The lights go up in the Kodak theater and out comes Morgan Freeman. He opens with history: apparently movies have changed since they began, but we still really like them (paraphrase).
The curtain opens and the video begins. Billy Crystal strapped to a chair in black and white silent "The Artist", being totured to host (so say the cards between scenes). He makes a plug for his movie "Parental Guidance" coming out in November.
Then it's the always-game George Clooney, doing the scene from "The Descendants" where he begs his comatose wife to wake up. Except it's Billy. George fully commits, even going in for the kiss on the lips. George asks Billy to host and promises the youngest, hippest writers in town.
Cut to guys around the table in "Moneyball" -- all oldsters. Jonah Hill agrees he doesn't have enough jokes.
Cut to the car from "Midnight in Paris" pulling up to Billy -- with Justin Bieber inside, "I'm here to get you the 18 to 24 demographic".Pan back to Sammy Davis Jr. (Billy) in the car with Biebs, off to hang out with Hemingway and then go kill Hitler. Billy puts on his Miracle Max and wishes them good luck storming the fuhrer.Biebs signs off with "Good luck, Bob".
(Wrong name intentional.)
Then cut to Billy from the scene in "The Help" -- scarfing down Minny's s*** pie. It tastes delicious.
And then we see the first woman in the Oscars pooping in a sink -- the scene from "Bridesmaids".
He runs and sits down to watch movies from "Hugo" as Tom Cruise busts in the room through the window a la "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol".
Billy chases his reels of movies out the window and ends up in "Tin Tin" racing down the hill on a bike, through motion capture.He flies through the air, into his tux and passed reels of scenes from the nominated movies.He comes out on stage and waves to all the pretty people in the crowd.
He acknowledges the applause. "Wow, that was extremely loud and incredible close," he says.This is the ninth time he's hosted. "Just call me 'War Horse'."They're in the "Chapter 11 theater".
Billy tries a James Earl Jones imitation, quoting "baseball" from "Field of Dreams". It's funny because James Earl Jones says it quickly?
"So tonight, enjoy yourself because nothing can take the sting out the world's economic problems like millionaires presenting each other with golden statues," he closes.
And then it's time for "It's a Wonderful Night for Oscar". He breaks into song. "You didn't think I wasn't going to do this did you?"There are nine movies, a lot to cram in."War House" gets the "Mr. Ed" treatment. "Hugo" to "That's Amore"
"There's no Pesci, no Bob, there's no killing -- no mob, that's Hugo. Tell the truth, for the sequel I prefer you don't be so arty -- ax the kid, shoot Ben Kingsley in the head, 'cuz you're Marty!"He heard "The Tree of Life" even freaked out God."The Descendents" bit ends with a joke about George ending up in bed with Oscar tonight.
Tom Hanks is out to present the first award. He invites everyone in the audience to take note of their seat relative to seal filler Carl Swabo (cut to an old guy in a powder blue tux), who has been filling seats at the Oscars for 59 years. He is currently filling Jennifer Lopez's seat, who is backstage.
He introduces Achievement in Cinematography. The winner is Robert Richardson for "Hugo".He says what everyone is thinking: "I can't believe somebody put cinematography first, it can only go up from this point." Then he thanks some people.
Achievement in Art Direction is next. "Hugo" wins again.
We're back and Billy is back at the "Your Name Here" theater, which he says was designed to look like the movie palaces of our youth.
Time for a trip down movie memory lane, clips from "Forrest Gump" followed by "Titantic" followed by one of those vampire movies the kids today like so much. Hey, it's "Princess Bride"! And Patrick Swayze in "Ghost" and "Jaws" and "Raiders" and top scenes from movie history -- "You can't handle the truth!"
Luke uses the Force, ET wants go home, Jake Lamotta wins, Dustin Hoffman is walking here! Meg Ryan fakes it in a diner.
Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez are out next for Achievement in Costume Design. The nominees are accompanied by introduction from the designers or stars of the movie, talking about why the costumes matter.
The Oscar goes to Mark Bridges for "The Artist". "I want to thank the Academy for making a lifelong dream come true," he says.
Back to J-Lo and Cameron for Make-up. Glenn Close says she wouldn't have done the movie without the wig man. Warrick Davis, from "Harry Potter", says it's odd to look in the mirror and see nothing of yourself.
J Lo and Cameron return to announce the winner, with their backsides pointed at the audience. The bit doesn't take and they tell the audience to loosen up. Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland for "The Iron Lady" win. "Thanks Meryl, for keeping me employed for the last 37 years," Helland says.
Cut to a pre-recorded bit with stars talking about why they love the movies. Morgan Freeman remembers seeing the original "King Kong". Adam Sandler's first movie was "Diamonds Are Forever". Reese Witherspoon's family went to the movies every Sunday night.
Brad Pitt saw "The Gargantuas". Steve Carell members getting to stay up past his bedtime.
Hillary Swank remembers connecting to the outsiders on screen.Tom Cruise remembers recreating scenes in his backyard.
Barbra Streisand (fixing her hair) remembers dreaming in the movies.
Adam Sandler remembers talking about Sean Connery, "his performance and his chest hair and saying, can I please do that?"
Sandra Bullock comes out to present best foreign language movie and deadpans that because of the giant international audience, she's been asked to present in Mandarin Chinese. She warns us that because her mother spoke German to her growing up, her Chinese has a slight German accent.She starts speaking German.
The subtitles remind us movies are universal.
Clips from the nominees roll. The Oscar goes to "A Separation", from Iran. It's the first Iranian movie to ever win an Oscar.
The director thanks his studio and says he knows Iranians are watching and he knows they're happy at this moment, "not just because of an important award or a film, or a film maker, but because at the time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture. A rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment. Thank you so much," he says.
Billy is back out. "A dark knight, an american psycho, a charismatic crack addict - you'll get to choose one on Super Tuesday," he zings. But right now, "be careful, you're in his eye line", welcome Christian Bale.
He's introducing Actress in a Supporting Role, who have nothing in common except that four are first time nominees. We see clips from the movies. They skip the bathroom scene from "Bridesmaids" and show Melissa McCarthy hitting on her real life husband on the airplane.
The Oscar goes to Octavia Spencer from "The Help". She's helped up on stage by her director, and tires to avoid tripping on her dress. She gets a standing ovation.
She thanks her family in Alabama, the state of Alabama, her "Help" family. She fights back tears. She sees the "please wrap up" and says she's wrapping up and "freaking out". Christian Bale helps her off stage.
Billy says that moment for Octavia is what the Oscars are all about and when he saw it, he wanted to hug the first black woman he saw, "which from Beverly Hills is about a 45 minute drive."
He explains to us about focus groups and how they began in 1939 at MGM and Louis B Mayer taped their reactions. He introduces footage from a screening of "The Wizard of Oz".
Bob Balaban comes out in black and write, the audience is Christopher Guest's regulars. Fred Willard loves the flying monkeys. Christopher Guest "didn't get the thing with the kids". The munchkins.Eugene Levy found them irritating and suggests they cut the rainbow song. Catherine O'Hara butchers "Over the Rainbow", "If dirty little monkey fly...."
Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper are out next to present editing. Cooper quotes Ridley Scott saying collaboration between a film editor and director is a like a marriage.
Tina's turn: "And just like in marriage, they spend all their time in a dark windowless room, ordering in food and looking at pictures of other people."
Achievement in Film Editing, with clips of cast and crew talking briefly about the process.The Oscar goes Kurt Baxter and Angus Wall for "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", who won last year for "The Social Network".
They say they weren't expecting it and their rambling proves it, although they do name check "the Roones" (Rooney Mara) from on stage."Let's get out of here," one says after a few seconds."Yea, we're editors."
Achievement in Sound Editing. The Oscar goes to Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty for "Hugo".They get on stage, one leaves the mike for the other."You go," he says."No, Hugo," says the other.The audience groans. Sound editor humor!
"I just want to thank everybody who's here tonight, and everybody who isn't, and everybody who's ever been born, or may be born, or born again or reborn. If I've forgotten anybody, then you probably know who you are," says one.
Then Achievement in Sound Mixing.The Oscar goes to Tom Fleischman and John Midgley for "Hugo".
Back after a break to Miss Piggy and Kermit in a loge. Piggy wants to get on the stage. "It's about time Spielberg left some for the rest of us!" Piggy says. They're there to talk about their memorable first movie experience. Kermit was at a drive-in, trying to avoid getting run over by a Studebaker.They introduce a bit by Cirque du Soliel, with music by Danny Elfman.
The Cary Grant scene on a open road from "North by Northwest" leads to two men in suits flying through the theater over the heads of the audience. Then "Metropoolis" is the backdrop for a tumbling routine in which four people are flipped, seated, from the feet of other performers. a man and woman from the audience are taken up on stage in their seats.
The cast watches the audience, reacting to the screen. There's lots of spinning and flying and contorting and Cirque du Soleil-ing. the couple in their seats is suspended high over the stage. A woman stands on her hands on an audience chair. It's worth a YouTube.
They get a standing ovation.
Then Billy Crystal is back. "Wow, I pulled a ham string just watching that," he says.He segues into talking about age. Christopher Plummer is 82. "He may be walking up on stage tonight, because apparently he wanders off," he says.
Welcome Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr.Downey Jr. comes on late after Tebowing in the wings. He's followed by a camera crew on stage. He's filming a documentary called "The Presenter".He warns her not to talk when he's talking because "it'll be a nightmare in post". They want to have it on NetFlix by midnight.The camera crew crowds Gwynnie. She pulls Downey Jr. close, zoom in by the camera, and tells him he's being disrespectful and disruptive. He tells her he turned down "The Descendants" to prep for this.
He introduces the nominees.The Oscar goes to "Undefeated", by TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Rich Middlemas. "A year ago today we were sitting in our editing room, depressed, thinking no one was ever going to see this movie and a friend said, 'Don't worry, a year from now you're going to be at the Oscars'. And we said, 'You're an idiot'. We'd like to take this opportunity to apologize to him and say, 'You're a lot smarter than we thought'."We have the first bleep of the evening as one tries to acknowledge how crazy it is. "Documentary!", another covers.
They get played off.
Following that bleep, Chris Rock is up. He says he loves animation because you can play anything you want to be. Fat women can play thing, a white man can play an Arabian price. A black man can play a zebra or a donkey.He hates when people say it's hard work, it's the easiest job in the world. "I go in a booth and I go, 'What's the line?' and the guy goes, 'it's time to go to the store' and I go 'it's time to go to the store.'""And then they give me a million dollars!"
Best Animated Feature Film nominees roll. The Oscar goes "Rango", directed by Gore Verbinski.
He says the movie was like playing and thanks the studio for letting him try something different.
Cut to Billy Crystal in his dressing room. He opens the door and is greeted by Melissa McCarthy in character, suggesting they make the dressing room "an undressing room". She puts her foot up on the door, then puts the other foot up. It's time for best visual effects, presented by Ben Stiller and Emma Stone.
She goes full "Price is Right" presenter, then says it's her first time presenting. She suggests they banter and he shut her down, but really he's OK with it. Or she'll make up a song about "Real Steel" and "Hugo," she tries a few notes. She invites Jonah Hill up on stage to dance, but he gives her the no-go.Ben Stiller says you don't want to be the presenter who tries too hard."Like the guy who would dresses up in full 'Avatar' or something?"
Time for the nominees, with more commentary from cast and crew. For "Real Steel" they built the robots and then remade them as CGI. The Oscar goes to the team from "Hugo".
"I know it's an honor to be nominated, but it's a huge thrill to win," says the winner.
Billy Crystal is back and tells us the Harry Potter movies made $7.7 billion dollars. "And yet they only paid 14 percent income tax, which is interesting" he jokes.
Welcome Melissa Leo, 2011 Best Supporting Actress winner.She says some standard highfalutin actor praise to introduce the scenes. (Jason Segel is sitting behind nominee Nick Nolte and looks a little frightened.)The Oscar goes to Christopher Plummer for "Beginners". It's his first win, making him the oldest actor ever to win.He gets a standing O. (And he's wearing a velvet tux, thankyouverymuch.)
He soaks in the applause. He examines his statue. "You're only two years older than me, darling. Where have you been all my life?" he says.He confesses that when he emerged from his mother's womb, he was already rehearsing his acceptance speech. But, he jokes, lucky for you, he's forgotten it. He acknowledges his fellow nominees and his director and costar Ewan McGregor - "who I would happily share this award with if I had any decency, but I don't."He thanks his agents provacateur, who have tried so hard to keep him out of jail.
He thanks his "long suffering wife, Elaine, who deserves the Nobel Peace Prize."
Billy Crystal introduces a bit, about how he has the ability to know what nominees are thinking.Cut to Brad Pitt. "This better not go to late, I have six parent-teacher conferences in the morning," Billy offers.Morgan Freeman: "For 20 days and 20 nights, the emperor penguin...."George Clooney: "Billy didn't tell me that kiss was being filmed."Viola Davis: "I want to thank my agent, I want to thank my writer and my director for creating the role of a strong black woman that wasn't played by Tyler Perry."The dog from "The Artist": "If I had 'em, I'd lick 'em."
Then the president of the Academy to drone about promoting excellence in the motion picture industry. He gives a special thank you to Billy and the producers. (A subtle kick at Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy.)
After that dry bit, Billy thanks him for "whipping the crowd into a frenzy".
Introduces the musical interlude, Oscar theme by Hans Zimmer. An elaborate set of sheet music rises majestically from below the stage for a few bars. and after that grand display, Billy concludes with "Meh" and jokes that this is why there's a buffet.
Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson are out next to introduce Best Original Score.The Oscar goes to "The Artist," Ludovic Bource.He stops to shake the hands of his fellow nominees on the way up. He tells his wife in French that he loves her.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galfianakas are introduced and come up out of the orchestra pit, solemnly banging cymbals in white tails. They stop to crash in Brad Pitt's face, then take the stage. Zach mispronounces his own name."As serious musicians, it is our pleasure to step out a minute from our day jobs to present the Oscar for best original song," says Will.
Zach points out that one of our nominees will join the ranks of 'When You Wish Upon a Star", "Moon River" and "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp".Clips of the nominees play - all two of them.
There's lots of fumbling of cymbals as they try to open the envelope. Bret McKenzie wins for "The Muppets", he says he was a huge fan of the Muppets growing up and he was genuinely star struck when he met Kermit the Frog. "But once you get to know him, he's just a normal frog. And like a lot of stars here tonight, he's shorter in person," he says.Then he thanks the people on the film (although not Jason Segel, who wrote it, starred in it and who the camera cuts to the audience).
Cigarette girls pass out popcorn into the commercial.
Billy proposes to the front row that they chip in and buy the Dodgers.
Billy botches his intro of Angelina Jolie and does mock rewind, to get out her intro as "the original girl with the dragon tattoo."No one hears what she says because the slit in her dress goes all the way up her leg, which she shows off.She introduces best adapted screenplay.
The Oscar goes to Alexander Payne, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon for "The Descendants".Nat and Jim are former members of the Groundlings, which explains why Jim sticks out his leg saucily, a la Angelina. Alexander points out his mom in the audience and says that his mom made him promise he'd dedicate the award to her, "just like Javier Bardem did".
Angelina is back to introduce the nominees for Best Original Screenplay. The Oscar goes to Woody Allen, for "Midnight in Paris". Naturally, he's not there.
More stars talk about what makes a great movie. Reese Witherspoon confesses "Overboard" is her favorite movie.Robert Downey Jr. suggests that's a great question to have Werner Herzog complicate. He obliges, but saying "it sticks to you forever". Huh?
Robert De Niro likes "A Place in the Sun".Warren Beatty says "every once in a while you get the truth from a movie".Brad Pitt sees moments of nobility.Sasha Baron Cohen says he always tries to make movies he would want to watch. "And I just happen to want to watch some really sick stuff."
Adam Sandler says one day he wants to eventually tell the truth, which adds a whole new backstory to "Jack and Jill".
Mila Jovovich strolls out to wrap up the scientific and technical awards. High speed digital cameras were recognized, as was a new gyro-camera system.
Billy is back and introduces the entire Bridesmaids cast. (Alas, Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig have already lost their categories.)Kristin says they're there to show that size does matter.But not length, says Maya."As my grandma used to say, it can be short and still make your toes curl. And I believe in my heart that my grandma was referring not to wieners, but to short films," Maya goes on.
"I'd rather have a short film, with some heft that's nice to me than a long film that just lies there and makes you do all the work," Kristen says.They introduce the nominees.
The Oscar goes to "The Shore", by Terry George and his daughter Oorlagh George.Terry introduces his daughter, the producer. "Now I don't have to wait for her wedding to tell the world how great she is," he says. He dedicates the award to the Irish. She salutes her mom.
Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy give a solemn intro about short documentaries until someone shouts out "Scorsese!" at which point they remove the travel-sized vodkas from their dresses and do a shot.The Oscar goes to "Saving Face" by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
Daniel thanks HBO and hands it over to Sharmeen, who thanks the heroes on the ground in Pakistan, including the plastic surgeon who is working on the women in the film. She urges the women of Pakistan who are working for change not to give up on their dreams.
On to best animated short film.The Oscar goes to "the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore".They sing the praises of movies and thank the people who inspired and moved them.
Michael Douglas is out next to present Directing. He tells a story about Oscar-winning director Leo McCarey trying to borrow money from a bank, being asked what a director does. "Leo paused, then he went to another bank," he says.
The Oscar goes to Michel Hazanavicius for "The Artist"."I have an Oscar...I forgot my speech. I am the happiest director in the world right now, thank you for that," he says. He thanks the producers, the cast and crew and the dog," he says.
Meryl Streep is up next. Billy notes she's won twice of the 17 times she's been nominated so the other times she had to put on a happy face and be glad when someone else won. He suggests she get an Oscar just for that.
She wraps up the Governors Awards, honoring Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones and Dick Smith (make-up artist). James Earl accepts his honorary Oscar onstage in London where he's performing in "Driving Miss Daisy".Oprah starts crying and calls her recognition "unimaginable". Dick Smith calls it one of the best nights of his life.
The three honorees get a standing O from the crowd.
Then it's time for the In Memoriam segment, including two former Oscars producers, Laura Ziskin and Gil Gates. Billy speaks personally about Gil, a dear friend, who brought him to the awards.
The segment is set Esperanza Spaulding singing "What a Wonderful World". They show clips of some of the actor's most famous lines, including Peter Falk saying "As you wish".
More actors talk about movies, including Julia Roberts talking about relating and Phillip Seymour Hoffman saying you can feel them in your gut.Robert Downey Jr. talks about the finish product ideal being threatened by anyone being selfish or fearful.
"You're fighting with every ounce you have to make sure you will love it forever and when it doesn't turn out that way, it's painful. That's why people are weird who make movies, it's because they care more about their film than themselves," Jonah Hill says.
Edward Norton talks about marveling at great films.
"I've never had any of those feelings," Billy Crystal says when he comes back.
Natalie Portman is out next to present Best Actor. She talks to each man in the audience, complementing Damian Bichir for helping the audience relate to someone they usually don't think about in "A Better Life".
George Clooney "managed to make us believe you were just a regular guy...you subtlely and movingly conveyed the tricky mix of betrayal and grief" in "The Descendants".
Jean Dujardin "spoke volumes" in the silent film "The Artist".
Gary Oldman in "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" with incredible nuance and restraint earned his first nomination.
Brad Pitt, "we were not watching a baseball story, because of your work we were watching an under dog story" in "Moneyball".
The Oscar goes to Jean Dujardin for "The Artist".
"I love your country," he says. He reads from his speech, noting that Douglas Fairbanks hosted the Oscars in 1929. Tickets cost $5 and the ceremony lasted 15 minutes. "Times have changed," he says.He pays homage to Douglas Fairbanks, acknowledges his wife and shouts out "awesome!" in French. ("Formidable!")
"They must be going nuts in France right now, or whatever they have in France in place of joy," Billy says.
Last year's Best Actor winner Colin Firth is out to address the Best Actress nominees.Glenn Close for "Alfred Nobbs": "the range of roles you've played over the years displays a brilliance of somewhat bewildering proportions".
Viola Davis for "The Help": "An actress who we've admired for many years has ventured even deeper into our imagination and will remain there for many years to come."
Rooney Mara: "In a very short space of time you presence has come to seem indispensable." (They show the scene of her torturing her rapist, yikes.)
Meryl Streep: "Mamma Mia...We were in Greece, we danced, I was gay and we were happy. I probably fathered your only daughter, they were perplexing times." He calls her "unreasonably good", making it a "little bit more difficult for the rest of us".
Michelle Williams: he calls her his mentor when they first met, and they can leave aside the fact that she was 12 and he was 35.
The Oscar goes to Meryl Streep, who has come dressed as Oscar.
They stand up.
"Oh, come on! When they called my name I had this feeling that I could hear half of America going, 'Oh c'mon, why her again?' But whatever," she says.She starts by thanking her husband for everything she values in her life.Then she thanks her make-up artist Roy Helland.
"I really understand I'll never want to be up here again, I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here and I see my life before my eyes, my old friends, my new friends," she says.
"This is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together."
And then there was one, notes Billy.
Tom Cruise is out to present the award for Best Picture. They show clips from each.The Oscar goes to "The Artist".
They bring the dog up on the stage. Thomas Langmann, the producer, pays tribute to Oscar winner Claude Berri. Michel tells his kids it's 6:30 a.m. in France and they should go to bed in 30 seconds. He thanks his wife, the film's star Bérénice Bejo and says she's the soul of the film. Then he thanks three people: Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder and Billy Wilder.
Billy comes out and says good night.