Here's what went down, when it went down, backstage at the history-making 82nd Annual Academy Awards:
5:50 p.m.: How expected was Christoph Waltz's Best Supporting Actor win? Not a peep from the pressroom when the category was announced. Trust me, reporters peep quite a lot when they're surprised.
• Up wins Animated Feature. Still no peeps. (Not saying it's a bad thing that there weren't any peeps. We're just, you know, saying. That's what you do when you're not, you know, peeping.)
• How do you soothe nominees' nerves? During the first commercial break, the Kodak offered the piped-in sounds of Lionel Richie's "Easy." (At least that's what was coming in over my headset. Maybe I picked up an oldies station? Or Lionel Richie's iPod?) (Update: Apparently what I picked up was Richie's virtual son-in-law Joel Madden—and tonight's in-house Oscar DJ—paying tribute to the old man.)
• By the way, you're going to have to make your own witty remarks about Neil Patrick Harris' opening number. Personally, I have no idea how it went. We're only at the Oscars—where the telecast audio feed was out at the beginning of the show.
• By the way, you're going to have to imagine your own witty remarks from Waltz and Up director Pete Docter, too. At least for now. The early winners have taken a pass on doing press, choosing instead to return to their seats in the Kodak. Definitely unusual Oscar-night behavior. Maybe everybody wanted to see the John Hughes tribute?
• Thank you, Original Song winner Ryan Bingham, for missing the John Hughes tribute! He's the first winner back here. And he's solo. True to tonight's form, his partner, T Bone Burnett, is absent. An Academy flack tells us Burnett has reported not feeling well and has, yes, returned to his seat.
• "I thought it'd be kind of cheesy calling it 'Crazy Heart.' "
—Bingham on why he instead wrote a song called "The Weary Kind."
• What exactly happened to Burnett? I ask Bingham, but he doesn't know. "After he won the award, he said he wasn't feeling well," he says, echoing the Academy flack.
• The Hurt Locker's Mark Boal (Original Screenplay) gets tossed a bomb and defuses it like a pro. "Jeff is a brave soldier," Boal says of Jeffrey Sarver, the Army sergeant who has sued the filmmakers, accusing them of stealing his life. "The screenplay is a work of fiction. It's not based on any one person's story. That's really all I have."
• Peep! Peep! Peep! Precious' win for Adapted Screenplay prompts reporters to peep right over Animated Short winner Nicolas Schmerkin (Logorama). Maybe we should explain our strange custom to him later.
7:05 p.m.: "We adjusted their brows."
—Joel Harlow, from Star Trek's Best Makeup team, on how they made the heretofore underappreciated Romulans stand out.
• Geek-Factoid Alert: The makeup Oscar is the first Oscar of any kind for any Star Trek movie—ever. (A reporter said it; I double-checked with the Academy librarian, and whaddya know, it's true!) Reacts Mindy Hall, another member of the award-winning Trek team: "It's fantastic. It's fantastic for the whole franchise."
• This isn't an interview room anymore; it's Mo'Nique's house. The Best Supporting Actress winner is running the show—calling on reporters she recognizes, calling out reporting tactics she doesn't like, and, of course, getting laughs. In all, this is the same Mo'Nique than we saw at the Globes and SAG Awards, but different. Still composed, newly commanding.
• "Everything I wanted to say. Everything I needed to say. I did it."
—Mo'Nique, on her fearless acceptance speech.
• Mo'Nique is asked whether she'll redo her résumé. The answer is no. "I am a stand-up comedian who won an Oscar," says the actress stand-up comedian.
• Name-checking Hattie McDaniel on stage was far from Mo'Nique's only nod to the first African-American Oscar winner. As she elaborates: "The reason why I have on this royal blue dress is because it's the color that Hattie McDaniel wore in 1940 when she accepted her Oscar [for Gone With the Wind]. The reason why I have this gardenia in my hair, it is the flower Hattie McDaniel wore when she accepted her Oscar. So for you, Ms. Hattie McDaniel, I feel you all over me, and it's about time that the world feels you all over them."
• Did I mention Mo'Nique is trying to get a Hattie McDaniel biopic made? Well, she is, and no, no snark intended as I, for one, intend to stay on Mo'Nique's good side.
• So about Mo'Nique's good side—not all of us here are on it, and the ones who aren't are the ones she referenced on stage when she talked about Oscar politics, or the perception of such. "Some journalist wrote, some reporters wrote, 'Someone needs to teach Mo'Nique a lesson. Someone needs to tell her how this game is played,'" she says."And I'm very proud to be part of an Academy that says, 'We will not play that game. We will judge her on her performance, and not on how many dinners she attended." (Update: While I couldn't find a story that said word-for-word, "Someone needs to teach Mo'Nique a lesson," you can find plenty like this.)
• I'm sorry to say I must not be on Mo'Nique's great side. I can't get a question in.
• Ever wonder how you get the gig to accompany the Oscars' annual dearly departed clip package? Let's just say I spied James Taylor in the hotel lobby before the show. It was like watching Abe Lincoln walk by. Or to put it another way, he was almost as authoritative-looking as Mo'Nique.
8:38 p.m.: Is Joel Madden's deejaying too good? It sounds like the Kodak's hopping. Either that or evacuating. "Please clear the aisles and take your seats!" an announcer warns the Oscar audience during the final commercial break.
• Best Actor Jeff Bridges has a glass of champagne in one hand and an Oscar in the other. His awards-season work is done, and he is good to go—and as laid-back as ever. He even quotes The Big Lebowski's Dude, maybe still his best-known role, "Strikes and gutters, man."
• Bridges is in no mood and is probably no man to complain about his film not making Oscar's expanded Best Picture field. Says Bridges, "I was kind've surprised Crazy Heart didn't make it, but bitch, bitch, bitch…"
• "Hopefully, this award will help bring peace and understanding and prosperity to our world," Bridges says, and the room laughs, but Bridges is undeterred, and good for him. "Music and movies are the common link for all of us. I'm hoping this will raise my profile. I'm all about getting us all together. Getting the world healthy."
• "I was digging a little Benji Hughes."—Bridges, on what he listened to on his iPod this morning, and destroying no one's memories of the Dude.
• Waltz is back here now after taking in the show from the Kodak. Make that the whole, long show. And his long-awaited first question is…in German! As is the second…! And the third…!
• Eventually, Waltz gets a question and offers an answer I can understand, if not totally understand. The Austrian actor is asked what he thought of Hollywood's Oscar process, and in a possible first, he liked it, he really liked it! "Dizzying. It's mind-boggling. It's fantastic…" he says. "Tomorrow I'll probably be sad it's over." Then again he won, so maybe I do understand.
• Best Director Kathryn Bigelow is as fresh and out-of-breath from her win as Up's Pete Docter wasn't from his. (Like Waltz, Docter waited until after the show to visit the pressroom.)
• "I hope I'm the first of many," Bigelow says of becoming Oscar's first female Best Director. "I love to just think of myself as a filmmaker, and I long for the day when that modifier is a moot point."
• On the night she shattered a glass ceiling, Bigelow fields question after question about…a man: Avatar's James Cameron. For the record, Bigelow thinks her ex-husband is an "extraordinary filmmaker," and she was honored to be nominated alongside him. Thankfully, she basically left unanswered a question about what she learned from Cameron "when [she] was actually living with him."
• So you know, Geoffrey Fletcher made history tonight, too, as the first African-American winning screenwriter, but the Academy flacks were never able to wrangle him after, natch, he returned to his seat, so he'll have to give his quotes on the party circuit.
• The only way you beat Meryl Streep and a radiant Gabourey Sidibe is through hard work. Suffice it to say, Best Actress Sandra Bullock is still working. "Are you joking?" she asks, still denying she was ever the frontrunner. "…I didn't aspire to this…This was the film I said no to. If I thought this was going to be my golden ticket…I think that's what makes this so overwhelming and unexpected."
• So about George Clooney and the pool—a story Bullock mentioned but didn't elaborate on in her acceptance speech—it also involved Tom Cruise, and… And, well, that's all we're going to get. "George looked so tired tonight," Bullock says. "I saw his little eyes, and I said I can't do it to him tonight…Ask George."
• We're also not going to hear what Bullock's husband, Jesse James, told his wife after her name was read by presenter Sean Penn. "Bless your heart for asking," she tells a reporter. "Well, you gotta try."
• James accompanied Bullock on the press rounds, and when a reporter mentions he saw James cry during Bullock's speech, Bullock fact checks the statement with her spouse. James gives her a no; Bullock relays his response. "He's right there," Bullock says, pointing offstage. "Don't piss him off."
• If Mo'Nique wins Best Performance by a Winner, then Bullock takes a distinguished second. She's charming, swears she wants to celebrate by eating ("and not worry the dress will bust open")—and has the Razzies thing. The night before she was named Best Actress for The Blind Side, of course, Bullock was named Worst Actress for All About Steve. "They're going to sit side by side, as they should," she says of her two trophies. "We're in the entertainment business. That's what we're supposed to do, take the good with the not-so-good."
• On second thought, says Bullock, "The Razzies might be on a different shelf, lower."
Take a look at all the night's big trophy-takers in our winners gallery!