A handful of friends are gathered around my TV, our winner's ballots have been filled out, our Oscars bingo cards are in hand, and the 85th Annual Academy Awards are about to begin. During the red-carpet coverage we indulged in some movie-themed snacks and drinks, like Life of (Pizza) Pie, Mango Unchained salsa, Breasts of the Southern Wild chicken lettuce cups, Les Fizz champagne and Lincoln Logs (Kit Kats).
Fortunately for us, we are not wearing the Spanx and sparkles we see on TV -- all that food is put away in sweatpants and T-shirts at this party. The clock hits 7:30 p.m. Central and the curtain rises -- the show has officially begun.
7:30 p.m. CT: Here comes the Oscars host I'm expecting to hate, Seth MacFarlane. I've got nothing against "Family Guy" -- the episodes I've seen have been pretty funny -- and I heard "Ted" was pretty entertaining. I even thought MacFarlane did a serviceable job on "Saturday Night Live" last year (his Ryan Lochte was fantastic).
It's just that when I think of the Academy Awards, I think Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg. The Oscars require reverence, gravitas, charm and jabs at the present that seem rooted in a knowledge and respect of the past. MacFarlane's edgy humor seems more like a fit for the Golden Globes.
7:35 p.m. CT: MacFarlane already has me rethinking my expectations. He kicks things off with a gag about Tommy Lee Jones' sour face at the Globes, a bold takedown of the Academy for snubbing Ben Affleck for Best Director, and a cold-blooded dig at last year's Best Actor winner Jean Dujardin. This is all foreplay before the first big money line of the night (even though the audience feigned shock rather than bursting into open-mouthed cackling, as I did).
"'Django Unchained.' Now that was an intense film," MacFarlane says. "This is the story of a man fighting to get back his woman, who's been subjected to unthinkable violence. Or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it: a date movie."
MacFarlane is calm, he's genial, he's edgy without being offensive. I find I'm laughing in spite of myself.
7:36 p.m. CT: MacFarlane is interrupted by William Shatner as Captain Kirk, coming back from the future to help MacFarlane avoid ruining the show. Shatner runs a few clips to show MacFarlane exactly what would earn "Seth MacFarlane Worst Oscar Host Ever" headlines.
What an ingenious trick. The audience gets the raunchy, juvenile bits they expect (and likely want) from MacFarlane, but by introducing them as bits "from the future" that he should not do, he can get away with it. The fake musical number "We Saw Your Boobs" (about female actresses who went topless in film) is hilarious, and a sock puppet re-creation of the movie "Flight" also kills.
In between the absurd bits from the future, MacFarlane takes Shatner's advice and does more traditional song-and-dance routines. First with Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum (who frankly should do all dance numbers in his "Magic Mike" wardrobe) and then with Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon Levitt (who I'd really like to see do all his dance numbers in Tatum's "Magic Mike" wardrobe. So adorbs.)
MacFarlane keeps his edge but also proves he's more than just silly voices and infantile jokes. It's the perfect start to the show.
7:47 CT p.m.: The first award of the night goes to "Django Unchained" standout Christoph Waltz for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. He's humble, adorably nervous and deftly poetic in quoting his character while praising director Quentin Tarantino. Waltz quickly reminds us the weight this honor holds for its winners and helps restore some of the old-school Oscar shine to the broadcast after that whole "We Saw Your Boobs" bit.
7:55 p.m. CT Two very funny people, Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy, fall a bit flat with an awkward tribute to the voice work done in animated films. Not flat? McCarthy's hair, which appears to be a tribute to the Tracy Turnblad character in "Hairspray" or the result of a high-speed car chase stunt gone wrong in her latest flick, "Identity Thief."
7:59 p.m. CT: "Brave" wins for Best Animated Feature Film and the filmmaker, Mark Andrews, is rocking a teal-colored kilt and knee-highs. Now that's brave.
8:03 p.m. CT: Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, who is all of 9 years old, does her signature flex from "Beasts of the Southern Wild" with a big smile that says it all -- she's having a blast. MacFarlane jumps in with a few tame jokes aimed her way, then says, "To give you an idea of just how young she is, it'll be 16 years before she's too old for Clooney."
Clooney takes it all in stride, cracking open the mini bottle of booze MacFarlane tosses him.
8:10 p.m. CT: "Life of Pi" wins for Best Visual Effects, and four very happy gentleman take the stage to accept the award. The spokesman for the quartet drones on a bit and the music chimes in to play him off. Only this year, the orchestra doesn't give the long-winded winner a gentle push with classical tunes; no, this year verbose victors get played off to the "Jaws" theme. This poor gentleman just keeps blabbing as the "daa-duh, daa-duh, daa-DUH, DAA-DUH" gets louder and louder. He tries to shine a light on the financial struggles of the visual effects studio that worked on "Pi," but his mike is cut. It's terrible and tremendous all at once. I mean, the "Jaws" theme. Brilliant.
8:15 p.m. CT: Jennifer Aniston looks absolutely stunning in red hot Valentino. She and Tatum thank makeup artists and costume designers for all they do, including, as Tatum says sheepishly, "waxing." Now there's a man who has felt the pain of women everywhere.
8:18 p.m. CT: The winner for Best Costume Design, Jacqueline Durran, gives the world's shortest speech. She clearly fears the shark.
8:21 p.m. CT: Halle Berry is 46 years old. Just wanna put that out there. At this point, whatever deal she made with the devil seems well worth it. Girl. Looks. Slammin'. She intros a montage of James Bond highlights set to famous tunes from the films.
8:26 p.m. CT: Speaking of fabulous older ladies, 76-year-old Shirley Bassey comes out and gives us a rich, throaty rendition of her hit, "Goldfinger," rocking a gold sequined dress most women would be lucky to squeeze into at 36. She gets the first standing ovation of the night.
8:51 p.m. CT: MacFarlane continues to push the envelope with lines like "I would argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth," and "First time I saw [Ben Affleck] with all that dark facial hair I thought, 'My god, the Kardashians have finally made the jump to film.'" The Lincoln joke got groans, but the crowd loves the jab at E!'s most famous sisters.
8:53 p.m. CT: John Travolta just pronounced the "s" on the end of "Les Miserables." Even the 10-year-old me is mocking him.
Jennifer Hudson steals the show in a musical number featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones singing "All That Jazz" (from "Chicago"), Hudson singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (from "Dreamgirls") and half the cast of "Les Miserables" (silent "s," John) singing a medley of songs from the musical.
The Les Mis medley is nice, but I think the crowd is still getting settled back in their seats after a rousing standing ovation for Hudson's jaw-dropping performance. The medley is picking up steam now and -- oh wait, here comes Russell Crowe. Gah. He's got less musicality than the wall-mounted, auto-tuned fish in the new McDonald's ads. Someone throw a phone at him and shut him up.
9:11 p.m. CT: Well, this is a rarity. Mark Wahlberg, already tasked with co-presenting with a 2-foot tall teddy bear, handles the surprise in typical Wahlberg style. "Oh, we have a tie. No B.S., we have a tie."
"Zero Dark Thirty" and "Skyfall" win for Best Sound Editing. The "Skyfall" team of Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers (aka early-'90s band Nelson) nearly get "shark'd" by the orchestra but cut it off just in time.
9:22 p.m. CT: The elegant and stately Christopher Plummer announces Anne Hathaway as the winner of Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Les Mis. I'm really excited for her, mainly because she gets to eat now. After dropping weight for the movie, keeping it off for her wedding and apparently continuing to starve leading up to these awards, I hope she hit up an In-N-Out on the way home and does it up animal style.
9:31 p.m. CT: "Our next presenter played a raging alcoholic in '28 Days,' which is kind of a weird coincidence because I'm gonna be playing one in about an hour and 45 minutes -- I might be playing one right now."
Sandra Bullock gets a clever introduction from a grinning MacFarlane, and Bullock comes out looking gorgeous in black Elie Saab. Bullock's body is sculpted and shapely, belying her age (48), but her nose looks like the tight and overworked nose of a Bravo housewife. It's too bad she won't let her nose grow old gracefully -- the rest of her is doing just that impeccably.
9:34 p.m. CT: Best Actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence, rockin' what appears to be an oversized Puffs Plus tissue box (but with flawless makeup, hair and jewels!), comes out to introduce Adele.
Those eyes, that skin. Adele looks beyond! Just absolutely stunning in a black sparkly dress and sparkly silver Louboutins. Someone else might get lost in front of a wall of dangling, glinting crystals, but Adele stands out with her voice and stage presence. The song is too chill to allow her a big, belty moment, but as usual, she still impresses.
9:47 p.m. CT: Daniel Radcliffe is on to present with Kristen Stewart, who apparently has some sort of foot injury and was visually limping as she made her way to the mike (she used crutches to walk the red carpet).
The hobbled walk to the mike was the best part of her night. She scratched her head, cleared her throat, nervously stared at the ground, gave a head nod to someone in the audience, and missed her cue. She also had a big blue bruise on her left arm, an unsightly mark that could've easily been covered up by a makeup artist. Too bad there weren't a dozen or more on the red carpet and backstage. Sigh.
9:50 p.m. CT: Salma Hayek comes out to announce the Governors Awards winner wearing a velvet, high-necked dress Goldie Hawn might have worn to the 1987 Oscars had she not been snubbed for her seminal work in "Overboard."
10:01 p.m. CT: The show's In Memoriam segment ends with a shot of legendary composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch. Barbra Streisand, in a long black gown speckled with golden flecks, remembers her friend and collaborator with an emotion-filled rendition of Hamlisch's famous "The Way We Were."
This is stunning. I'm verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves -- I'll give you a topic. The peanut is neither a pea, nor a nut. Discuss.
10:16 p.m. CT: Adele wins! We all win! The "Skyfall" singer never fails to disappoint at award shows, managing to be charming, lovable and a little rough around the edges, all at the same time. She manages to get out just a few thank-yous before she feels the tears coming on, so with a few silly waves of her hand and a shout-out to her fiancé, "My man, I love you, baby!" she gives up the mike to co-writer Paul Epworth.
10:22 p.m. CT: Glamazon Charlize Theron carries the diminutive Dustin Hoffman onstage in a Baby Bjorn (OK, not really) to present Best Adapted Screenplay. Chris Terrio wins for "Argo," hugging all his bros before jogging up to the mike. The Stifler look-alike is a bit spastic and talks very fast, but you can tell he's genuinely moved by the honor. It's pretty fantastic to watch a lifelong dream realized.
10:26 p.m. CT: Tarantino wins Best Original Screenplay for "Django Unchained" and he really cleaned up nice tonight. His tie is undone, his jacket is ill-fitting around the belly, and his hair is creeping down over his ears. Ah, writers. Rarely known for their hygiene or style.
10:32 p.m. CT: Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas are the next presenters, and dammit if Jane doesn't make you wanna pick up her old '80s workout videos and get sweatin'. That stuff clearly worked -- at 75 she looks absolutely stunning. Her gown, while age appropriate, is still sexy and form-fitting, a burst of bright canary yellow with gold accents.
They present Ang Lee with the Best Director award for "Life of Pi." Lee upsets the huge favorite, "Lincoln" director Steven Spielberg, and makes sure to thank his agent and his lawyer, but admits "I have to do that."
10:40 p.m. CT: The big awards continue with Best Actress. Dujardin is out to present and Wallis steals the show again with that trademark flex. It's Lawrence who gets the win, though, for her work in "Silver Linings Playbook." Her gigantic Kleenex box dress trips her up as she starts up the stairs and Hugh Jackman gallantly dives in to help her, but she gets up on her own, unscathed.
Lawrence gets a standing ovation and she responds, "You guys are just standing up 'cause you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing, but thank you." As always, she's witty, self-deprecating, genuine, thankful and sweet. As the adorable Wallis grows up, let's hope she follows in the footsteps of Lawrence, who seems about as grounded as they come in Hollywood.
10:45 p.m. CT: "Ladies and gentlemen, our next presenter needs no introduction," says MacFarlane as he walks off stage. He's right -- it's the legendary Meryl Streep and, knowing Meryl, she's probably about to get awarded the first Oscar for Best Presenter.
Daniel Day-Lewis wins Best Actor in the night's least-surprising announcement. His speech is epic. He invents a planned switch that would've involved him playing Margaret Thatcher and Streep as Lincoln, then claims Spielberg originally wanted "Lincoln" to be a musical.
He also thanks his wife for ably handling the tough task of being married to a method actor, saying, "My wife Rebecca has lived with some very strange men. … She's been the perfect companion to all of them." He finishes the perfect speech with the perfect final line: "For my mother."
10:52 p.m. CT: This is the big one. Jack Nicholson strolls out in his trademark glasses, wearing a suit big enough to fit a Lakers uniform underneath. He surprises everyone, throwing to the First Lady via live feed from the White House.
Michelle looks slammin' in a sparkling silver Naeem Khan sheath and chunky earrings. She delivers her lines better than most actors, and when the time comes to announce the winner, she gets to open the envelope and announce it: "Argo."
This is a pretty big moment for Affleck, who was snubbed in the Best Director category but got to hear his film win the big one from none other than the FLOTUS. Producer Grant Heslov is heaping praise on both of his co-producers, Clooney and Affleck, and makes sure to point out the directing efforts of Affleck several times -- a gentle, respectful "screw you" to the Academy.
Affleck is just ecstatic as he thanks a handful of folks, including those involved with the film, and his wife, Jennifer Garner. He says success in Hollywood depends on not holding a grudge (even against the Academy, one would assume) and says, "It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life, 'cause that's gonna happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up."
I have to assume he was talking about "Gigli."
10:58 p.m. CT: That's all folks. I'm kicking my friends out of my apartment to get to work. The party was a success and so was the show. Props to MacFarlane for turning a true doubter into a believer -- he was a good choice for the show and did a fine job bringing the laughs.
(That being said, I'm already crossing my fingers for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year! Bring it, ladies!)