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Image: Penelope Cruz
Chris Pizzello  /  AP
Penelope Cruz, Oscar winner for best actress in a supporting role for her work in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," arrives for the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22.
By
msnbc.com contributor
updated 2/23/2009 12:19:53 AM ET 2009-02-23T05:19:53

4:06 p.m. PST
Welcome to the “Slumdog Millionaire” awards. I’ll be telling you really important things you need to know about what goes down, just in case you’re not actually watching. Or maybe you are watching — and reading this and Tweeting and at a party and playing Oscar Bingo and voting in a pool all at once. Maybe you’re that able.

So I’m kind of excited to watch the show. Bill Condon, the director of “Kinsey” and “Dreamgirls,” is co-producing it and I kinda-sorta know him. I’ve made him pancakes at my home. That doesn’t make me fancy. Just fancy-adjacent. Anyway, I trust his touch. You saw “Dreamgirls,” right? That was like the sparkliest movie of 2006. That means this show is going to be similarly shiny. All I hear about is the secret stars that are going to just spring out of holes in the stage like jack-in-the-box toys. I can’t wait for that.

Red carpet action that I’m catching up with on my TiVo:

Dial’s Antioxidant Cranberry Body Wash is sponsoring this thing they’re doing on E!’s red carpet coverage. Wherever Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron or Vanessa Hudgens happen to be, a big bar with their name on it floats over the screen and locates them. The bar is attached to a big pointy bolt of lightning that pinpoints their exact location on the crowded carpet. Except all you see is the back of a head. It could be anyone. In fact, it’s probably a publicist. But it’s my favorite thing about this red carpet situation. And I just kind of like saying Dial Antioxidant Cranberry Body Wash because it sounds like a made-up thing.

4:16 p.m. PST
Best part of the red carpet so far: Phoebe Cates. Remember her? She was famous in the ‘80s. She was in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Then she married Kevin Kline and dropped out and made some babies. It’s never the people you want dropping out, you know?

Then there’s Sarah Jessica Parker and her gigantic dress. You want that kind of thing from her. E! has her making a grumpy face.

4:18 p.m. PST
OMG WHAT IS SHE WEARING?!

There, got that sentence out of the way.

4:35 p.m. PST
“Gaultier did me a real solid,” says Mickey Rourke, speaking of his outfit. Best part equals the necklace with the little picture of his adorable and recently deceased dog. I’m not goofing on him here. I like that.

Now Seacrest is asking Josh Brolin to explain Harvey Milk to the audience at home who refuse to go see “Milk” as the camera pans the sea of closeted celebrities. Oh, look, there’s one DL lesbian talking to Seacrest right now! No names, of course. But I live in this city so I know some things.

4:46 p.m. PST
Brangelina! First shot!

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A discussion has broken out in my living room among the assembled guests: Who’s hotter, Angelina or The Octomom? The verdict: The majority of living room people are fans of Octomom’s fertility and commitment to the whole insanity thing, but we’re into the super-prettiness of Angie.

Who are they wearing? No one knows yet. I’m wearing pajama bottoms from Old Navy, L.L. Bean slippers, a T-shirt with a band name on it that can’t really be printed on this site, and a flannel bathrobe from I forget where. Figured you might want to know.

4:56 p.m. PST
Slideshow: Academy Awards: The big winners OK, enough carpeting. The show is about to start ...

5:07 p.m. PST
Psych. First disappointment of the night: The red carpet coverage continues on ABC, with an official countdown clock. Thirty more minutes of blah blah blah. At least there’s Tim Gunn. And some people who are, I think, from “Good Morning America.”

Oh, awesome, there’s Diane Lane. She was in the best movie ever: “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains,” the one about the all-girl punk rock band. She was like 15 in that movie.

5:20 p.m. PST
Slideshow: Academy Awards: Red-carpet style Aside from Sarah Jessy Parker’s Dior Haute Couture gown, Viola Davis, star of “Madea Goes to Jail,” (OK, co-star) looks the best of anyone in this whole rehash of the E! carpet parade. I saw “Madea” on Friday. It’s crap, of course, just like “Doubt.” But totally watchable all the same, just like “Doubt.” And Davis is the best thing in both. So that’s her role in the world now, making stuff better by showing up.

5:24 p.m. PST
I stand corrected: Penelope Cruz is wearing a mind-blowing, 60-year-old vintage Balmain gown. Sarah Jessica Parker and Viola Davis can stand behind her.

5:34 p.m. PST
OK, so I was right about it being sparkly. There are about five billion crystal thingies hanging from the stage. 

And Hugh Jackman didn’t waste any time making a recession joke. Even though no one in this room is experiencing the recession. It’s cute that they pretend to care.

5:47 p.m. PST
So there was just a 99-cent store theater musical number with some fake cardboard Oscars and Hugh Jackman singing about swimming through excrement. This may turn out to be awesome after all. Then he jumps into the audience to shake hands with every single person there. It appears that the main acting nominees are all sitting on folding chairs in the orchestra pit. There are going to be some seriously numb buttocks to go with all the numb foreheads.

5:56 p.m. PST
Best actor on the planet, Tilda Swinton, is back! And she’s wearing awesome stuff again, just like last year when she wore that amazing bag-thing. She and Angelica Huston, Eva Marie Saint, Whoopi Goldberg and Goldie Hawn are co-presenting the Oscar to Penelope Cruz and her 60-year-old dress.

Cruz thanked Almodovar. That’s a classy lady, not losing her poise even as someone yells from the audience. Or from backstage. Somewhere. The last part of her speech was in Spanish and she dissed Scarlett Johansson. I’m guessing.

6:00 p.m. PST
Tina Fey and Steve Martin are presenting the original screenplay award to “Synecdoche, New York!” OK, not really. It wasn’t nominated. Because the Academy hates stuff that’s awesome. They actually give it to “Milk.” Welcome to the era of heterosexual guilt! Sorry about all that Proposition 8 stuff, folks.

6:05 p.m. PST
Next up is the adapted screenplay award. Tina Fey and Steve Martin still presenting. Steve Martin’s being funny. Thanks, Tina Fey! The award goes to “Slumdog.” The sweep begins ...

6:10 p.m. PST
Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black are presenting for best animated feature. Jack Black just made an industry joke that made the crowd go, “Oooh” but no one in my living room cares. Jen looks like she cried last night. Clips from all the animated movies are shown. Also from “Space Chimps.” What, no “Delgo”?

They give the Oscar to “WALL-E,” which I think is what Jack Black was making a joke about. Then they give the award for animated short. America takes a bathroom break.

6:22 p.m. PST
Sarah Jessica Parker and James Bond are giving the art direction award. I want SJP to hijack it and give it to whoever built the giant Vivienne Westwood wedding dress box in “Sex and the City: The Movie.”  But instead they give it to “Benjamin Button.” One of my living room crowd begins to scream about how much he hated that movie. And he won’t stop. I can’t hear what the winners are saying for all the R-rated swearing.

Then they continue on with the costume award. Again, SJP should rip it away from the nominees and give it to whoever designed the bird she wore on her head in her own not-nominated movie. Life isn’t fair.

6:25 p.m. PST
Makeup award time. We’re still hangin’ with Bond and Carrie Bradshaw. I WANT SOME NEW CELEBRITIES ON THE STAGE NOW. I’VE SEEN THESE TWO ALREADY. DANG.

6:32 p.m. PST
Here’s Edward from “Twilight” and that girl from the torture-porn musical  “Mamma Mia!” to show a montage of people romancing each other in 2008. Good to know that “What Happens in Vegas” made the cut. Now go buy one of those vampirey T-shirts from Hot Topic.

6:36 p.m. PST
Ben Stiller in a Joaquin Phoenix beard and Natalie Portman in a spray-on tan are presenting the cinematography award. Stiller says he wants to give up being a funny guy and he’s giving it his best shot with this bit. But at least I’m paying attention to the cinematography award and — “Slumdog”!!!

6:49 p.m. PST
I really like the guy who won the cinematography award. Wild hair like a three-cornered hat, giant necktie and big flouncy pocket flower-shaped swath of fabric exploding off his lapel. Also? White Crocs. He and Mickey Rourke are about to duke it out for wacky male fashion supremacy. 

Now Jessica Biel is here to talk about the Sci-Tech awards, which she hosted because she’s foxy. Science and technology made the Nicolas Cage movie “Next” possible, which co-starred Biel.

Here come Seth Rogen, James Franco and Janusz Kaminski to present for best live-action short. Kaminski just said, “Suck on that, Anthony Dod Mantle!”

This is what happens when you hang out with the Judd Apatow players for more than three minutes. Franco can’t pronounce the name of the winner. Rogen thinks that’s hilarious. And it kinda is, you must admit.

7:01 p.m. PST
I almost forgot to say that the Judd Apatow clip about comedies starring Rogen and Franco was really awesome and that Janusz Kaminski was the director of photography on the Vanilla Ice star-vehicle “Cool as Ice.”

For some reason now we’re watching Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé do a big production number medley of songs from movies produced by Baz Luhrmann. Joining them on stage are the two “High School Musical” kids who are supposedly dating each other in real life, which is almost as funny as the Apatow clip. And the two kids from “Mamma Mia!” are up there too. I don’t know their names either.

Dang, Beyoncé isn’t going to do “Single Ladies.” But ladies, please note, those are the thighs of a REAL WOMAN. Cut to Baz, who’s been plucking the eyebrows like a gay Billy Bob Thornton.

7:13 p.m. PST
Cuba Gooding Jr., Christopher Walken, Joel Grey, Alan Arkin and Kevin Kline are presenting for best supporting Heath Ledger award. Talking, talking, talking, talking and then Alan Arkin calling the man in the knit cap who looks like he should be working in a meat packing plant “Seymour Philip Hoffman.” Seymour doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe he just didn’t hear it properly under that wooly skull-cozy.

Walken and his jacked-up hair extols the virtues of Michael Shannon and his own jacked-up hair. Did you see that guy in “Bug”? He was rad. 

Ledger wins. His family accepts the award. My living room is full of evil people who are making jokes right now. I won’t be sharing those jokes because I like to keep it classy and respectful. And his family is very moving. It’s sad.

7:18 p.m. PST
Oh hey, look, it’s Werner Herzog! That guy is NUTS! Anyway, it’s time for the documentary award.

“Man on Wire” is awesome but so is Herzog’s “Encounters at the End of the World,” so I don’t care who wins. You should see them both.

Bill Maher just came onto the stage to tell us all that there is no God and that you should see his own documentary about how there’s no God.

“Man on Wire” wins, like everyone expected. So far this is the Oscars of zero surprises. The French guy who actually walked across the Twin Towers on a wire just made a coin disappear and then balanced his award on his chin, Oscar-head first. Nice. There’s your Monday morning clip, TODAY show.

7:34 p.m. PST
Check it out, fancy cineastes: Hugh Jackman just quoted “Day for Night.”

And now here’s the award for best car chase. Cue montage of exploding things to a Hives song. Best one: “Wanted.”

And now Will suicide-by-jellyfish-in-“Seven Pounds” Smith is on stage to give out the award for effects and to promote Jada’s metal band, Wicked Wisdom. They suck but you should totally see them sometime because it’s Jada Pinkett Smith fronting a metal band. Nothing not to love about that.

“Benjamin Button” wins for all the crazy tech heaviness you didn’t notice because it was that impeccable and seamless.

Smith continues, giving out the loudness award to “Dark Knight” even though I was rooting for “Wanted.”

7:50 p.m. PST
“Slumdog” just won for sound mixing and editing. Will Smith seems totally excited by this. Then they cut to a sad-faced Jennifer Aniston. Who knows why. They should just cut to those little Indian kids from “Slumdog” that showed up on the red carpet. They’re all adorable and the cameras haven’t shown them once. Maybe they’re in the balcony.

Now Eddie Murphy is here to present the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis. Oh, wait, there’s someone in my living room who’s been to Eddie Murphy’s house. Competition to see who can make a transvestite-prostitute joke is pretty intense right now. But it turns out that this guy was just hired as a boring typist, nothing as awesome as trans-hooking.

Mr. Lewis is, I believe, 110 now and I really like it when Hollywood puts actual old people on camera who missed the era of mutilating cosmetic surgery and look the way they should. Wrinkle representation is where it’s at.

8:08 p.m. PST
A lovely medley of nominated scores set to clips from the nominated films. Oh, man, my TiVo is all caught up with the show now and I can’t make it go forward. I’m making the remote go “bonk, bonk, bonk” but nothing’s happening. This is where you need Debbie Allen to come back and choreograph some loony antics.

Zac Efron and Alicia Keys are presenting. “Slumdog” just won. And now the guy who just won the score Oscar is singing one of “Slumdog’s” nominated songs. He should be holding his award and singing into it.

OK, wait, now John Legend’s here singing. Is he singing for M.I.A.? Oh, wait, no. It’s the Peter Gabriel song from “WALL-E.” But why are the “Slumdog” people still dancing? I’m completely lost. I guess M.I.A’s not here. There are guys in the aisles banging on drums. I want them to go over to Jennifer Aniston and cheer her up. Let her bang on a drum. That makes everybody happy.

Zac Efron looks cranky that none of the “High School Musical 3” songs that he sang are nominated. “Slumdog’s” song wins and the camera cannot cut to Dev Patel enough times. There’s like one camera guy whose job it is to keep it trained on what Patel’s doing. OK, idea upgrade: Dev brings the drum to Jen and they jam together.

8:12 p.m. PST
Liam Neeson, star of teen-virgin-exploitation-and-bad-guy-slaughter-laugh-fest “Taken,” and this award’s “Slumdog” connection, Frieda Pinto, present for best foreign language film. “Departures” from Japan just won. I haven’t seen it but I saw “The Class” from France and “Waltz With Bashir.” This makes me more sophisticated than you.

8:18 p.m. PST
It’s dead people time. Queen Latifah is going to sing a song about who’s dead! Oh wait, sorry, she actually is. I was kidding but it’s really happening. Bernie Mac, Cyd Charisse, Van Johnson, Nina Foch, Kon Ichikawa, Roy Scheider, Richard Widmark, Claude Berri, Maila Nurmi, Isaac Hayes, Ricardo Montalban, Robert DoQui, Paul Scofield, James Whitmore, Charlton Heston, Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Paul Newman and a lot more people whose names flew by too fast for me to type.

8:26 p.m. PST
Reese Witherspoon’s dress is awesome but her hair is all crooked and weird. Maybe it’s supposed to be that way.

Oh nice, we’re already at best director. “Slumdog” is going to win. Oh look, Danny Boyle did. There’s some jumping up and down. He wants to thank all the other movies for not being as much fun as his. And he wants to thank the film “Wendy and Lucy” for being a total bummer about people in similarly impoverished circumstances and therefore unable to steal “Slumdog’s” thunder. 

And we slide irrevocably into a non-upset night. Which is somewhat comforting. Surprises are overrated.

8:38 p.m. PST
Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman and Marion Cotillard are presenting for best actress. Shirley MacLaine makes Anne Hathaway cry. Marion Cotillard says something to Kate Winslet in phonetic English. Halle Berry talks to Melissa Leo. 

Someone in my living room says, “Who’s Melissa Leo?”

Answer: “Some actress.”

And HERE IS SOPHIA LOREN, HAND ON HIPS, SEEN IT ALL, LOOKING AWESOME, GIGANTIC HAIR, 90-YEAR-OLD BOOBS TOUCHING THE SKY, HANDS REMAINING ON HIPS. The only person on stage capable of talking to Meryl Streep like she’s some punk kid. Kidman talks directly to Angelina Jolie’s jewelry.

And then Cotillard gives it to Winslet. When’s Winslet going to win? Right now. She shouts out to her dad sitting in the back, tells him to whistle so she can find him. And he does. I like that moment more than any moment in “The Reader,” which was bizarrely bad.

8:52 p.m. PST
Pressing on, not wasting any time, it’s best actor time. We got Robert De Niro, Adrien Brody, Michael Douglas, Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins to present. De Niro just shouted out Spicoli! Penn’s already played a guy with Down syndrome, punched Madonna in the face, saved people in Katrina, and now he’s had James Franco’s tongue in his mouth. That’s a lot of living. Gandhi explains why Mickey Rourke is cool, so cool that he’s wearing sunglasses indoors like Nicholson.

And they give it to Sean Penn. Rourke was robbed! Cut to Dustin Lance Black weeping with joy. Oh nice, Penn just told all the anti-gay-marriage Prop 8 supporters that they should be ashamed of themselves. I like it best when liberal Hollywood is unashamed to just let it roll.

9:00 p.m. PST
Spielberg presents best picture. But first, a montage of clips. It’s someone’s idea of funny irony to juxtapose “Braveheart” with “Milk,” right? Do we think Mel Gibson is upset that he has gay cooties on him now? The nominees are “Benjamin Button,” “Frost/Nixon,” “Milk,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Reader.” 

Oh the suspense.

And the winner is ... “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Like I said, oh the suspense. OK, awesome, here come the little kids onto the stage. That makes it awesome. There are like 400 people up there now. I want them all to start doing that train station dance. And drag Mickey Rourke up onstage. You know he’s been practicing it at home. So has Hugh Jackman. He may start doing it by himself.

And that’s it. Over until next year. And they brought it in under four hours. The end credits are a clip show of movies coming soon in 2009. “Fame” remake, y’all!

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