5:59 p.m. Just a thought before the red-carpet circus begins: Don’t you kind of wish E! would make better use of Ryan Seacrest’s American Idol connection? Like how about letting viewers call in and vote for their favorite gowns and tuxes, and then, at 7:58 p.m., the two lowest-scoring male and female celebrities could be unceremoniously ejected from the Kodak Theatre in a torrent of taffeta and tears? Cruel, yes, but riveting! "We’re sorry, Miss Dion, but your jacket is on backwards. This kind of tom-foolery will not be tolerated."
6:00 p.m. Okay, they’re opening the telecast with Fergie’s addictive "Glamorous," maybe this telecast won’t be totally annoying.
6:02 p.m. I think we’ve already seen the winner of the night’s Most Hostile Pre-Show Moment. Ryan Seacrest cuts to Ellen DeGeneres backstage, and she can barely contain her impatience when he asks her how she’s doing. "Good, Ryan. [Sigh.] Kinda busy. I’m in here getting ready for the show. Pretty good, thanks for asking. How are you doin’?" And as Ryan tells Ellen he’s good, her disgust bubbles over, she shakes her head, grumbles, "Back to you," and walks off camera. Let’s hope her mood improves in the next two hours. Yikes!
6:08 p.m. Ryan compliments Giuliana’s shoulder blades.
6:10 p.m. E! style guru/Top Model coach/hair-gel addict Jay Manuel introduces the "glam-istrator," a football-style pen the hosts will use to zero-in on fashion highlights.
6:13 p.m. Ryan endears himself to Maggie Gyllenhaal by telling her she’s "still the most famous person on the red carpet" when she hears cheering behind her, then delights boyfriend Peter Sarsgaard by publicly pushing him to propose to the mother of his child. "Hopefully you’ll set the date soon. Peter, Come on! A little pressure buddy!"
6:18 p.m. Ryan rattles off a series of Oscar-related numbers without mentioning the number 23.
6:20 p.m. Ryan asks The Queen star Michael Sheen if there’s "a dirty side to Helen Mirren," then tells Giuliana how much the actor looks like Tony Blair. Anyone else think the first time Ryan saw the British Prime Minister was in the Oscar-nominated movie?
6:22 p.m. Ryan says he’s 5’9", 140 pounds. I seriously don’t think he’s that tall.
6:23 p.m. A moment of truth from E!’s Debbie Matenopoulos: "I do not eat. I’m tired of women lying." We believe it!
6:24 p.m. Ryan’s entire interview with Gael Garcia Bernal consists of questions about Brad Pitt. This, despite the fact that the Babel co-star has never met Angelina’s hubby. Nice!
6:30 p.m. Ever informed, Ryan asks John Singleton, "You don’t have anything up for a nomination, do you?" Then — newsflash! — reveals Martin Scorsese has never won an Oscar.
6:31 p.m. "There’s nothing like a girl in a strapless gown!" blathers Mr. Jay. How come he and Giuliana are showing old awards-show footage when, um, the Oscar red-carpet is happening RIGHT THIS MINUTE? Also, why is Giuliana dressed like an extra from Conan the Barbarian?
6:36 p.m. Al Gore is speaking but all I’m hearing are Jennifer Hudson’s gold shoulder-wings in the background behind him.
6:37 p.m. I’m so sure Ryan just asked if Al and Tipper hang with Leo and Cameron.
6:39 p.m. There’s something unseemly about Jay Manuel drawing an arrow on Portia de Rossi’s derriere and saying the word "badonka-donk."
6:41 p.m. "I’ll speeeeak slooooowwwwly," Ryan tells Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi (nominated for Babel) as he interviews her on the red carpet. This dude is annoying in every language.
6:47 p.m. Jay Manuel is scribbling on J.Hud’s "wings." Yes, they’re hideous, but that’s beside the point. "You, and you, and you — you’re gonna love them!"
6:50 p.m. Nobody wants to hear you say the Oscars are too self-important, Marc Anthony! Let the J.Lo speak!
6:52 p.m. Why does Ryan feel it’s okay to use this forum to ask J.Lo if she’s pregnant? Even if he’s asking her surreptitiously?
6:53 p.m. "I dyed ‘em special," says Jodie Foster when Ryan tells her how nicely her eyes match her dress. I love that she’s fantasizing about sneaking out of the ceremony so she can go home and watch the good parts of the telecast on her Tivo, with a pizza.
6:55 p.m. I’m no fashionista, but I love that Penelope Cruz is wearing a crazy pink furry gown that completely puts her at risk for morning-after mockery — but looks amazingly stupendously awesome. Thank you, Penelope, for not playing it safe. And also for not wearing golden winglets.
6:59 p.m. "It’s like hottie after hottie!" declares Ryan, ashe swaps out Rachel Weisz for the impeccably dressed Jessica Biel.Dude, it’s okay. You don’t have to keep reminding us you’re hetero.
7:00 p.m. E!: Your place for insightful questions: "I knowyou’re a dog-lover. Didn’t I hear that or read that?" Ryan asks Biel."Who’s watching your dog? What’s your dog’s name?"
7:03 p.m. Holy crap! Ryan just made me laugh out loud,perhaps unintentionally, asking John Travolta, "Aren’t you dressing upas a woman soon?" Then creeps me out by demanding details aboutpantyhose and girdles.
7:07 p.m. Jennifer Hudson’s been getting up to run at 4 a.m.,then returning to the gym at 1 p.m., every day since summer. Me, I’mopening a bag of Pepperidge Farm cookies right now.
7:10 p.m. Just asking: Isn’t it time for Leonardo DiCaprio to do something new with his hair?
7:13 p.m. Ryan uses Djimon Hounsou’s proud moment — he’snominated for Blood Diamond — to showcase his old cameos in PaulaAbdul and Janet Jackson videos. And then Giuliana completes the oldone-two by declaring, "I bet you $100 I can guss what Djimon Hounsouhas under his briefs — what his briefs are tonight?" Okay, seriously,it’s time to just replace this chick with someone — anyone! — off thestreet.
7:18 p.m. It can only get better for poor Helen Mirren, whoarrives for her E! red-carpet interview at the precise moment RyanSeacrest chooses to untuck his shirt, pull down his waistband, andflash his Calvins.
7:23 p.m. Jay’s been talking all night about how women shouldwear necklaces with strapless gowns, but now argues Rachel Weiszshould’ve gone with a bare neck tonight. Urgh! Okay, wait, this iscrazy. Why am I getting upset by coverage on a network that would allowJay Manuel to comment on fashion in the first place?
7:26 p.m. Celine Dion is "overwhelmed." I’m betting she’s also blessed, humble, and gratified.
7:27 p.m. Then again, maybe Celine’s just overwhelmed that she couldn’t bring her bubble of humidity from Las Vegas.
7:28 p.m. Even Anne Hathaway knows The Devil Wears Prada was all about her costars.
7:30 p.m. Did you hear that, PopWatchers? It was the sound ofme, dying inside, as Giuliana and Jay took control of the"glam-istrator" and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.
7:32 p.m. Alan Arkin cannot hide his disdain for poor Ryan.Then again, considering the E! host’s patronizing comment about theOscar nominee’s 10-year marriage — "Good work, buddy! Nice! Solid! –can you blame him?
7:33 p.m. Ryan declares Forest Whitaker is warm and kind — even to E! hosts!
7:35 p.m. What’s up with Gwyneth Paltrow’s en-aw-n-see-ay-shunn tonight? Anyone?
7:38 p.m. Beyoncé is so classy, and gorgeous, and talented. She’s also the dullest red-carpet interview of the night. That’s all.
7:42 p.m. When Ryan declares that there are "thousands ofpeople on the red carpet, most of whom I don’t recognize," sheresponds: "I’m Cate Blanchett!" She funny!
7:47 p.m. For all the money E! pays Ryan Seacrest, you think he could pronounce Ricky Gervais’s name, no?
7:49 p.m. Queen Latifah wants to smack around Eddie Murphy tomake sure he’s ready to give an entertaining acceptance speech. Yeah,that oughtta work.
7:50 p.m. Funniest red-carpet interview, not surprisingly,goes to Meryl Streep. When Ryan congratulates her on her fourteenthnomination, she zings back, "And I’m a size 14 so it all matches!"
7:55 p.m. Ryan really needs to stop rolling his Rs when he’s talking about Penelope Cruz.
7:57 p.m. That red thing on Nicole Kidman’s shoulder? It’s called fashion!
7:59 p.m. Jay, Giuliana, and Debbie team up to describe ReeseWitherspoon’s gown as "modern," yet "turn-of-the-century," yet"Spanish," yet "Evita." And that’s exactly the kind of incisive, thoughtful coverage we’ve come to expect from Team E!