williams is in red and was flattered to hear that Kate Winslet approves of her work. Mara told Seacrest that she just found her cream, architecture-student dress earlier that morning. I hate to say that it looked that way but it did (it’s Givenchy couture and looked dangerous to walk in). Mara is the sort of red-carpet person I think a lot of us would be. She doesn’t care about the niceties. Seacrest asks a question, and she answers in a slightly aggravated way, like “How should I know?” When you think about it: How should she?
6:42 p.m. Viola Davis au natural
I don’t know what Viola Davis was thinking when she decided to color her hair deep gold and wear it short and natural this awards season, but I’m glad she thought it. That’s the most daring thing we’re likely see tonight. Nobody on E! will say so. They’ll talk about how great the dress is (it is; Vera Wang; emerald), and in that condescending way they talk about how some people (the fat, the dark-skinned, Melissa Leo) made the most of what they had, which in Davis and Octavia Spencer’s cases, is E! speak for not knowing how to talk about a black star. But the hair is amazing. In the real world, I sat next to that hair on the bus today. In Hollywood, on the red carpet, that hair is science-fiction, also known as the shocking truth.
6:36 p.m. Demian Bechir plans to drink
Seacrest just outed best-actor nominee Demian Bechir as likely to not be sober during tonight’s ceremonies which means that he and I have the same mission. The difference is that Seacrest outed Bechirin front of his mother. Mine won’t know until she reads this blog. Also: George Clooney, with his Stacy Keibler, was there before Bechir, and I hate to ask, but what does it mean to be a George Clooney Oscar date. It must be thrilling and kind of stressful: “Will I ever be back?” You’re always nervous Seacrest will call her by someone else’s name.
6:27 p.m. Beards, boobs, and double-sided tape
So here we all are, and that’s what we’re calling tonight’s Oscars red carpet. Me, you, and E!. Ryan Seacrest has already spoken to four Bridesmaids and Bérénice Bejo, who, my entertainment-agnostic seatmate thought was Jeri Ryan (he’s not staying). Jessica Chastain sounds truly elated to introduce herself to Seacrest. The movie business is amazing. A year ago nobody really knew who she was. Now, she and Le Seacrest are at the Oscars talking about her nana.