Live Blog: The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

Beginning with the start of the red carpet coverage at 3 pm PT/ 6 pm ET and continuing throughout the Oscars ceremony and beyond, be sure to make this live blog part of your viewing experience of the 83rd annual Academy Awards. Before the show begins, turn to our experts for guidance in getting all 24 of the competitive categories correct. During the show, we will be providing both analysis and commentary on the winners and losers. After the show, we will recap all the races, explain the outcomes, and provide insight into the results. Gold Derby executive editor Paul Sheehan is the lead writer of this blog, with contributions from our other editors noted.

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The show concluded with the Staten Island PS 22 chorus singing 1939 Best Song Winner, “Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz.”  They were joined by all the Oscar winners for the final verse.

“The King’s Speech” – 2/5
“The Social Network” – 4/1
“The Fighter” – 20/1
“True Grit” – 25/1
“Black Swan” – 40/1
“Inception” – 50/1
“Toy Story 3” – 80/1
“The Kids Are All Right” – 85/1
“127 Hours” – 90/1
“Winter’s Bone” – 100/1

Having won with the Producers, Directors and Screen Actors guilds, “The King’s Speech” was the most likely to be crowned Best Picture.

For the third time in eight years, three-time Oscar champ Steven Spielberg presented Best Picture. One of the reasons, the show is so short this year is that there were no separate clips from the contenders interspersed throughout the show with lengthy introductions. Instead, there was a montage set to the stirring finale of “The King’s Speech.”

MATT NOBLE: Took Colin Firth a good 30 seconds to say he was going to be brief.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Sandra Bullock makes a joke the ABC brass is sure to enjoy, mentioning James Franco’s work on “General Hospital” and saying he is the reason kids get picked up late from school as all the mothers are watching him on the afternoon soap.

Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech” – 1/20
Javier Bardem, “Biutiful” – 20/1
Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network” – 30/1
James Franco, “127 Hours” – 50/1
Jeff Bridges, “True Grit” – 90/1

Like Portman, Firth picked up all the precursor prizes on his way to the Oscars. He was beaten by Bridges last year with his first Best Actor bid for “A Single Man.” Indeed, Firth singled out that film’s novice director, Tom Ford, for special credit. He concluded with a heartfelt thank you to his wife and family.

Sandra Bullock
, last year’s Best Actress winner for “The Blind Side,” handed out the final acting prize of the night. She too spoke to each of the nominees individually. And she proved to be someone the academy should consider hiring to host these awards.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Jeff Bridges gave a classy presentation of the Best Actress nominees proving once again, that he is a Hollywood icon for good reason. Annette Benning is clearly not destined to win an Oscar. Portman gave her best speech all season, both heartfelt and honest.

Natalie Portman, “Black Swan” – 2/3
Annette Bening, “The Kids Are All Right” – 3/2
Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole” – 80/1
Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone” – 85/1
Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine” – 90/1

Portman won all of the precursor prizes on her way to the stage at the Kodak. She had lost her 2004 Best Supporting Actress bid for “Closer” to Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator”).

Last year’s Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges (“Crazy Heart”) and a nominee in that same race tonight for “True Grit” presents the Best Actress award with special words for each of the nominees.

The final Scenic Transition takes us to the famous foreground of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which is just down the block from the Kodak Theater.

Academy governor Annette Bening presented a package of highlights from the second annual Governor Awards. At the November 14 ceremony, four men were feted for their lifetime achievements. Three of them were introduced tonight: five-time Oscar and newly-minted Thalberg winner Francis Ford Coppola, actor Eli Wallach and film historian Kevin Brownlow. As was the case with the ceremony last fall, French director Jean-Luc Godard declined to make the trip to Hollywood tonight.

“The Social Network,” David Fincher – 4/5
“The King’s Speech,” Tom Hooper – 1/1
“The Fighter,” David O. Russell – 50/1
“True Grit,” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – 66/1
“Black Swan,” Darren Aronofsky – 80/1

Hooper was also the winner with the Directors Guild of America. Since the guild began handing out awards in 1949, the winning helmer has gone on to take home the Oscar with just six exceptions:

1968 — DGA to Anthony Harvey for “The Lion in Winter” and Oscar to Carol Reed for “Oliver!”
1972 — DGA to Francis Ford Coppola for “The Godfather” and Oscar to Bob Fosse for “Cabaret”
1985 — DGA to Steven Spielberg for “The Color Purple” and Oscar to Sydney Pollack for “Out of Africa”
1995 — DGA to Ron Howard for “Apollo 13” and Oscar to Mel Gibson for “Braveheart”
2000 — DGA to Ang Lee for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Oscar to Steven Soderbergh for “Traffic”
2002 — DGA to Rob Marshall for “Chicago” and Oscar to Roman Polanski for “The Pianist”

Two-time Best Actress champ Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry,” 1999; “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004) joins last year’s Oscar-winning helmer Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) to announce this year’s winner of the directing prize.

TOM O’NEIL: The problem with this Oscarcast is that it’s so overproduced that it’s missing Wow Moments. Lovely was the In Memoriam segment sung by Celine Dion to the tune of “Smile.” Billy Crystal made us smile, but not howl – and that’s really sad. Had he dazzled us tonight on stage he could’ve set up a helpful contrast to what was missing from Hathaway and Franco.

2001 Best Actress winner Halle Berry (“Monster’s Ball”) presents a touching tribute to the late Lena Horne.

Celine Dion and the William Ross-conducted orchestra perform “Smile” during the In Memoriam segment. Among those recognized were John Barry, Grant McCune, Tony Curtis, Edward Limato, Tom Mankiewicz, Gloria Stuart, William Fraker, Joseph Strick, Lionel Jeffries, Sally Menke, Ronni Chasen, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Radnitz, Cluade Chabrol, Pete Postlethwaite, Bill Littlejohn, Pierre Guffroy, Patricia Neal, George Hickenlooper, Irving Ravetch, Robert Culp, Bob Boyle, Mario Monicelli, Lynn Redgrave, Elliott Kastner, Dede Allen, Peter Yates, Anne Francis, Arthur Penn, Theoni Aldredge, Susannah York, Ronald Neame, David Wolper, Jill Clayburgh, Alan Hume, Irvin Kershner, Dennis Hopper, Dino De Laurentiis, Blake Edwards, Kevin McCarthy and Lena Horne.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Randy Newman wins the award for Best Speech of the night with his telling reference to the Best Original Song voting rules that limited the category to just four nominees. 

“We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3″ – 2/1
“If I Rise” from “127 Hours” – 4/1
“Coming Home” from “Country Strong” – 30/1
“I See the Light” from “Tangled” – 90/1

Newman has now won this race twice. His first victory came in 2001 for “If I Didn’t Have You” from “Monsters, Inc.” He has lost 10 Best Song Bids and eight score awards as well.

Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls,” 2006) intros the performances of the other two Best Song nominees. Florence Welch steps in for expectant mother Dido and sings “If I Rise” from “127 Hours” with composer A.R. Rahman. He won both Best Score and Best Song for “Slumdog Millionaire,” his last collaboration with helmer Danny Boyle. The final tune — “Coming Home” — is crooned by “Country Strong” star and Best Actress Oscar champ Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love,” 1998).

MARCUS DIXON: James Franco and Anne Hathaway keep trying to be funny and endearing… but it’s just not working. The best chemistry of the evening came from co-presenters Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, who put the banter between our Oscar hosts to shame.

“The Social Network,” Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall – 2/3
“127 Hours,” Jon Harris – 11/4
“Black Swan,” Andrew Weisblum – 60/1
“The Fighter,” Pamela Martin – 60/1
“The King’s Speech,” Tariq Anwar – 60/1

The team from “The Social Network” also won the top prize from the American Cinema Editors. They were nominees in 2008 for another David Fincher film, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

“Inception” – 1/20
“Alice in Wonderland” – 50/1
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” – 50/1
“Hereafter” – 50/1
“Iron Man 2” – 50/1

“Inception” was the big winner with the Visual Effects Society as well. This was the first Oscar for all four of the winners — Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb.

“Sherlock Holmes” co-stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law presented the final two below-the-line categories with their usual inimitable flair and fun.

Scenic Transition No. 6 took us back to the first Oscars that aired on TV. These were the silver anninversary kudos held on March 19, 1853 honoring the best of 1952. Long-time host Bob Hope emceed those festivities from the Pantages Theater, which sits on Hollywood Boulevard a few blocks west of the Kodak, while two-time Best Actor winner Fredric March (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Best Years of Our Lives”) steered the New York portion of the show from the NBC International Theater.

Billy Crystal, who got a standing O as well, delivered a great riff on hosting the Oscars. It is easy to understand why he reaped seven Emmy bids for emceeing; he won twice in 1991 and 1998.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Oprah Winfrey looked regal and elegant in her dazzling silver and black shimmery gown.  The icon of entertainment was introduced by Hathaway who said it was an honor to “breathe the same air as this next present”. Queen O got a standing ovation as she came out

“Inside Job” – 2/3
“Exit through the Gift Shop” – 2/1
“Restrepo” – 10/1
“Waste Land” – 10/1
“Gasland” – 80/1

This is the first win for director Charles Ferguson and producer Audrey Marrs who were also Oscar nominees for their first documentary “No End in Sight” in 2007.

One-time Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Oprah Winfrey (“The Color Purple,” 1985) will be hosting her talker from the stage of the Kodak tomorrow morning. Tonight, she is here to announce the Documentary Feature winner.

The musical mash-ups featuring the performers of films in the “Harry Potter,” “Toy Story” and “Twilight” franchises as well as “The Social Network” was inspired.

BEN SCUGLIA: It’s great that presenter Jake Gyllenhaal urged the Oscars audience to go out and see short films and documentaries. But how are people supposed to find them? Unfortunately, these great movies don’t get distribution, apart from a few cities that get to see the Oscar-nominated films in a couple of theatres. At least short-film winner Luke Matheny plugged their availability on iTunes. Yes, that is the sound of the future of film distribution.

“God of Love” – 4/5
“Wish 143” – 1/1
“Na Wewe” – 3/1
“The Confession” – 20/1
“The Crush” – 60/1

Luke Matheny won with his first nomination. The charmer won over the crowd with his wry reference to his need for a haircut.

“Strangers No More” – 11/5
“Killing in the Name” – 3/1
“Poster Girl” – 5/1
“The Warriors of Qiugang” – 20/1
“Sun Come Up” – 80/1

This is the first win in four nominations for the filmmakers Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon.

One-time Supporting Actor nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (“Brokeback Mountain,” 2005) and Amy Adams, who earned her third Supporting Actress bid this year for “The Fighter” announce the winners of the two short film awards.

BEN SCUGLIA: Awww, did you catch that little “you did good, kid” wink that Zachary Levi flashed at Mandy Moore just as their duet ended? I think the cameras caught it by accident, but it was a sweet moment.

And speaking of snubbed, the first nominee this year is from tunesmith Randy Newman whose track record at the Oscars is 1 win, 18 losses. He crooned “We Belong Together” from “Toy Story 3.” Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi joined composer Alan Mencken, an eight-time Oscar winner, for “I See the Light” from “Tangled.”

After being dropped last year, performances of the Best Song nominees are back on the bill. The first two hail from animated features. Two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey (Best Supporting Actor: “The Usual Suspects,” 1995; Best Actor: “American Beauty,” 1999) prefaced his introduction of these with a rendition of the song “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” from “Top Hat” which was snubbed in the second ever Best Song race back in 1935. 

MATTHEW CORMIER: Cate Blanchett introduced these categories in a dress that i would call a costume itself, it has too much embroidery and far too many colors at the neck level.

“The King’s Speech,” Jenny Beaven – 2/3
“Alice in Wonderland,” Colleen Atwood – 3/2
“I Am Love,” Antonella Cannarozzi – 60/1
“The Tempest,” Sandy Powell – 60/1
“True Grit,” Mary Zophres – 60/1

This is the third Oscar out of nine nominations for Atwood. Her designs for “Alice in Wonderland” won the fantasy category at the Costume Designers Guild while “The King’s Speech” won the period prize.

“The Wolfman” – 1/10
“Barney’s Version” – 10/1
“The Way Back” – 20/1

Rick Baker picked up Oscar No. 7 while Dave Elsey won his first Academy Award.

Scenic Transition No. 5 is to the world of Middle Earth captured by “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The final film in that franchise, “The Return of the King” won 11 Oscars in 2003. Supporting Actress Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator,” 2004), who appeared in all three of the films and is slated to reprise her role in “The Hobbit,” is on hand to hand out two of the more glamourous awards.

Best Supporting Actress winner Marisa Tomei (“My Cousin Vinny,” 1992 ) presided over the Sci-Tech awards two weeks ago and presents a spirited recap of the festivities.

MARCUS DIXON: All of the experts were pretty much unanimous on “Inception” sweeping the two Sound categories, but the win for “The Social Network” in Original Score was only predicted by about half of our pundits. “Inception” should also win Visual Effects later on, bringing its total to 4 wins.

TOM O’NEiL: Hey, where’s the much-promised “King’s Speech” sweep, eh? The only award it’s won so far  tonight has been screenplay. If there was a real sweep in the works, it would’ve taken music score and art direction too. Looks like it might end up with only three Oscars in the end: Best Picture, Actor and Screenplay. Yikes. The fact that Social Network just won score bodes well for its chances in other races … like Best Director too.

“Inception” – 1/20
“Toy Story 3” – 50/1
“TRON Legacy” – 50/1
“True Grit” – 50/1
“Unstoppable” – 50/1

The Motion Picture Sound Editiors feted “Inception” for sound editing.

“Inception” –  1/20
“The Social Network” – 20/1
“The King’s Speech” – 60/1
“Salt” – 60/1
“True Grit” – 60/1

The Cinema Audio Society  honored “True Grit” for its sound mixing. 

Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson look good as they present the two sound prizes. But their banter was banal.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails, is finally a grown up and a respected film scorer. The film used a unique score to highlight what could otherwise have been a boring movie. 

“The Social Network,” Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross – 2/3
“The King’s Speech,” Alexandre Desplat – 3/2
“Inception,” Hans Zimmer – 4/1
“127 Hours,” A.R. Rahman – 80/1
“How to Train Your Dragon,” John Powell – 80/1

The pair also won the Golden Globe for their work.

Good friends and “Australia” co-stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are part of Scenic Transition No. 4 which focuses on sound, as the scene shifts from the silent era, to movie musicals, to the aural wonders of THX and beyond. Kidman, a Best Actress champ (“The Hours,” 2002) contends in that same category tonight for “Rabbit Hole.” Jackman has never been nominated for an Oscar but he did share in the Emmy win for the 2009 Oscarcast when he did a crackerjack job hosting. They are here to hand out the Best Score award.

Academy president Tom Sherak and Disney exec Anne Sweeney announced the continuation of the broadcast deal to 2020.

TOM O’NEIL: While there haven’t yet been any upsets in the glam categories, there have been some shockers in the tech races if you base that judgment upon the predix of the experts polled by GoldDerby. Very few forecast “Alice in Wonderland” winning for art direction or “Inception” winning for cinematography.

Christian Bale, “The Fighter” – 2/3
Geoffrey Rush, “The King’s Speech” – 6/5
John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone” – 50/1
Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right” – 70/1
Jeremy Renner, “The Town” – 80/1

Bale had won many of the precursor awards and was favored to win as evidenced by the odds. The gracious Bale referenced his own dropping of the F-bomb on previous occasions. This is only the eighth time that both supporting awards went to the same film.

Another Best Actress winner, Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line,” 2005) is presenting Best Supporting Actor. Traditionally, the year’s previous Best Supporting Actress does the honors but Mo’Nique (“Precious”) declined the academy’s invitation.

BEN SCUGLIA: Melissa Leo’s stunned acceptance speech, replete with a f-bomb, heartfelt shout-out to Academy members and waving to audience members in the peanut gallery at the Kodak getting mixed reviews from Twitter’s chattering class. I loved it. What, you want crocodile tears and shout-outs to her lawyer?

“In a Better World” (Denmark) – 2/1
“Incendies” (Canada) – 4/1
“Biutiful” (Mexico) – 7/1
“Dogtooth” (Greece) – 50/1
“Outside the Law” (Algeria) – 50/1

This is the third time a Danish film has won this award after “Babette’s Feast” (1987) and “Pelle the Conqueror” (1988).

Best Actress Oscar winner Helen Mirren (“The Queen,” 2002) and Russell Brand, her co-star in the upcoming remake of “Arthur,” present the Foreign Language Award. For the original 1981 version of “Arthur,” Dudley Moore was a Best Actor nominee for the title role of the irresponsible rich boy — he lost to Henry Fonda for “On Golden Pond” — while John Gielgud won Supporting Actor for the part of the gruff but good-hearted servant now played by Mirren.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Anne Hathaway singing a version of “On Our Own”, clearly directed at Hugh Jackman is a riot act. She’s a talented singer and has the comedic chops to make this skit work well.  James Franco in a dress! Makes the first Charlie Sheen joke of the night… introduces Helen Mirren and Russell Brand, a true clash of the classes.

Raising her voice in song, a tuxedo-clad Anne Hathaway chided Hugh Jackman for “bailing” on their duet after she was part of his knockout opening number two years ago. Then James Franco strode on in Marilyn Monroe drag and talked of a text message from Charlie Sheen.

TOM O’NEIL: Poor Anne Hathaway and James Franco. They’re adorably sweet at Oscar hosts, but the material they’re given is soooo lame – they’re gonna get crucified by the critics tomorrow!

MARCUS DIXON: Both of the writing winners, Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”) and David Seidler (“The King’s Speech”) were heavily favored to win their respected awards. If one had lost, we’d have a much better idea for what movie might win Best Picture at the end of the night, but as of now, neither of these frontrunners are sweeping.

“The King’s Speech,” David Seidler – 1/20
“The Kids Are All Right,” Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko – 30/1
“Another Year,” Mike Leigh – 50/1
“The Fighter,” Paul Attanasio, Lewis Colich, Eric Johnson, Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy – 50/1
“Inception,” Christopher Nolan – 50/1

Seidler was ineligilbe to contend for the equivalent prize at the WGA as the film’s production company was not a signatory to the union agreeement. In his wry acceptance speech, the 83 year-old acknowledged being the oldest winner of this award. As a boy, he would listen to the stammering King George VI on the radio and was inspired to overcome his own stammer.

TOM O’NEIL: David Seidler proved his writing chops by composing perfectly apt words when he won for “The King’s Speech”  — “I accept this on behalf of all of the stutterers throughout the world. We have a voice. We have been heard. Thanks to you, the academy.” And I love the fact that he made note that he didn’t have to resort to hurling Melissa Leo F-bombs.

“The Social Network,” Aaron Sorkin – 1/20
“127 Hours,” Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle – 50/1
“Toy Story 3,” Michael Arndt – 50/1
“True Grit,” Ethan Coen, Joel Coen – 50/1
“Winter’s Bone,” Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini – 50/1

Sorkin adds this award to a slew of kudos, including the WGA, Scripter and Golden Globe. He referenced the 1976 win by Paddy Chaefsky for his original script for “Network” in his sincere acceptance speech.

“No Country for Old Men” co-stars Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin present the screenplay awards dressed in dapper white tie and tails. Bardem, a Best Actor nominee tonight for “Biutiful,” won the supporting award for “No Country”  The screenplay races date back to the first ceremony. The first winners were “Underworld” (Original Story, Ben Hecht) and “Seventh Heaven” (Adapted Story, Benjamin Glazer). A category that existed only for the first Oscars was Title Writing, won by Joseph Farnham for his work on various silent films. Farnham, a founding member of the academy, was the first Oscar champ to pass away, dying of a heart attack two years and 16 days after his win.

Scenic Transition No. 3 is to the first Academy Awards which were held across the street from the Kodak Theater at the Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Among the winners that night was “Wings” (Best Picture), Emil Jannings (Best Actor) and Janet Gaynor (Best Actress). Jannings was the first absentee winner as he was back home in Germany.

MARCUS DIXON: If you’re scratching your heads about Justin Timberlake’s “I am Banksy” comment, he’s referring to the unseen star of the nominated documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop.” Banksy is a world famous graffiti artist who exists only in the shadows, and his identity has remained secret for years.

“Toy Story 3” – 1/20
“How to Train Your Dragon” – 70/1
“The Illusionist” – 70/1

Pixar has now won six of its eight bids in this race: “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille,” “WALL-E,” and “Up” were the other winners. “Monsters, Inc.” lost to “Shrek” in the first year while Cars” was defeated by “Happy Feet” in 2006.

“The Gruffalo” – 3/2
“Day & Night” – 3/1
“Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)” – 6/1
“Let’s Pollute” – 60/1
“The Lost Thing” – 60/1

Good sports Justin Timberlake (“The Social Network”) and Mila Kunis (“Black Swan”) may have been snubbed for their supporting performances but they are here to support their films. They took part in the second transition to the first Animated Feature champ “Shrek.” Timberlake lended his voice to the third feature in this franchise.

Melissa Leo, “The Fighter” – 7/4
Hailee Steinfeld, “True Grit” – 2/1
Helena Bonham Carter, “The King’s Speech” – 11/5
Amy Adams, “The Fighter” – 20/1
Jacki Weaver, “Animal Kingdom” – 80/1

Leo won many of the precursor prizes but was thought to have hurt her chances with some ill-advised “For Your Consideration” ads. She was visibly stunned by her win, but recovered enough to flirt with Douglas, then flubbed with an expletitive exclamation (bleeped by an alert censor) and concluded with a heartfelt shout-out to the work of the academy.

With last year’s Best Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz (“Inglorious Basterds”) stuck in Europe filming, it befell on 1996 honorary Oscar recipient Kirk Douglas to present Best Supporting Actress. At 94, Douglas was an inspiration as he teased Franco and flirted with Hathaway. 

MATTHEW CORMIER: The producers have done a great job of making the show visually interesting with the entire stage being used to showcase scenes from Oscar-winning movies. And Hanks was charming in his presentation of these two prizes.

MARCUS DIXON:  Only two of our 28 experts predicted the “Inception” win for Cinematography. I wonder how many more surprises are in store tonight?

“True Grit,” Roger Deakins – 2/3
“Black Swan,” Matthew Libatique – 11/5
“Inception,” Wally Pfister – 3/1
“The King’s Speech,” Danny Cohen – 50/1
“The Social Network,” Jeff Cronenweth – 50/1

Pfister also won the top prize from the American Society of Cinematographers. This is the first Oscar from four nominations for Pfister. Deakins remains without an Oscar despite nine bids.

“The King’s Speech,” Eve Stewart; Judy Farr –  7/4
“Alice in Wonderland,” Robert Stromberg; Karen O’Hara – 2/1
“Inception,” Guy Dyas; Lisa Chugg, Paul Healy, Douglas A. Mowat – 11/5
“True Grit,” Jess Gonchor; Nancy Haigh – 50/1
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I,” Stuart Craig; Stephanie McMillan – 50/1

This is the second Oscar in three nominations for Stromberg and the first win for O’Hara on her second bid. At the Art Directors Guild, “King’s Speech” won the period prize while “Inception” won the fantasy race over, among others, “Alice in Wonderland.”

Two-time Best Actor Oscar winner Tom Hanks (“Philadelphia,” 1993; “Forrest Gump,” 1994) and current academy governor presented the first two of the 24 competitive awards. He told us that “Gone With the Wind” was the first film to win Best Picture, Art Direction and Cinematography.

The first so-called “Scenic Transition” placed them amid the grandeur of 1939 Best Picture champ “Gone With the Wind.” That epic won eight competitive Oscars and two honorary ones as well as the Thalberg Award for producer David O. Selznick.

In their opening remarks, they referenced their “appeal” to the younger demographic. She riffed on her lack of a nomination while he wondered what he would get if he won. Hathaway was told to stand up straight by her mother while Franco’s grandmother gushed over Marky Mark.

Rookie hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway starred in a show-stopping film montage where they appear in all 10 of the Best Picture nominees. Last year’s co-host Alec Baldwin appeared in a series of “Inception” inspired dream sequences  as did 2004 Supporting Actor champ Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”). The two made it back to the Kodak Theater via the Delorean from “Back to the Future.” Billy Crystal was the first Oscars host to do this bit and the eight-time emceeing vet is slated to appear later in tonight’s show.

Robin Roberts chats with charmer Tom Hanks, a two-time Oscar champ and academy governor, who is slated to present the first two awards.

Krista Smith managed to make the radiant Halle Berry seem dull in another interminable interview.

MARCUS DIXON: ABC just showcased their Wednesday night comedies (“The Middle,” “Better With You,” “Modern Family,” and “Mr. Sunshine”) by showing clips that resembled each of tonight’s 10 Best Picture nominees. For “127 Hours,” they showed a clip of Julie Bowen chopping off her hand from her show’s Halloween episode. For “Winter’s Bone,” the “Modern Family” kids walked in on their parents in bed. Hilarious!

The sets for the show were designed by two-time Emmy winner Steve Bass. While this is his first time working on the Oscars, he and the kudocast’s director, Don Mischer, are old colleagues. They collaborated on last year’s Emmy Awards telecast at which Bass contended for his work on last year’s Tony Awards. While he lost that bid (his sixth), he did win for the second of his four nominations for the Grammy Awards in 2005 as well as for his work with Mischer on the opening ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

Approximately 300 people work in the production office and another 350 crew members are needed for the telecast. They fill 100 trailers as well as every nook and cranny backstage at the Kodak Theater.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Gwenyth Paltrow told Tim Gunn she wants to sing a duet with rapper Jay-Z. Now that would be an awkward performance as Beyonce would be sure to jump on-stage and bounce Gwen off the stage; Lady B is the only one allowed in the spotlight.

BEN SCUGLIA: James Franco’s brief, low-energy appearance at the Oscars backstage lounge set off a volley of Twitter jokes. A sampling: Franco “would rather cut off his arm to escape from this interview” (@BorowitzReport); and from @MichaelSlezakTV: “Oh, James Franco! Help an interviewer out!”

MARCUS DIXON: No matter what happens tonight, Academy Awards history has already been made. Anne Hathaway will become the youngest Oscars host ever, at the ripe age of 28. Her co-host James Franco is just a few years older at 32.

Hope, who hosted a record 18 Oscars including 11 solo gigs, received four honorary awards from the academy: a silver plaque “in recognition of his unselfish service to the Motion Picture Industry” in 1940; a life membership in 1944; an Oscar statuette “for his contribution to the laughter of the world, his service to the motion picture industry, and his devotion to the American premise” in 1952; and a gold medal in 1965 for “unique and distinguished service to our industry and the Academy.”

ABC just signed a deal with the academy to continue airing the Oscars till 2020. This year marks its 46th telecast of the Oscars. However, it was NBC which aired the first Oscars back in 1953 hosted — no surprise — by Bob Hope. The big surprise that night was when “The Greatest Show on Earth” won Best Picture besting, among others, “High Noon.”

The very first Oscars were held just a few blocks from the site of the Kodak Theater at the Roosevelt Hotel on May 16, 1929. Tickets went for $5 a pop and 270 people attended the dinner with the Oscars handed out as dessert by the academy’s first president Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. For the only time in Oscar history there were two best picture winners but not because of a tie. Rather, “Wings” won what we know as Best Picture while “Sunrise” was awarded an Oscar in a category that never saw the light of day again — “Unique and Artistic Picture.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we had our third tie in an acting race? The last one was forty-two years ago when newcomer Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl”) and veteran Katharine Hepburn (“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”) got the same number of votes for lead actress. When Fredric March (“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”) and Wallace Beery (“The Champ”) tied for lead actor in 1933, they were within three votes of each other.

While there are only 24 competitive categories at the Oscars — the Grammys have 110 — there are 50 Oscars sitting backstage right now. This seeming surplus is on account of multiple winners within a nomination on the technical side as well as the potential for ties. Last year 40 Oscars were required to put into the hands of all the winners.

Over the first eighty-two years of the Academy Awards, 2768 Oscars have been handed out. Why we refer to what is officially known as the “Academy Award of Merit” as the Oscar remains a mystery of sorts. Official academy lore is that then academy librarian Margaret Herrick upon seeing the award for the first time said it looked like her Uncle Oscar. However, Bette Davis — who would go on to serve a short stint as academy president — claimed she gave him his moniker after the middle name of her then husband Harmon Nelson.

While the winners no doubt consider Oscar to be priceless, the actual cost of making one is $500. R.S. Owens & Co. of Chicago have had the job of producing them since 1982. While the original Oscars were gold-plated solid bronze, they are now britannia metal (described by the academy as a pewter-like alloy) which is plated first in copper, then nickel silver, and finally 24-karat gold. For three years during WWII, the academy handed out plaster versions painted gold. The winners got the real thing after the war.

That little gold man that everyone wants to get their hands on today stands 13 ½ inches high with a 5 ¼ inch base and weighs 8 ½ pounds. He was designed by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons in advance of the first ceremony and represents a knight standing on a reel of film and holding a crusader’s sword. The five spokes of the reel signify the original branches of the academy — actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. Gibbons went on to win 11 Oscars over his illustrious career with another 27 nominations.

This is Oscars number 10 from the Kodak Theater. The longest Oscars in academy history were the first ones from this specially-built venue for the awards. That was the 74th ceremony for 2001 which ran 4 hours and 23 minutes and was hosted by Whoopi Goldberg in the last of her four turns to date. “A Beautiful Mind” won best picture. To date, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was the most used venue, hosting 25 Oscars over the years.

James Franco admitted he has only been rehearsing on the weekends, spending the week in class at Yale. His nervous animation was much-needed as Krista Smith once again drained all the energy from the interview.

Best Actress frontrunner Natalie Portman looks overwhelmed as Robin Roberts touts her performance. The expectant Portman remained remarkably composed and admits she is looking forward to the end of awards seasons.

While TV vet Don Mischer and Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen (“American Beauty”) are overseeing the Oscars for the first time, supervising producer Michael Seligman returns for his 34th show. Along the way, he has earned four Emmy nods for his work. He served as producer of “Stand Up to Cancer,” a one-hour commercial-free special that aired simultaneously on the ABC, CBS and NBC television networks to raise funds for cutting-edge cancer research. From that show, Seligman brought on board the Oscar bandwagon Danette Herman to wrangle talent.

30 minutes to go and ABC is the only red carpet show that is allowed to be live. Gunn gushes over Jennifer Hudson in her Versace gown.

BEN SCUGLIA: Good ol’ Robert Downey Jr. jokes to Seacrest about presenting a couple of the less-than-exciting technical Oscars. That will make the army of sound editors and others on “Sherlock Holmes 2” and “The Avengers” very happy, I’m sure.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Anne Hathaway looks great in vintage Valentino; she is with the famed designer. How many times will Anne change tonight? I bet at least eight different looks.

Best Actress champ Reese Witherspoon (“Walk the Line”) sparkled in an Armani prive dress and certainly brought much-needed energy to her sitdown interview on ABC with the low-key Krista Smith in the green room of the Kodak Theater.

MARCUS DIXON: Those lucky fans in the bleachers who won their way onto the red carpet have to stay in their seats the entire times. They don’t even get a potty break!

Mark Wahlberg is humble as Seacrest heaps praise on him about “The Fighter.” He expressed heartfelt gratitude that the film finally got made after five years and said he had already won with the family portrayed giving their approval.

BEN SCUGLIA: Another celeb having fun with Twitter tonight is nominee Mark Ruffalo. He even Tweeted a photo from the top-secret entrance to Oscars red carpet that the public never sees. He’s @MRuff221 if you want to follow along.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Sandra Bullock is the Best Dressed of the night in a show-stopping red number from Vera Wang with her hair up in a bun. However, Halle Berry in a Marchessa creation give her a run for the money.

BEN SCUGLIA: Roger Ebert disses ABC’s red carpet coverage via Twitter: “Oh, no. ABC is rolling in those deadly pre-produced packages. I’m back to E! I want the thrill of the red carpet, the roar of the crowd.” He used to co-host red carpet for Los Angeles ABC affiliate.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Four Oscar champs are fashion winners an losers tonight: Nicole Kidman shows up and steals the show in a creme colored Valentino dress. Penelope Cruz looks great for having just had a baby but her dress is gaudy. Marissa Tomei looks classy and elegant and is a good sport when discussing Lady Gaga‘s wish for Marissa to play her in a movie. Gwyneth Pawltrow is a fashion miss in a metallic number that is too tight, too revealing and too young for her. Looks like something she might have worn 10 years ago.

BEN SCUGLIA: It’s not just Oscars fashion hits and misses setting Twitter afire right this very second. Tons of gossip about Charlie Sheen giving more tell-all interviews. (Like the one Seacrest is touting on sister network NBC tomorrow).

Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem (“Biutiful”) talks to Seacrest about the depths to which he went for his performance. He was joined in conversation with “No Country for Old Men” co-star Josh Brolin (the pair are presenting together tonight). Brolin touted the achievement of Bardem.

Hugh Jackman side-stepped a question from Seacrest about his favorite film of the year by saying, “I want to work with all these directors.” The 2008 host is presenting tonight.

Celine Dion talks about performing during “In Memoriam” and touts her upcoming gig in Las Vegas with a 30-person orchestra. She says she always tries to raise the bar.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Sharon Stone is the comeback of the year. The star is known for some red carpet mistakes, including wearing a Gap men’s shirt once. She is stunning tonight in a black dress designed to woo.

Two-time Oscar champ Hilary Swank gave Seacrest some advice about their scene together in the now-shooting “New Year’s Eve.”  Swank, who is not great at memorizing, says she has to learn her lines well in advance.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Oh, no Helena Bonham Carter is again a worst dressed candidate. She is wearing a black garter with messed up hair. She might as well be wearing a costume from her husband’s “Alice In Wonderland” film.

Best Supporting Actress nominee Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech”) got some support from E! fashion commentator Kelly Osbourne.

Remember: All other TV shows are cut off the carpet at 5 p.m. PT so that the ABC pre-show is the only one on the air with live reports for the last 30 minutes before the Oscars. Others have been doing extra interviews during commercial breaks so they can air them after 5 p.m. Viewers may think those other channels are still live — they look that way — but they’re not.

BEN SCUGLIA: Gunn’s effortless banter with Mila Kunis was a treat. He should host the whole thing. He’s charming, knowledgeable and witty. Is anybody watching Camille Grammer over on CNN?

This year’s ABC pre-show has expanded to 90 minutes. On-air talent is “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts, “Project Runway” fashion guru Tim Gunn, Vanity Fair west coast editor Krista Smith and “Access Hollywood” correspondent Maria Menounos.

Justin Timberlake chatted with Seacrest about his thoughts on Napster (he plays that site’s founder Sean Parker in “The Social Network”) and admits he had mixed feelings about illegal music downloading but with so many songwriters as friends he regretted the loss of their income. He says he is sitll not into Facebook, preferring to spend his free time golfing and skiing.

MATTHEW CORMIER: The E! red carpet show tonight is pretty boring and a long way from the drama-filled days of Star Jones begging people to appear on “The View” (a move that got her lots of flack and ultimately was one of the reasons leading to her abrupt departure from the carpet). Ryan promoted Today’s exclusive interview with Charlie Sheen tomorrow.

MATTHEW CORMIER: E! viewers selected Natalie Portman as the Best Actress winner, showing some knowledge, after suggesting Amy Adams would win Supporting Actress.

Pity those poor women shivering in their sleeveless gowns on the red carpet. This year marks one of the earliest Oscars ever. Six of the last seven Oscars were also in late February as were the Oscars held in 1935 and 1939 to 1942.

Another Best Supporting Actor nominee, Jeremy Renner (“The Town”), stopped by to chat with Seacrest, and bumped into two-time Oscar champ Kevin Spacey on the way off the E! platform. Spacey is a presenter and an executive producer of “The Social Network.”

MATTHEW CORMIER: Jennifer Hudson surprises everybody by being surprisingly fashion forward in a bright red dress, that is fitted perfectly. She has flawless make-up and looks happier than ever.

Jennifer Hudson reunited with “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest and reminisced about her first time at the Kodak for the show’s finale. The newly slim star said when she tried on her dress —  a Versace tangerine orange stunner — she didn’t want to take it off.

Best Supporting Actor nominee Geoffrey Rush (“The King’s Speech”) talked about being involved in the conversion of the project from a play, dropped off on his doorstep, to the film it became. It fell into place in “a beautiful way during the shoot,” he said.

BEN SCUGLIA: Roger Ebert keeps the comedy Tweets coming. Follows up previous snark (“Telephoto lens shows nominees walking past orange parking cones. Cuz we just can’t wait”) with “They should sell ads on those orange parking cones.”

Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo (“The Kids Are All Right”) admitted he initially said no to the role but his family convinced him to give up his summer vacation to do the film.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Kelly Osbourne keeps talking about how she’s jealous of all the dresses on the A-Listers, that’s a big change from the days when she was the heavy-set, gothic girl who hated skinny girls on the MTV Reality show she used to star in with her family. She was known for dressing sloppy. Guliana Ranic needs somebody to take a second look at her before going on camera, her hairstyle is idiotic and overdone. Her Christian Sirano dress is too much and I don’t understand the look. I don’t like her being all the way up in the sky box. She should be on the red carpet with Ryan, interacting with stars. And can E! please stop playing commercials for yet another Kardashian reality show every ten seconds?

BEN SCUGLIA: From the official Academy Twitter feed (@TheAcademy) around 3:30 p.m PST: “At this moment, 1600 tweets per minute about the Oscars!”

Look up at the tops of buildings you see on any pre-show you’re watching on TV and you’ll spy the sniper cops poised with rifles aimed down at the crowd, constantly at the ready in case needed to snuff out a problem. They try not to show them on TV, but sometimes you can spot them if you’re looking. Overhead, helicopters are roaring to police the scene too. Everybody must pass through metal detectors nearby, even the public kept behind high, canvas-covered fences blocking the Oscar scene from them. The whole neighborhood is ringed by metal detectors, not just the area immediately around the Kodak Theatre. To get to the red carpet area, you must pass through two or three detectors at various locations and whatever you’re carrying gets searched again and again.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Zachary Levi is a male fashion success in his tux and looking as handsome as ever.

Zachary Levi said he is both excited and nervous about his performance on tonight’s show when he joins Mandy Moore in a rendition of “I See the Light,” the nominated song from “Tangled.” Levi prepared at the adjacent hotel, and walked over to the red carpet.

Another Best Supporting Actress nominee Amy Adams (“The Fighter”) admitted to Seacrest that she was very nervous and gave a shout-out to her little girl.

BEN SCUGLIA: If the Academy ever redesigns the Oscar statuette, they should model it after Michelle Williams, flawlessly styled in in her Chanel gown tonight. Ravishing.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Michelle Williams makes my best-dressed list with her show-stopping number and her flawless make-up

Best Actress nominee Michelle Williams (“Blue Valentine”) admits being a mother plays into everything she does. She revealed that what she tell her five-year-old daughter about her films depends on their content; she won’t be seeing this one for some time.

MATTHEW CORMIER:  Brand is a fashion nightmare, in a hideous black tux with messed up hair.

Russell Brand brought his mother as his date. Will she manage to keep her free-wheeling son in check? Guess not, he just kissed Seacrest.

BEN SCUGLIA: Hilarious Roger Ebert Tweet about red-carpet coverage: “Telephoto lens shows nominees walking past orange parking cones. Cuz we just can’t wait.”

Mila Kunis revealed that she auditioned for “Black Swan” via an iChat conversation with director Darren Aronofsky. Looking lovely in a lilac Elie Saab dress, she recounted her strict diet and exercise regimen for playing the part of a ballerina in the picture.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Florence Welch is wearing the same dress she wore to the Grammys a few weeks ago. Or is just that she has such bland taste. The girl needs to learn to wear some other colors.

Florence Welsh, of Florence + the Machine, was a delight as she talked about never expecting to be at the Oscars and immediately saying yes to the request. She admitted she wants to concentrate on the feelings of the song, “If I Rise” from “127 Hours,” rather than the famous faces watching her.

Another charmer, 14-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee Hailee Steinfeld (“True Grit”) who saw eye-to-eye with Seacrest. She looked lovely in a Marchessa dress that lived up to her dreams. She was overwhelmed at the Goodyear blimp flashing a message of best wishes.

BEN SCUGLIA: Okay, how exhausted did poor James Franco look on that pre-taped backstage package? I need a nap just READING about JF’s schedule.

MATTHEW CORMIER: In a pre-taped piece, James Franco promises E!’s Jason Kennedy that he won’t go nude at the Oscars though he wishes Anne Hathaway would. Kennedy has the two read some of Ricky Gervais‘ unsolicited material for their opening moments at the Oscars. 

Seacrest chatted to “The Social Network” supporting player(s) Armie Hammer who talked about the highs and lows of working on a David Fincher film and his new gig with Leonardo DiCaprio on Clint Eastwood‘s new movie “Hoover.”

MATTHEW CORMIER: Josh Hutchison (“The Kids Are All RIght”) sets the fashion bar high for the men, in a flawlessly fitted tux and well-groomed hair. And he’s only 18 year old. Sadly, Cheryl Hines pimping for the camera makes a big mistake and has a sour expression on her face. Looks like she’s sucking a lemon.

MATTHEW CORMIER: Melissa Leo’s metallic dress resembles her FYC ads in the trades: It’s gaudy and self-indulgent.

Best Supporting Actress nominee Melissa Leo (“The Fighter”) chatted with Seacrest about her Mark Bouwer creation that is quite sparkly. She enthused about playing a real-life woman and gushed about her co-stars who were all on their “game.”

Notice the velvet rope down the center? When guests arrive, the stars are ushered to the left, everyone else to the right. More than one arriving guest is surprised to be told, “Wrong way! Go to the right!”

Remember the red carpet is only 33 feet wide. Half the fun of watching all this unfold is seeing who is allowed on the official red carpet and who is shunted off to another one — a little less red and a whole lot less glamourous — to make their way into the Kodak Theater.

Lawrence then made her way over to KTLA entertainment reporters Sam Rubin and Jessica Holmes where she continued to charm.

Ryan Seacrest’s first guest on E! is Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence (“Winter’s Bone”). She was suprisingly savvy handling her first red carpet appearance, looking resplendent in a red Calvin Klein gown.

BEN SCUGLIA: From the E! studio pre-show, Joan Rivers laments losing out on a nomination for “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and give a raunchy fake acceptance speech (paraphrased): “When you set out to make a documentary, you don’t expect to win an Oscar. So I guess we accomplished our goal. To the Academy… go f**k yourself. I should have won.”

The red carpet it is surprisingly short, especially compared to the sense you have of it from TV. While it measures 500 feet, that is from the limo drop off point at the corner of Hollywood & Highland all the way up to the front doors of the Kodak Theater. The first 50 feet are for the entryway and the last 150 feet or so run through a store-filled promenade lined with columns listing the past 80 best picture winners and up a grand staircase. That leaves just 300 feet to cram in almost 100 photographers, over 100 print reporters, and nearly 300 TV people, including on-air personalities and behind-the-scenes crews.

The bleachers that line the red carpet are already full of fans. There are 700 hardy souls sitting up there. They were lucky enough to win the on-line lottery and secure a place. Which of the stars will make their way over there later this afternoon and make all of this effort worthwhile?

The weather forecast for this afternoon is 55 degrees and sunny with a less than 10% chance of rain by the time the red carpet winds up at 5:30 p.m.

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