Hello everyone! Chris Hewitt here, and welcome to Empire's semi-amazing and life-changing coverage of the 85th Academy Awards, which take place tonight in sunny Los Angeles. We're not in sunny Los Angeles, though. Oh, no. We're in our offices at Empire Towers, where the carpet isn't so much red and paved with hope, as dull, dull grey and paved with something unspeakable.
Still... Oscars! Rah rah rah!
Here's how this is going to work - I'll bring you regular updates, watching the show so you don't have to. If you're watching it with us, do send in comments to our Twitter feed - we're @empiremagazine, and use the hashtag #EmpireOscars, or you can email me your thoughts via firstname.lastname@example.org
Use that address wisely, mind. No spam, please, and no penis enlargement offers. I'm not falling for that again.
With the pizza ordered, and a selection of artery-hardening snacks to hand, it's time to settle down for the evening. Your Empire Oscars team are James Dyer, Amar Vijay, Phil de Semlyen and myself. Think of us as a slightly more rubbish version of The Hangover's Wolfpack and you're on the right lines, although hopefully we'll be able to remember the night's events come the morning. Imagine forgetting everything that happened during the Oscars - that would be awful.
I should also take this opportunity to say that we would normally be aided by our West Coast Editor, Mr. James White, but given that he won his own award on Friday - the International Media Award at the Publicists' Guild Awards, which EW's Anthony Breznican once likened to 'getting a Junior G-Man badge from the Mafia' - he's probably swanning around with George Clooney. Damn his eyes. Oh, and congratulations too.
So let's talk Oscars, then. It seems to me that tonight might be the most wide-open contest for quite a while, with only a couple of wins absolutely nailed on (we're talking about you, Mr. Day-Lewis), and no one film set to dominate. Certainly, this won't be an Artist-style procession. So, who do you reckon will take the prizes? Here, to maximise our embarrassment, is a guide to Team Empire's picks. You'll notice I'm not on that list. That's because a) I didn't meet the deadline and b) because I don't have a parping clue. Will Argo scoop the big one? Can it possibly beat Lincoln? Will Les Miserables make a late burst for glory?
Frankly, I'm still holding out for a late run from That's My Boy.
And what do we reckon of host, Seth MacFarlane? There are those who think that the creator of Family Guy and Ted is a comedic genius, a good-looking, versatile, sharp-witted hunk of hilarity who'll give the stuffy old Oscars a swift boot up the jacksie.
And then there are those who think he's something of a one-trick pony, that the South Park guys got it right with that episode where they revealed the Family Guy writing process boiled down to a group of manatees in a tank, and that oh God, oh Jesus, he's going to sing and there's not a thing we can do to stop it.
Where do you stand? He's got the chops and the confidence to make this work, and he certainly won't shy away from off-colour jokes. Let's just hope his Oscar manatees are up to the job.
And so we've started watching the build-up to the Oscars on E! That's the channel E!, of course, and not the recreational drug. As former FBI Director, William S. Sessions, would say, 'winners don't use drugs'.
Anyway, we're in the capable hands of Ryan Seacrest, a man who makes the (actually pretty darn tricky, trust me) endless procession of red carpet interviews look effortless. No, really, I won't hear a word against The 'Crest. Things could be a lot, lot worse.
So far, Ryan has interviewed Seth MacFarlane's parents, who are fairly confident that their son is going to deliver. Also, Kelly Osbourne and her fashion critic sidekick, whose name escapes me, have waxed lyrical on Amanda Seyfried's fashion choices this awards season, which means that at least my job isn't the most ridiculous in journalism.
On E!, they're agreeing that Jessica Chastain is knocking it 'out of the park'. We're not sure what 'it' is, but we hope she didn't obtain it via legally dubious methods.
They're now referring to Quvenzhané Wallis as 'Little Q'. It's 'Kwuh-vange-uh-nay', if you want to pronounce the brilliant Beasts Of The Southern Wild star's name correctly. God knows, that pronunciation will be seared into my brain forevermore, after I spectacularly cocked it up during a live Q&A.
People are still talking about the dresses, now that the likes of Zoe Saldana and Amy Adams have arrived. I'm not qualified to comment, but in some ways I think the late, great Father Ted Crilly said it best.
If anyone wants to know what I'm wearing, it's a grey cardigan from an outlet store in Northern Ireland, blue jeans and some Adidas trainers. If you want to know who I'm wearing, I won't answer that without my lawyer.
Frankly, who has? A minute's silence, if you will, for Dobby The House Elf. Yes, he was rubbish. Yes, he had an annoying voice. Yes, he wasn't even a particularly convincing CG effect, but we miss the little bugger.
Bryan Cranston - so good in Argo - has shown up on the red carpet, sporting a full-on Heisenberg goatee. He's talking about butterflies in his chest, which is exactly what I get when I am forced to confront the fact that Breaking Bad is about to end.
Jennifer Lawrence has just arrived, and has declared that she's starving. Jen, we have all kinds of wonderful crap here that we're willing to bike over. Pro Plus and Walkers' Salt & Vinegar crisp sandwich?
Phil has just told me that he interviewed Jennifer Lawrence last year. Cool story, bro. Oh wait, there's more. He says she was talking about her Oscar goody bag from last year, which included a holiday to Belize. Was it any good, asked Phil? "Yes," replied Jennifer Lawrence, "it was unBelizeable."
Joseph Gordon-Levitt has revealed that the opening of the show will feature him, Daniel Radcliffe and Seth MacFarlane. He remains tight-lipped about the details, so there's still time to start writing that slash fiction.
I'm not allowed to publish any more of my Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Daniel Radcliffe/Seth MacFarlane slash fiction, but let me tell you, it's getting pretty steamy over there. Wands are being tested. Loops are being closed.
E!'s big innovation this year is the addition of a 'mani-cam' which, disappointingly, is not a fixed shot of the Stone Roses bassist watching the Oscars at his gaff, surrounded by cans of Stella and Dominos boxes, but a close-up of the meticulously manicured hands of interviewees. Seriously, this is a real thing. A thing that started life on a whiteboard in an E! meeting room, presumably with three red circles drawn around it. A thing that got Brian from Marketing all kinds of excited. Never listen to Brian from Marketing. That guy's off the chain.
Naomi Watts is currently talking to Ryan Seacrest. She's nominated for Best Actress tonight for The Impossible, that film's only nomination. Which is somewhat surprising, as Ewan McGregor was pretty incredible in that film. The phone call scene, anyone? Dear Lord, the phone call scene!
With NATO unwilling, or unable, to heed our cries for help, our chums at Sky Movies have biked over an emergency package of food, mainly because we couldn't attend their Oscar Party at the Renaissance Hotel. God bless them, and all who sail in them.
E! seem to have stopped talking to people, so we're at something of an impasse. We've turned over to Sky's coverage, where - for reasons that we can't entirely fathom - Colin Salmon is sitting on a sofa. Which makes it automatically better than 90% of this year's Best Picture nominees. Yes, Lincoln was great, but did it have Colin Salmon sitting on a sofa? No. Was there a bit in Amour where Colin Salmon sat on a sofa? Nope. The defence rests.
AMAZING OSCARS FACT: George Clooney has now been nominated in six different categories (Director, Picture, Original Screenplay, Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor), which is a record. As if being George Clooney couldn't get any more awesome.
Daniel Day-Lewis is being interviewed on the red carpet. He's being very gracious and not cackling evilly and yelling, "MINE! IT'S GOING TO BE ALL MINE!". Which, in fairness, he could absolutely do. Because it is. It's going to be all his tonight, as he picks up his third Best Actor Oscar. He's pretty good at this acting lark, that Daniel Day-Lewis.
Colin Salmon is still on the Sky sofa, and still wearing an expression that says 'I don't know how I got here, but I'm going to make the best of it'. It's an expression familiar to anyone who's ever seen a Colin Salmon film.
Now he's singing again. And Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron - the two CTs - have joined him on stage for a bit of a hoof. And they're moving with charm and grace. If Theron had moved like that in Prometheus, she wouldn't have been crushed by that spaceship.
This is a nice post-modern riff on an opening montage, as Shatner comes back from the future to stop MacFarlane wrecking the Oscars. Liking it so far - thoughts? Tweet us. Email me. Semaphore is also accepted.
"We scaled the mountain because you're not afraid of it. We slew the dragon because you're not afraid of it." Waltz's message to Quentin Tarantino. And he was played off to - naturally - the theme from ET.
So, what did you think of that? Deserved? Or were you rooting for someone else? One thing's for sure - Tommy Lee Jones has stopped laughing.
Pixar continue to dominate this category like a bekilted giant. Mark Andrews, who's a lovely guy, is being typically verbose and ace on stage. Good to see Brenda Chapman, who originated the project, getting her due as well.
Anyway, Reese Witherspoon is on stage to intro a Best Picture montage, it seems, covering Les Miserables, Life Of Pi, and Beasts Of the Southern Wild. This might be a more expedient way of doing this than the 'one long segment per movie' tradition. Nice one, Oscar.
In case you're keeping score, Life Of Pi is leading the way with two Oscars. And now Bill Westernhofer and the four brilliant VFX guys who won the award were played off, in a horrendously unclassy and rather inelegant way, by the theme from Jaws. Let them have their moment, Oscar. What was that about showing VFX guys 'respect'?
Great cutaway there to Nicole Kidman in the audience, head in hands as the Life of Pi VFX guys - Bill Westernhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer and Donald Elliott - were played off and drowned out. You stay classy, Academy Awards.
Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell pick up their Oscars - they also won the Bafta a couple of weeks ago, and talked about needing a pee during their speech. No talk of urination this time around, thankfully. No puddles, please - we're British.
Halle Berry is now on stage to introduce this special 50 years Of Bond tribute. There was talk that all six Bonds might reunite here... somehow can't see that happening, given Connery's much-publicised antipathy towards the franchise. But you never know.
Yes, Dame Shirley Bassey is now on stage, singing Goldfinger. Rita Coolidge must have been unavailable for a rockin' rendition of All Time High (the second worst Bond theme song of all time, fact fans).
Some slight disappointment here that the much-vaunted Bond tribute did what's known in the business as a Reverse Market Trader. 'It didn't produce six Bonds. It didn't produce five Bonds. Ladies and gents, it didn't even produce four Bonds. Three Bonds? That'd be giving it away. Two Bonds? I'd cut me arm off. A single Bond? You must be joking!'
Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington have now appeared - unchained and uncut - to present Live Action Shorts. "Where do you think Scorsese and Spielberg came from?" asks Kerry Washington, who clearly wasn't paying attention in biology.
Shawn Christensen is the director of Curfew. "I have T-minus 2 seconds to do this," he says, and now he's talking at a thousand words a minute, thanking his beautiful mother and devilishly handsome father. Lovely speech. Must check out Curfew. Anyone seen it?
Liam Neeson - freeman of the borough of Ballymena, Liverpool fan and all-round fighting machine - is now here to present the next batch of Best Picture nominees, including Lincoln, a role he eventually passed on.
Seth MacFarlane is back. "The actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth." More groans from the audience. It's a toss-up whether they're mock-groaning, or if it's not entirely working.
Re: that MacFarlane joke about John Wilkes Booth. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you cinema's greatest JWB, as seen in Zoolander. Yes, it's James Marsden, giving great Blue Steel. Or is it La Tigra?
You have to admire Haneke's beard. In a room full of cracking facial hair, he really takes the biscuit. Incidentally, his beard could also be used as a receptable for biscuits if, for whatever reason, you don't have a biscuit tin.
Yes, it is. It's the cast of Les Miserables, along with Jennifer Hudson from Dreamgirls and Catherine Zeta-Jones from Chicago - both previous Oscar winners, of course - all singing live. The phone lines go live soon. To vote for Hugh, call 0800 555 555 01. To vote for Russell, call 0800 555 555 02. To vote for Catherine, call...
Star Trek stars Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana are up next. As James has pointed out, their walk-on music was the theme from Star Trek... The Next Generation.
They're not here to present Best Supporting Actress, but to talk about breakthroughs in digital technology, and the technical awards, which are traditionally given out at an earlier ceremony. Tough one for the geeks. They don't get to play with the big boys. Pah! Boo!
And NOW it's The Anne Hathaway Award For Best Supporting Anne Hathaway, In Association With Anne Hathaway. How do we know this? Because Christopher Plummer is about to come out to present. He won Best Supporting Actor last year, of course.
"As I know only too well," says Plummer, "perseverance pays." He then goes on to say that he suspects they'll all act until "they are even older than me... but I look forward to the honour of working with any of these ladies in my next 30 films!"
"it came true," says Hathaway, who even now must be unaware of the internet storm caused by her nipples' Twitter account. She thanks her fellow nominees, and Hugh Jackman, and then "the sound wizards", and pretty much all the powerhouses behind the Les Mis throne. "Thank you for this opportunity." She thanks Josh Lieberman twice just to be safe, and then her husband. "By far and away the greatest moment in my life was the one when you walked into it," she says, eliciting an actual 'aaawwww' from James Dyer, the soppy old sod.
Very nice speech from Anne Hathaway, a worthy winner of the Best Supporting Actress award. As someone pointed out earlier tonight - sorry for forgetting who - she has had plenty of occasion to practice.
Here comes the Academy President, Hawk Koch. "He sounds like a Russian guy sneezing," quips MacFarlane.
Hey, Hawk has invited everyone around the world to come and visit the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures when it's finished! Yes! Let's all go! Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have a few laughs.
Nicole Kidman is here to present the final batch of three Best Picture nominees. HOT NICOLE KIDMAN ANECDOTE: I introduced her on stage last weekend, and ballsed up the handshake. Really ballsed it up. Like, the worst handshake in the history of handshakes.
OK, it wasn't hot, and it was barely an anecdote, but it did involve Nicole Kidman, so stow those lawsuits.
Anyway, the final three Best Picture nominees are Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained and Amour.
Well, helloooooo Salma Hayek. She's here to talk about The Governor's Awards, honorary awards for the brilliant Hal Needham, D.A. Pennebaker and George Stevens Jr., and also Jeffrey Katzenberg, who won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. They were honoured at a previous ceremony.
Here comes George Clooney, to introduce the In Memoriam montage. Some amazing names here - Borgnine, Ishioka, McQuarrie, Klugman, Yauch, Clarke Duncan, Durning, Rambaldi, Lom, Scott, Hal David, Ephron, Pierson, Bradbury, Zanuck, Hamlisch.
"Thank you so much! This is amazing!" chirps Adele, who bursts into tears and thrusts co-writer/producer Paul Epworth towards the microphone. He thanks Empire! Well, he thanked someone called Empire, but we'll take it. Don't mention it, Paul.
In any other year, Denzel Washington, Joaquin Phoenix, Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper would be worthy winners of Best Actor. But this year they're up against DDL as AL, and so have spent much of the last eight weeks practicing their 'gracious losers' face at home in the bathroom mirror. And deep inside, they know that, no matter how hard they practice, Daniel Day-Lewis' gracious loser face would still be better than any of theirs.
"Charlize is my neighbour - how nice to get this from you!" says DQT. (The D is silent.) He goes on to talk about how he has to cast the right people to get his characters right - "and boy, this time did I get it right!" Then they start to play him off, but he stays on stage. "The writing in both categories is fantastic. This is the writers' year, man! Peace out!"
"I really need to share this with all 3000, everybody who worked with me on Life Of Pi," he says, before thanking Yann Martel, who wrote the book. He calls Suraj Sharma a "miracle". He then thanks his wife, "we'll be married 30 years this summer" and his agent and lawyer. "I have to do that!" He's a wonderful, gracious, hugely talented man. Congratulations.
And it's official - Life Of Pi is the most successful film of last year to feature both Irrfan Khan and a character called Richard Parker, narrowly pipping The Amazing Spider-Man.
Hypothetical situation: would Ang Lee have won had he been up against the likes of Kathryn Bigelow, Quentin Tarantino, Tom Hooper and Ben Affleck, who weren't nominated? Don't answer that. It's hypothetical and rhetorical, an impressive combination at 4.38am.
The nominees are: Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, Quvenzhané Wallis for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Emanuelle Riva for Amour, Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and Naomi Watts for The Impossible.
She fell coming up the stairs. "You guys are just standing up because I fell, and it's so embarrassing..." She goes on, at a thousand words a minute, to thank all those who need to be thanked. You know who you are. And then she remembers to wish fellow nominee Emanuelle Riva a happy birthday!
The nominees are: Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Denzel Washington for Flight, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables and Joaquin Phoenix for The Master. The winner will be Daniel Day-Lewis, unless the world has been thrown off its axis. But you never know... you never know...
He is, typically, gracious and, as we're seeing more and more, funny. "Three years ago, before we decided to do a straight swap, I had been committed to play Margaret Thatcher... Meryl was Steven's first choice for Lincoln. I'd like to see that version."
He calls his fellow nominees his 'equals' and 'betters' and then says that his wife, Rebecca [Miller, daughter of Arthur Miller], has lived with some very strange men. "And she's been the perfect companion to all of them." We think he's talking about the characters he's played.
He thanks Tony Kushner, Steven Spielberg and the strangely beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln before finishing, simply, elegantly, with "for my mother".
And now Jack is introducing Michelle Obama... live from the White House. OK. This is happening. And she's introducing the Best Picture nominees. Maybe she'll throw live to someone else. Jake Humphrey, perhaps? Nick Robinson outside 10 Downing Street?
Michelle Obama has thrown it back to Jack Nicholson, who's as cool as ever. Amour, Argo, Beast Of The Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Lincoln, Life Of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty.
Heslov thanks his partner in crime, George Clooney. "Everybody should be so lucky to have a partner as talented, humourous and who has as much integrity." As he says that, I catch the eye of James Dyer, and I sigh deeply.
"I wanted to speak before Ben because I thought it would be awkward for him to thank himself," says Heslov. "Couldn't be more proud of the film, couldn't be more proud of Ben." Heslov makes it very clear that Affleck is the DIRECTOR of Argo.
Affleck thanks Steven Spielberg and the other nominees. And then he talks very, very, very fast. He's now thanking Canada and Iran and his wife, "who I don't normally associate with Iran!". He thanks her for working on their marriage. "It is work, but it's the best kind of work."
He says that when he was up here for Good Will Hunting, he was just a kid and didn't know that he'd ever be back here. He says, 'you can't hold grudges. It's hard, but you can't hold grudges. You get knocked down in life - all that matters is that you get back up."
Intriguingly, Gorgeous George elects not to speak. He'd probably have been played off by the theme from Batman & Robin.
Phil, our Oscar tally man, says Life Of Pi won the most with four, Argo scooped three, including the big one. Les Mis also bagged three. Lincoln, Django Unchained and Skyfall won two Oscars each, and then there were a bunch that came away with one.
So, a fairly even spread then, and a show not entirely packed with surprises. MacFarlane was decent as host, although I believe he's getting hammered on the Twittersphere right now. His irony-conquers-all style meant that the moments that required sincerity didn't sit well, while the script often failed to hit the heights. But he's a charming presence. Maybe, if he does it again, he'll grow into the role.
If you're still here, if you stayed up with us, you have our respect and love. Thanks for reading, and do make sure to listen to our Empire Podcast Oscar Special, which we're about to record now, God help us.