News Column

Oscars 2012: The Night's Biggest Upset

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For the next 5-plus hours or so -- give or take a speech or two that go really, really long -- I'll be doing some hopefully snappy (and a bit snarky) commentary on this year's Oscars, part of our extensive coverage of all the winners, all the fashion and all the excess of Hollywood's big night.

9 p.m.

And in the end: "The Artist" is triumphant, Meryl Streep upsets Viola Davis and the show clocks in at a reasonable (by Academy Awards standards) three hours in change. The only real disappointment: Uggie the charming Jack Russell terrier from "The Artist" makes only a cameo appearance as Tom Cruise is handing out the top prize. Come on, guys, Uggie is a star.

See you at the movies -- and good night.

8:30

p.m.

Jean Dujardin grabs the golden guy for best actor (sorry, George Clooney). And then in more than a bit of an upset, Meryl Streep is called to the stage to get the Oscar for best actress. Streep has been nominated 17 times but hasn't won since 1983's "Sophie's Choice." She held off what had seemed like a tidal wive of support for Viola Davis of "The Help" who recently beat Streep at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

8:05 p.m.

I'm sure my editors are thinking, "Gee, there are only three more awards to go. Maybe they'll finish on time." Naw.

7:55 p.m.

Order is finally restored as French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius wins best director for "The Artist," beating "Hugo's" Martin Scorsese. There were more than a few

Oscar pundits who thought the voters might give the best director award to Scorsese while giving the top award to "The Artist." It's not unheard of to split the best film-best director awards but it has happened. Tonight? Probably not.

7:45 p.m.

Bad night for Pixar as the company's "La Luna" loses the best animated short Oscar to "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore." This summer's Pixar entry, "Brave," better be good.

7:40 p.m.

Just want to note that when "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 2" lost for best visual effects to "Hugo," it marked the last chance for the film franchise to win an Oscar. Over the years, "Harry Potter" has been nominated for 12 Oscars and has won zero. of course, the films have grossed $7.7 billion at the box office -- a lovely consolation prize.

7:30 p.m.

OK, "The Descendants" finally gets some love by winning best adapted screenplay. And, to almost no one's surprise, Woody Allen wins best original screenplay for "Midnight In Paris." Equally unsurprising: Allen is a no-show. I'm sure he had a great speech.

7:20 p.m.

Bet Bret McKenzie of "Flight of the Conchords" never thought he would win an Oscar when he first started writing "Man or Muppet" for "The Muppets." Of course, in the end, only two songs got nominated so he had a 50-50 shot.

7:05 p.m.

Wow, Christopher Plummer won best supporting actor! Just kidding, no exclamation point necessary. Heck, Las Vegas had him as a 1 to 9 prohibitive favorite. But, like most British actors, he gives good speech -- noting he's only two years younger (at 82) than the Oscars itself and, after mentioning the cast and creators of "Beginners," saying, "I would share this with them if I had any decency. But I don't." By the way, until tonight, the oldest actor to win an Oscar was Jessica Tandy in 1989 for "Driving Miss Daisy." She was 80 years and 292 days young when she gave her acceptance speech.

6:58 p.m.

"Hugo" snags its fifth Oscar for best visual effects. "The Artist" wasn't nominated but still ...

6:50 p.m.

And Pixar wins the best animated feature for ... oh, wait, Pixar wasn't nominated this year. There is no joy in Emeryville as "Rango" takes home the prize.

6:45 p.m.

We have our first musical playoff as the award is accepted for best documentary and things go long. But "Undefeated," which won't open in Bay Area theaters until next Friday and may be limited to only San Francisco theater, is a very worthy winner. It's "Blind Side" without all the schmaltz and a lot more edge.

6:40 p.m.

Cirque du Soleil live? Mesmerizing. Cirque du Soleil on television? Not so much.

6:30 p.m.

Well, there's no question the Academy voters think "Hugo" is a really well-made film -- a really, really well-made film. It just grabbed the awards for sound editing and mixing -- making it four gold guys for the evening already. It may not get the top prize but it looks like Martin Scorcese may go home with the most Oscars. Oh, and "The Artist" got another unexpected (and unwanted) surprise when the film editing award went to "The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo." Still betting that "The Artist" is there at the end of the evening (whenever that comes) but ...

6:25 p.m.

Ah, we were starting to roll along -- and then came an utterly pointless skit involving "The Wizard of Oz" and focus groups. Billy liked it, though, congratulating those in the skit and saying, "Weren't they hilarious?" Uh, actually, not really.

6:15 p.m.

Let the predictability commence: OK, everybody who thought Olivia Spencer WASN'T going to win best supporting actress for "The Help" raise your hands. That's what I thought. The couple of you who did: Your Oscar credentials have been revoked. Nice to see Spencer get a spontaneous standing ovation.

6 p.m.

The producers of the Oscar telecast seem to determined to get the awards Hollywood loves but no one else cares about out of the way early. "The Artist" wins for best costume design; "Iron Lady" gets best makeup. And if you're thinking: how hard is it to do costumes for a film that's in black and white? Well, sometimes the last thing that looks good in black and white is black and white. And props to winner Mark Bridges for his shout-out for being from Niagara Falls. Those of us born and raised in upstate New York don't often admit it.

5:45 p.m.

The first awards -- the highly-anticipated golden guys for best art direction and best cinematography -- are finally handed out and go to ... "Hugo," even though "The Artist" is a nominee in both categories. Should we read anything into that? Probably not but you can discuss among yourselves if you like.

5:40 p.m.

Well, it's actually Morgan Freeman (that would be the Voice of God) who opens the show as a warmup to Billy. I'm afraid Billy -- back after eight years -- isn't as much of a yuckmeister as he used to be but at least, he's an improvement over last year's misguided match of James Franco and Ann Hathaway. Well, let's not blame Hathaway too much for that.

5:20 p.m.

Only 10 minutes until Billy Crystal sings the national anthem ... errr, starts the show. Let the real fun begin.

5:15 p.m.

Nina Garcia has just proclaimed Michelle Williams' orange Louis Vuitton ensemble her fave of the evening. But could I put in a plug for Gwyneth Paltrow's very classy white Tom Ford dress? The height of carpet courture.

5:07 p.m.

Ah, now here's a debate we can get down with: Christopher Plummer is opining that Cosmo, his Jack Russell terrier co-star in "Beginners," is better than Uggie, the Jack Russell terrier in "The Artist." In my mind, both are just breath-taking but discuss among yourselves.

5:05 p.m.

Uh, oh, Tim Gunn thinks Cameron Diaz is also "breath-taking" but not as "as always" or even "always." Someone tell Tim to find a new phrase? Any phrase will do.

4:55 p.m.

Boy, the ever-grizzled Nick Nolte just isn't playing along with this whole red carpet thing. He looks like he'd rather be at the beach having a beer. Come to think of it, not a bad idea. And Milla Jovovich is soooo jealous. Tim Gunn just called Penelope Cruz "always breath-taking" with such enthusiasm that I think it trumps Jovovich's "breath-taking -- as always."

4:40 p.m.

Best fashion line of the day. Asked by Tim Gunn why she chose a Caroline Hererra, Tina Fey replies, "Because they wouldn't let me wear bike shorts and a fanny pack."

4:30 p.m.

Well, Sacha Baron Cohen is in the house -- and in character from his new film "The Dictator" -- after apparently winning his little tussle with the Academy over whether he could come in costume. He also arrives with two very shapely guards and carrying Kim Il Jong's ashes (well, probably not but ...). He promptly dumps the ashes on Ryan Seacrest and haven't we all wanted to do that one time or another during "American Idol." I'm sure the Academy bosses are thrilled and highly amused.

4:20 p.m.

Uh, just who we were dying to see on Oscar day: Prince Albert of Monaco is on the red carpet and getting airtime. And, ooops, Nina Garcia is now trying to overturn the review of Rooney Mara's look. She's positively drooling about the Givenchy and the hair. The referees have gone to back to the review booth.

4:15 p.m.

Upon further review, the initial ruling on the red carpet that Rooney Mara is looking good in white Givenchy has been overturned. With the hair, just too severe. But Tim Gunn has just described Milla Jovovich as "breath-taking -- as always" in her silver-white Elie Saab. She says she wanted a structured look, "sort of like the bride of Oscar." Gunn is still recovering his breath as we go to commercial.

4:05 p.m.

Ah, time for the big guns. ABC has now switched to Tim Gunn and Nina Garcia (doubt she'll be as wicked as she can be on "Project Runway") And Gunn's first interview: Maya Rudolph and the topic seems to be support garments. Well, OK, then ...

3: 50 p.m.

The fashion commentators seem positively stunned that Michelle Williams dared to wear red Louis Vuitton on the red carpet (uh, guys, it's actually orange) and that Rooney Mara is wearing white Givenchy -- again (she wore the designer at other awards ceremony).

3:42 p.m.

George Clooney taking his shot at the interview line. He opines -- in that very smooth Clooney way -- that his hardest decision was what tux to wear. (Come on folks, that can be tough -- if you're George Clooney.) And he suggests that when the best Oscar is handed out, "you're going to be hearing someone speaking French." Classic Clooney.

3:35 p.m.

Speaking of being surprised to be there, another supporting actress Jessica Chastain comes off as sweet and unpretentious doing the interview line on the red carpet. She even brough her grandmother. Of course, she's also attracting a lot of attention with a stunning Alexander McQueen outfit.

3:30 p.m.

You have to love Melissa McCarthy, who came out of nowhere to score a best supporting actress nomination for "Bridesmaids" (still can't believe the movie was nominated but the Academy seems positively allergic to comedy). She seems positively stunned to be on the red carpet. Of course, the fashion commentators are stunned -- stunned, I say -- about how good she looks in her finery.

"Hey, honey, this is the way you dress a plus-sized body," says one.

Really? OK.

3:15 p.m.

ABC has turned the Oscars into an all-day event, not far removed from the never-ending pre-game (and post-game) coverage of the Super Bowl. There has been Oscar filler on since 12:30 with red carpet coverage getting started at 3 with the arrival of actors and actresses who never get any airtime unless they arrived early. But now the big names and nominees are in the house.

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