Monday, March 29, 2010

Working for Free

This item originally appeared on The Bread Line Blog, a blog dedicated to examining the effects of America's ongoing economic downturn.

When you enroll in film school, people start to take you a little more seriously as an aspiring filmmaker. You still face a certain amount of skepticism from a great many people, but at least your goals -- and your intentions to achieve them -- come off as a little more authentic. People have a better understanding of how to relate to you. What was once perceived as a flight of fancy now seems more practical and attainable and, most importantly, comprehensible. When they see a "making of" special, or a magazine interview with Quentin Tarantino, they think of you.

In 2000, while I was right in the middle of film school, a friend of the family passed an article my way. A soon-to-be-released movie had amongst its producers a native of my hometown of Erie, Pa., so the local newspaper did an interview with her. The movie in question was Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, that Dungeons & Dragons -- the rather regrettable adaptation of the role-playing game starring Jeremy Irons and Thora Birch. But, quality of the movie aside, it was interesting to know that someone from my hometown was a producer, and that it was really possible for a lowly Pennsylvanian to "make it in Hollywood."

I've long since forgotten the name of the producer, and the article does not seem to be archived online. But as I recall, the interview questions focused on what it's like to go from a small Pennsylvania town all the way to big, bad Los Angeles, and then how one actually manages to become a producer on a movie. In the course of answering one of the questions, the producer said something that stood out from everything else in the entire article. Something that would haunt my remaining college years. Something that would stoke my anxieties about taking the dive and moving to Los Angeles. She said that when one is getting a start in the entertainment industry, a great strategy is to offer to work for free.

I couldn't believe what I was reading. Work for free? But how? How do you manage to pay your rent, or buy food, or, hell, go out to see a movie once in a while? Because isn't that why you wanted to get into this business in the first place... because you love movies? I couldn't imagine working for free in Pennsylvania, so how was I supposed to work for free in California, where the cost of living, as I understood it, was far higher?

And then I started to get indignant. Why should someone have to work for free on a movie? When it comes to money and Hollywood, all you ever hear about are these $80 million budgets and these $200 million box office returns. Are you telling me there's no room in there to toss a newbie a few hundred dollars a week to help them get by?"

"Not me," I assured myself. "Maybe this woman worked for free to get her start, but that's not what I'm gonna do. I know I have to start low on the ladder. Of course! But I'll make sure I'm earning at least a little bit of money. I have to!"

And then I worked for free.

When I got to L.A., I had no immediate prospects in the entertainment business, and had no idea how I was supposed to get that started. I began working a couple of part time jobs - at a grocery store (Ralphs, as featured in The Big Lebowski) and a video store (remember when you used to have to go to a store to rent a movie?). I'd had no L.A. or New York internships during my time at film school, so I didn't know anyone and didn't have any professional experience. And when that's the situation, there's really only one way to get your start. You work for free.

My aunt, who lived in Ohio, informed me that a neighborhood friend of hers had a son who was producing music videos out in L.A. She offered to put me in touch with him and see if he could offer me any advice or opportunities. It just so happened the company he worked for was bringing in interns at the exact moment I contacted him, and he offered to pass my resume along.

So that's how it happens. You you become an intern or, simply, an unpaid production assistant. "Un-work," as I refer to it. This accomplishes two of the most important things you need to start your career in entertainment - it gets you experience, which is far more valuable than any college degree; and it helps you make friends and acquaintances, which is how you're going to find your way into future jobs. Since entertainment jobs are essentially all freelance, you live by your connections. These are the people who will inform you about job openings on their shows and will get your resumes to the right people (along with the ever-important implied recommendation).

How do you keep a roof over your head and food on your cheap Ikea table while you're working for free? It's surprisingly manageable, even in the high-cost-of-living city of L.A. Obviously, you're not living extravagantly. But as long as the bosses at your part time jobs are somewhat cooperative, you can usually work out a schedule where you can earn enough to get by, have plenty of face time at your unpaid entertainment job, and even have enough left over to go out to the occasional movie.

How do these multi-million or billion-dollar companies justify using free labor when they seem to have so much money to kick around? Well, I can't honestly say it's justified. There are a lot of people with padded pockets walking amongst the zero-dollar interns in any given office, and it seems like there should be a way for them to remain rich while still tossing a few bucks to the underlings.

But ask any line producer on any show at any time and they'll tell you the budget is beyond stretched. And they're not lying; they can only work with what they're given.

It may suck to have to work for free but, in a way, it's the greatest gift a newcomer could ask for. It makes the game so easy to play. People who are stressed out about money love to get things for free, and you're in a position to underbid anyone. It's an investment in yourself; you'll gain experience and contacts that will pay dividends later.

I worked around the office of the music video company for a couple months, and was invited to be to an on-set production assistant on a couple of their music videos and commercials. With that experience on my resume, I was able to convince "The Amazing Race" to hire me for a low-end position. From there, I worked my way up to higher positions on a variety of shows. It's amounted to some six years of employment. And that, my friends, is what we call a career.

Recently, however, I've been looking for a change. I'd worked those six years mostly in post production on unscripted TV shows. When I finally took a moment to give my life some cold, hard analysis, I remembered that I'd never really meant to pursue post production, and had never been all that passionate about unscripted shows. It was time for a change. And, as luck would have it, a friend who works in animation informed me that they were accepting interns at her company.

It's hard to press the reset button at age 29. But I'm not getting any younger; I can do it now, or wait until I'm even older and more ingrained in what I've been doing. So I took the chance. For almost a year now, I've been putting in several days a week at the animation company. It's been great to try something new. I have plenty of anxiety about whether or not they'll be able to hire me, especially in this economy. But at least this time around, I have one thing that I didn't have before - the knowledge that working for free is a great strategy that pays off.

So what can I say? It's like the lady said: a great way to get your start is to offer to work for free.

Accept it. Embrace it. Don't resist it. It will serve you well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Tribute to Friends

"Kids are dangerous. I've lost a lot of good friends to kids."
-Marc Maron, comedian
When you work in TV, friendships tend to come and go as people move onto different shows. You may have a really good friend for four months, and then lose track of that person when the season ends. Because of this, I habitually talk about friendships in the past tense. I say things like, "I wish we could talk about [future movie]," or "Too bad I won't be able to prove you wrong about [something yet to come]." In other words, I phrase things in a way that implies I won't be friends with someone in the near future. It's not a defense mechanism; it's learned from experience.

I first met Stephanie at the beginning of season 9 of "The Amazing Race" (the season with "the hippies" BJ & Tyler squaring off against "the frat boys" Eric & Jeremy). It was my first season as an associate producer, and her first season on the show at all. Not dissimilar to first grade, there's assigned seating when you're working in the story department at The Race, and Stephanie and I were seated facing each other across a table. Jordan, who had worked at The Race longer than me, knew Stephanie from before and was the one who helped her get this job. On Stephanie's first day, Jordan introduced us and said in a jokingly maternal way that she hoped we'd get along since we had to look at each other all day. In my sarcastic way, I shook my head and said, "Nah. That's not gonna happen." This, of course, doomed it to happen.

Before long, we discovered a few things we shared in common, like an interest in musical theater and Billy Joel. Most people give me shit for liking those things, but Steph was on board. She was from New York; so not only did she like Billy Joel and Broadway, but she had a hometown connection to them. We found it easy to relate to each other since we spoke the same language (with references to "original Broadway cast recordings" and Idina Menzel and Cold Spring Harbor and such).

We were somewhat isolated in our little corner of the office. This type of situation leads to inside jokes and exclusionism. (If that wasn't a word before, it is now.) I remember at one point we were discussing forming a vaudeville act and taking it on the road. Things like that are very funny when you're bored at work.

She began reading my MySpace blog, which sent her stock through the roof as far as I was concerned. Anyone with good enough taste to be a fan of my blog is obviously someone who deserves a great deal of respect and admiration.

It was also through my MySpace blog that I first started communicating with someone I'd only heard about, Steph's then-fiance Cooper. I'd written some bizarre diatribe about how Ontario should become part of the U.S., and the U.S. would give Alaska to Canada in exchange. Unknown to me, Cooper was Canadian. Steph passed the link along to him, and he left a comment detailing flaws in my land-swap idea that I couldn't have anticipated due to my lack of knowledge about Canada. He later confessed that he'd needed to look up those facts in order to sound better informed about his homeland.

I soon learned that Cooper was a singer-songwriter, and cautiously inquired further about this. Cautiously, because I didn't want to find out that he sucked and have to avoid the topic of his music anytime I was around either of them. Steph brought me a sample CD and, to my relief, I discovered that he writes the kind of music I actually like -- folksy with a hint of rock -- and that he was good at it.

Then came "Lost." I'm sure every office has its core group of fanatics of certain types of shows -- nothing unique there -- but that became central to my group of friends at the office. We started having "Lost lunch" discussion groups the day after air to discuss what was going on with the show and to help everyone keep the story straight. This eventually turned into viewing parties hosted at our apartments. That's probably where I met Cooper in person for the first time, and where Steph met my girlfriend Helen.

"Too bad The Race will probably be cancelled before 'Lost' ends," I said. "We won't be able to talk about the entire series."

"I like how you think we won't be friends after The Race ends," Steph responded.

This was the first time anyone had called me out on my habit of assuming friendships end when shows end. Interesting. And honestly, why does something as insignificant as moving to a different company seem to end so many friendships?

True to her word, Steph kept in touch and we remained great friends after I left The Race (which, by the way, now seems poised to outlast "Lost.") We'd go to movies, meet up for birthdays, celebrate Thanksgiving and New Years together. Steph and Cooper were the ones who introduced Helen and me to The Groundlings and the Hollywood Bowl. We introduced them to Gallery 1988 and beach cleanups.

As 2009 drew to a close, Steph and Cooper invited us to a craft show in their neighborhood in West Hollywood. (Steph and Helen are both into crafts; Cooper and I are both into doin' whatever.) Afterwards, we were eating at the M Cafe when Cooper turned to Steph and asked, "Do you want to tell them our big news?"

Steph didn't seem like we she wanted to, but what choice was there now? Cooper continued, "We're moving to New York!"

This came out of nowhere. They'd mentioned the possibility of moving to this place or that before. But when you live in L.A., people are always talking about how much they want to move; it's usually just talk. This was a commitment. But Steph was originally from New York, and Cooper was from Montreal, so they have roots in that whole region. They explained that they'd considered moving for a long time, and figured they ought to try it now while they're still young. They could always come back if it doesn't suit them.

Later that night, I asked Helen, "When they said they had big news, didn't you think they were going to say Steph was pregnant?" She agreed that it seemed that way initially. Still, this was just as life-changing.

That New Year's Eve, Helen and I took on hosting duties. Steph and Cooper brought pink champagne. As we started to pour, it became apparent that Steph was avoiding having any.

"Do you want to tell them the big news?" Cooper asked.

They were, indeed, going to have a baby. That's what pushed them to commit to moving, and why it had to happen to soon. If they were going to do it, they either had to do it now, or wait some 14 to 18 years.

We made sure to meet up with them one last time. We met at a restaurant. They gifted us some items from their apartment that they wouldn't be taking to New York with them. We wished them a safe trip, and good luck in all their new endeavors, then parted ways.

But it turned out they still had some time left in town, so we arranged a little going-away party for them. Everyone ate, talked, laughed, and had a good time. Then we all wished them well, and parted ways.

Then it turned out Helen and I were going to be in their neighborhood on their last day in town, so we went over to their apartment, hung out a bit, and stole some things from their cabinets. Then we wished them well, and parted ways.

I'm pretty sure they're actually gone now.

Steph and Cooper were great friends, and Helen and I miss them severely. But we know they did the right thing for their family, and that they'll be happy in New York. Still, if there's one thing I hope they'll always remember, it's that they suck for leaving.

But there I go again, talking about friendships in the past tense. I like how I think we won't be friends now that they've moved. They've already left a rather open invitation for us to visit them in New York "any time; all the time!" Helen has a business trip later this year that's going to take her out that way, so a visit is already imminent. I'm not surprised, given Stephanie's track record. And honestly, why does something as insignificant as moving clear to the other side of the country seem to end so many friendships?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Podcast Rollcall: Savage Lovecast

Genre: Sex advice

What It's About: Dan Savage brings his patented brand of sex advice out of the newspaper and onto your iPod. Lacking the ability to do the show live, a la Loveline, callers record their questions to a messaging service for Dan to answer. On occasion, Dan will return a call in order to ask follow-up questions, simulating the radio call-in experience.

Why You Should Care: Savage is brutally honest, open, accepting, and hilarious. He refers to his brand of advice as "sex-positive;" that is to say that sex is an essentially good and healthy thing, and that shaming people about it generally makes matters worse. Savage's approach to advice is similar to what you might get from your friends after a few rounds at the bar -- he'll snap at you if you need it, bust your balls if you deserve it, but he's on your side and wants things to work out for you. His advice is unconventional; this ain't Ann Landers.

Frequency: Weekly

Average Length: A bit more than 30 minutes

As always, if you become a regular listener to a podcast that solicits donations, try to find a way to make the occasional contribution.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2010 Oscar Wrap-Up

Loose Thoughts

Welcome back to March, Oscars! Historically, the Academy Awards have been held in late March. In recent years, however, too many organizations have gotten into the awards game, and the Academy felt the Oscars were losing their prominence. To get their punch back, they moved the presentation date up to February. But thanks to the Olympics they were pushed back into March this year, albeit the early part of the month. Still, for old time's sake, I was happy to see the Oscars in March again.

I was also happy to see the return of a nice, old fashioned phrase: "The winner is..." Many years ago (22, according to sources I'm finding), the Academy changed the phrasing to the more polite, "And the Oscar goes to..." Because, you know, they're all winners; it's just that the Oscar itself is going to this one particular person. But this year, they returned to saying "And the winner is..." To me, that felt like the way it should be. (More info.)

This year's Oscars were the first real "Twitter Oscars." Even though some of us were Twittering the Oscars in years past, this year seemed to be the moment when everybody had that brilliant notion -- those of us viewing at home, and those in attendance at the Kodak Theater. And thank goodness that was the case. Because when I stop to think about it, yes, this year's Oscars were kind of boring. Definitely too long; but also boring.

But I wasn't bored. Between providing my own Oscar commentary and voraciously reading the comments of professional comedians and various writers, this year's Oscars were fantastic. If you weren't already following them, I suggest following Neil Gaiman, John August, Doug Benson, Roger Ebert, and the Comedy Film Nerds next year.

So, what was boring about the Oscars? It's sort of cliche to complain about how long the show is every year, but it was really long this year. As I noted, if I'd been in the Eastern Time Zone, I doubt I would have made it through to the end. Most egregious time-waster: when those bunches of actors got up on stage and talked about what's so great about this year's actor nominees. Individually. Three minutes per nominee, at least. Come on! This whole night is about the industry congratulating itself. Why do I have to listen to Forest Whitaker talk about how swell Sandra Bullock is for five full minutes? Nobody cares! Just give her the damn statuette! That right there would have shaved a half hour or more off the broadcast.

On the other hand, I need to be cautious about telling the show producers to tamp down the pomp. The pomp is what we're there for. Which brings me to what was possibly my biggest disappointment with this year's show: I didn't get teary at all. Not even once. Folks, I'm a movie lover. I connect with movies emotionally; that's why I love them. I love the stories, and I love the history. So when the Academy runs those clip reels of great movie moments, great Oscar moments, etc., I usually get so swept up that I'm on the verge of crying. This generally happens at least three times per Oscar show; often more. But not once this year. Not even during the John Hughes tribute. What went wrong? I don't know, but they need to fix that for next year.

Can I recommend that the Academy hire the producers of "American Idol" for next year's broadcast? Those people know how to stir a crowd, and they seem to be able to get their business done on schedule most of the time. How about it?

Now, I'm afraid I'm coming off too negative. Those are my complaints, and I stand by them. But those are basically my only major qualms. Everything else was fine. It was a decent show. And, as I said, all the better if you were watching it with Twitter.

Just a couple other notes. First, that really weird moment involving the winners of Music by Prudence. Who would have guessed that one of the most talked about moments of the night would come from one of the least popular categories in contest? If you don't remember the moment I'm talking about, click here. The hard-working reporters at Salon were on the ball and got to the bottom of the story the quickest. Read their report here. And here's a little additional information.

Second, the biggest upset of the night for me was, once again, a category few people care about: Best Animated Short. I actually had the opportunity to see all of the nominees in the category this year. They all had their charms, but the best of them -- and I suppose this is just an opinion -- was easily the new Wallace and Gromit entry. They're basically the Pixar of England. How did they not take the prize?

It's not just that Wallace and Gromit didn't win, it's what they lost to - Logorama. Look, I appreciate the amount of work it doubtless took to put that short together. But ultimately, the movie only has two jokes -- 1, find clever ways to repurpose brand name logos; 2, tarnish these well-guarded corporate emblems by vulgarizing them -- which it repeats over and over again for twelve minutes. Not only was the entire movie comprised of only two jokes, but those are two easy jokes, and jokes we've seen before (going back at least to the original Bad News Bears, if not earlier).

Oh well. It was bright and colorful and fun to look at. But if you want a truly satisfying short film experience, watch Wallace and Gromit.

A final note: Continuing the trend experienced by other award show broadcasts this year, ratings for the Oscars were up - the highest they've been in five years! Perhaps this means the Academy's experiment of nominating ten best pictures was a success.

My Score Sheet

Of the 22 categories I placed guesses in this year, I got 13 right. This improves on last year, when I got 12 out of 21. Need to work on improving my average for next year, though.

In Summary

This year's acting winners represent an interesting diversity. There's an Austrian, an African American, a heartlander, and a Hollywood dynast. Then there was the first-ever female Best Director winner. Perhaps this contributed to the ratings bump - there was a little something for everyone. Or perhaps the ratings were up due to the mere fact that the major category winners were so predictable this year; people love it when they're able to guess these things.

At any rate, it was a decent year for the Oscars. Not mind blowing, but probably more memorable than last year.

I give this year's Oscars a B-; and an A- if you watched it while reading Twitter reactions.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2010 Oscar Liveblog

This is an archive of the liveblog comments I made during the March 7, 2010 Oscar ceremony via Twitter, along with a timeline of the televised ceremony. The times listed are Pacific Standard.

4:00 - Local red carpet coverage begins; I do housework because I don't care about dresses.

- Because it would air ridiculously early, those of us in Pacific time don't have to sit through the Barbara Walters pre-Oscar interview special... which is great news! Just one of the many benefits of living in L.A. But hey, next year, nobody has to watch the Barbara Walters pre-Oscar special.

4:31 - Begin receiving Twitter dispatches from my man on the inside, screenwriter John August... though he doesn't know he's my man on the inside, nor is he exclusively contracted to me. Neil Gaiman is also there. I decide to include retweets from them as part of my Twitter barrage.

4:47 - I finally sit down and start watching pre-show. The red carpet interviewers do their usual excellent job at journalism, asking actors when they'll make sequels to movies in which their characters died.

- And I still don't care about dresses.

5:01 - ABC's official pre-show red carpet special begins. The quality of the interviewing does not improve. Sherri Shepherd, huh?

5:09 - Samsung's commercial for their 3-D TV has already aired seven times since I started watching. This is going to get really old.

5:21 - Tina Fey and Steve Carell actually manage to be interesting despite the horrible red carpet interviewers.

- I hate listening to people complain about the Oscars being a pompous, worthless, self-serving ego-trip for rich people. Get over it; it's just a party. That being said, the pre-show red carpet crap is a pompous, worthless, self-serving ego-trip for rich people.

5:30 - Finally, the show begins. The actor nominees are already standing on stage. Then they leave. Kinda awkward.

  • The nominated actors are already on stage. This show could wrap up really quick tonight

  • - Neil Patrick Harris does an introductory song to kick things off.

  • Some day, Neil Patrick Harris will host every awards show

  • 5:34 - Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin take to the stage. The jokes begin. Steve Martin says, "There's that damn Helen Mirren." Alec Baldwin corrects him, "That's Dame Helen Mirren."

  • Dame Helen Mirren. Best joke so far

  • 5:44 - Opening monologue finishes. Lots of good laughs. Penelope Cruz now handing out Best Supporting Actor.

  • Looks like Woody Harrelson kills Ben Foster by the end of -The Messenger-
  • First guaranteed win of the night happens - Christoph Waltz wins Best Supportig Actor

  • 5:50 - They're doing that thing where they highlight each Best Picture nominee one at a time throughout the night. First up is The Hurt Locker.

    5:58 - Steve Carell and Cameron Diaz hand out Best Animated Feature. (Why were they chosen for this?) Up wins. Whatever.

  • Seriously though, folks... -Up- is not that good

  • 6:01 - Amanda Seyfried and Miley Cyrus, for some reason, have been enlisted to hand out Best Original Song.

  • Amanda Seyfried reminds people they're missing the season finale of -Big Love-

  • 6:04 - T-Bone Burnett wins.

    6:05 - Chris Pine introduces Best Picture nominee District 9.

  • Wow, a commercial for SPAM. That's ballsy

  • 6:12 - Robery Downey, Jr. and Tina Fey humorously present Best Original Screenplay with banter about writing versus acting. The Hurt Locker wins.

    6:17 - Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick introduce a John Hughes tribute montage.

  • Molly Ringwald looks terrified

  • 6:22 - After the montage, the stage fills with actors from Hughes movies.

  • Nice tribute to John Hughes. Guess the rest of the In Memoriam crowd can just suck it

  • 6:24 - Samuel L. Jackson introduces Best Picture nominee Up. How are they deciding who does these introductions? I mean, Jackson was in The Incredibles, but that's a thin connection.

    6:28 - Zoe Saldana and Carey Mulligan hand out all the short film awards. Logorama wins Best Animated Short.

  • Wow - what was possibly my least favorite short nominee won. No -Wallace and Gromit-?
  • -Logorama-'s win represents my first wrong prediction of the night. Crap in a hat!

  • - Music by Prudence wins Best Documentary Short. There's some weirdness between the two people accepting this award. I'll get into this in my next article.

  • RT @johnaugust Yeah, that Prudence thing was super awkward in person, too. #oscars

  • - The New Tenants wins Best Live Action Short.

  • -The New Tenants- win is technically my second incorrect guess, but I didn't actually see the Live Action Short nominees, so... absolved

  • 6:38 - Ben Stiller hams it up as a Na'vi for the Best Makeup category. Star Trek wins.

  • Ehh... not really into Ben Stiller's -Avatar- schtick

  • 6:43 - Jeff Bridges introduces Best Picture nominee A Serious Man. Finally an introducer who makes sense... The Dude!

  • Is there only one Coen brother at the ceremony? They only cut to one of them

  • 6:48 - Jake Gyllenhaal and Jennifer Garner hand out Best Adapted Screenplay. Precious wins.

    6:51 - Queen Latifah introduces the Governor's Award recipients. Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman get a standing ovation.

  • If the quality of my tweets deteriorates, it's because I've begun drinking

  • 6:54 - Robin Williams presents the Best Supporting Actress award. Mo'Nique wins.

  • The next guaranteed win of the night happens - Mo'Nique wins. Biggest applause of the night so far

  • 7:00 - Colin Firth introduces Best Picture nominee An Education.

    7:05 - Sigourney Weaver hands out the Best Art Direction award. Avatar wins. James Cameron gives a standing ovation to his crew.

  • RT @johnaugust Seat fillers are a surprisingly diverse range of types: not just actor/models. They spin their badges back when they sit down

  • 7:09 - Sarah Jessica Parker and another person (missed the introduction, and couldn't identify) hand out the Best Costume Designer award. The Young Victoria wins.

  • Are the costume designers obligated to wear themselves?

  • 7:12 - Charlize Theron introduces Best Picture nominee Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire; Published by Random House; Printed on 70% Recycled Paper.

    7:17 - Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin acknowledge the conductor and musical director of tonight's ceremony. Run a parody of Paranormal Activity - pretty funny.

    7:18 - Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner introduce a horror montage.

  • -Marathon Man- is not a horror movie. Way to try to sneak that past us, Academy

  • 7:23 - Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick introduce a clip of Morgan Freeman describing the processes of sound editing and sound mixing. Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing both go to The Hurt Locker.

    7:28 - Elizabeth Banks introduces a clip for the Sci-Tech Awards, better known as the "nerd Oscars."

    7:29 - John Travolta introduces Best Picture nominee Inglourious Basterds.

  • RT @johnaugust Clearing the aisles. That means dancing. #oscars

  • 7:35 - Sandra Bullock hands out the Best Cinematography award. Avatar wins.

    7:37 - Demi Moore introduces the In Memoriam montage. James Taylor sings "In My Life" live during the reel.

  • How long has it been since Demi Moore was in a movie?
  • Not counting cameos

  • 7:45 - Jennifer Lopez and Sam Worthington introduce interpretive dancing set to this year's Best Original Score nominees. Up wins. Composer Michael Giacchino wins the unofficial Inspiring Speech of the Night award, telling creative kids not to fall victim to those who consider them weird. Follow those dreams!

  • Didn't we learn many a-year ago that interpretive dancing is the most laughable part of any Oscar ceremony?
  • -Up- is one of the few Pixar movies that's not about toys/machines, yet the dancers do the wind-up toy routine for that song?

  • 7:53 - Gerard Butler and Bradley Cooper present the Best Visual Effects Oscar. Avatar wins.

  • Anyone surprised?

  • 7:56 - Jason Bateman introduces Best Picture nominee Up in the Air.

    8:00 - Matt Damon hands out the Best Documentary prize. The Cove wins. Few people -- including me -- realized that Fischer Stevens was a producer on that movie. This rocks the internet for a good fifteen minutes.

  • I've seen Fischer Stevens in person. That makes his Oscar partly mine.

  • 8:05 - Tyler Perry hands out the Best Film Editing award. The Hurt Locker wins.

  • Watching the Oscars in surround sound makes you feel like you're in the middle of the audience. A very quiet audience

  • 8:09 - Keanu Reeves introduces Best Picture nominee The Blind Side.

    8:15 - Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino hand out Best Foreign Language Film. The Secret in Their Eyes wins.

  • Could've sworn this was a lock for -The White Ribbon-
  • That guy just made a hilarious joke about Na'vi being considered a foreign language and nobody laughed. It was actually a good joke

  • 8:19 - Kathy Bates introduces Best Picture nominee Avatar.

    8:25 - A bunch of actors get on stage to love-bomb this year's actor nominees... and then they don't hand out an award. Turns out they only talked about half of the nominees. The rest will come later.

  • RT @neilhimself They play soft rock during Oscar commercials. Roxanne does not have to put on the red light tonight, good news for all of us

  • 8:32 - Kate Winslet hands out Best Actor. Jeff Bridges wins.

  • My favorite sure thing of the night just happened

  • 8:41 - The remaining actor nominees get love-bombed.

  • Whoa, Forrest Whittaker is super skinny!
  • Just realized that if I were in the time zone of my birth, it would be going on midnight. How did I watch the Oscars when I was a kid?

  • 8:47 - Sean Penn hands out Best Actress. Sandra Bullock wins.

    8:52 - Barbra Streisand hands out Best Director.

  • This year's Best Director category is like the 2008 election - a white woman or a black guy will win

  • - Kathryn Bigelow wins.

  • Kathryn Bigelow is Queen of the World!!!

  • 8:58 - Tom Hanks takes the stage to hand out Best Picture. He wastes no time with pleasantries. The Hurt Locker wins.

  • -Hurt Locker- wins. Called it!

  • 9:00 - And now, the Barbara Walters special... which I committed to skipping.

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    POLL RESULTS: Your 2010 Oscar Predictions

    You read my predictions, and you voted in the poll... now, before the big night this Sunday, see how YOU voted for the Oscars...

    CLICK HERE to see the poll results

    Don't forget, I'll be live-blogging during the show via Twitter. The Oscars are Sunday at 8 eastern, 5 pacific, on ABC.

    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    Podcast Rollcall: The Business

    Genre: News/analysis

    What It's About: Whereas most entertainment coverage tends to focus on the talent and craftsmanship behind your favorite movies, TV shows or records, this show looks at things from a business perspective. What's behind the decisions that the big studios are making? How did that little indie producer pull the funding to make that underground hit? What are the current business trends, and what will that mean for the future of entertainment? Here, you'll get informed analysis from veteran industry journalists, and often industry professionals themselves.

    Why You Should Care: While it may not be quite as glamorous, there are a lot of elements in play that affect what gets made and what becomes popular. This show shines a little bit of a light on that.

    Frequency: Weekly

    Average Length: 30 minutes

    As always, if you become a regular listener to a podcast that solicits donations, try to find a way to make the occasional contribution.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    The Official YDJ 2010 Oscar Ballot

    Now you can play along at home!

    Click below to download the official Your Daily Joe 2010 Oscar ballot, complete with Joe's predictions. See how your guesses stack up against his, and check off the winners on Oscar night...

    Click here to download

    (*Special thanks to Helby for creating the ballot document)