By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Sunday night's Oscars ceremony was held at the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Blvd., directly across the street from our "Jimmy Kimmel Live" offices. It's a surreal place to work every day, an eclectic area dominated by tourists, wackos, street performers, druggies and goofy gift shops, the sidewalks covered by those celebrity stars. Everyone on our show has grown attached to the place, the same way you come to enjoy a crazy neighbor or something.

Kodak Theatre
The show must go on ... so welcome to the annual Hollywood love-fest.

So when the Oscars people swooped in two weeks ago, slowly transforming the area into a suitable place for an elegant awards ceremony, we took it a little personally ... especially when they stole some of our allotted parking spaces. Then the Iraqi conflict heated up, and common sense took over -- suddenly they were downsizing the ceremony, abandoning red-carpet entrances and possibly even cancelling the Academy Awards altogether. It was depressing to see the decorated street Friday, poised for a party in limbo, the glamour of the red carpet serving as a stark contrast to everything happening abroad.

After much deliberation, they plunged ahead with the show, only with much of the frivolity and excess stripped away. You have to understand, this show means everything to people out here. Cancelling the Oscars would be like cancelling the Super Bowl, at least to everyone living around Los Angeles. The show must go on. On a personal note, the thought of recognizable actors and actresses trying their best to be "serious" and "sensitive" sounded like a comedy gold mine to me, so I decided to keep a running diary. Here's what transpired:

5:30 p.m. PT: Live from Hollywood, it's the 75th annual Academy Awards! One notable omission from the "75 Years of Oscar Movies" montage that opened the show: Mr. Miyagi and Daniel-San putting up their bonzai tree at the end of "Karate Kid III."

5:37: Host Steve Martin comes out and makes some good-natured celebrity jokes, followed by disturbing, awkward close-ups of those same celebrities -- including a joke about sharing a hot tub with Kathy Bates, followed by Kathy gasping in mock horror. She's on hand to accept the Oscar for "Scariest, Most Horrifying Nude Scene" (from "About Schmidt").

8:40: Queen Latifah's cleavage launches the second "Shock and Awe" campaign of the weekend.

5:43: You know, I can't stand the opening Oscar monologue, if only because funny people like Steve Martin are always subjected to jokes like, "I used the term Gay Mafia once, woke up the next morning and there was a poodle head in my bed." Does it have to be this way?

5:47: As Cameron Diaz comes out to present the "Best Animated Feature" Oscar, my stepdad (visiting with my Mom from the East Coast) says, "Boy, she has no breasts, huh?" That question prompts the Sports Gal to vehemently defend both Cameron Diaz and her breasts. You have to love Oscar night.

5:49: All right, I'll ask: How can you not be there when you win an Oscar? Should we just assume you're trapped under something?

Keanu Reeves
"Whoa! That cloud look like a kitty!"

5:49: Our next presenter: Keanu Reeves! Whoa! I am an EFF BEE EYE AGENT! He just handed out the "Best Special Effects" Oscar to "Lord of the Rings," which also won the Oscar for "Scariest Line of Customers on Opening Night." Meanwhile, the "Lord of the Rings" special effects guy was just blown off the stage by the Really Loud Orchestra Music. That was fun.

5:53: Hey, did that Pepsi commercial with Beyonce count as a "Spike Lee Joint"? Or does that label only apply to his crappy over-directed movies, not his crappy over-directed commercials? Can you let me know?

5:57: Chris Cooper wins for Best Supporting Actor for "Adapatation," which I missed in the theaters because I swore off all Nic Cage movies after sitting through "Family Man." And yes, I stand by the decision. I think we're all disappointed that Chris Walken didn't win, just because we didn't get to hear his acceptance speech. I've got a fever ... and the only prescription is more cowbell.

5:59: Hey, it's J-Lo in a lime-green evening gown! Don't be fooled by the rocks that she's got, she's still-she's still Jenny from the block. That song kills me. She's worth like $600 million ... she probably wouldn't go back to the Bronx without at least 15 bodyguards. But she's still-she's still Jenny from the block.

6:02: I've said it before, I'll say it again: I'll take Chubby & Buxom Renee Zellweger over Skinny Renee Zellweger any day of the week. When are they making "Bridget Jones Diary 2"?

6:03: Boy, John Travolta is frightening, isn't he? It looks like somebody covered him with wax, threw some hair plugs on him and plugged him into an electric socket. Was "Pulp Fiction" really just nine years ago? Feels like 20.

6:04: Awards given out over the past hour: Best Animated Feature ("Spirited Away"); Art Direction ("Chicago"); Best Ridiculously Inconsistent And Implausible Fake Accent (Leo DiCaprio, "Gangs of New York"); Best Use of Sam Jackson ("Triple X"); Best Movie That Would Have Been Better If They Just Made It a Porn Flick ("The Secretary").

6:05: I know she's pregnant and all, but if Catherine Zeta-Jones is really my age, then I guess I'm 43 years old. She's singing right now with Queen Latifah. "Can you tell how good 'Chicago' is just from this song?" the Sports Gal asks me. "You really need to see that movie."

(Absolutely. Just let me know when the temperature in Hell drops below minus-40.)

6:13: ABC breaks into the festivities with a war update. That didn't quite match the awkwardness of Dan Rather's interruption between the first and second OTs of the raucous Gonzaga-Arizona game, but still, pretty sobering. Should I even be doing a diary? Ah, screw it.

Jennifer Garner
Someone this hot should have been famous much sooner.

6:14: Our next presenter: Jennifer Garner, a k a the most beautiful celebrity I've seen in person while working for a late night talk show. She was so attractive, people were slack-jawed watching her walk through the Green Room; we all looked like the convicts in "Shawshank Redemption" when Andy snuck into the Warden's office and blasted the classical music. Of course, this story doesn't stop my Mom from saying, "That dress looks a little tight around her midriff ... she should do some sit-ups." Tough crowd. Imagine growing up under this kind of scrutiny.

6:16: My favorite part of any Oscars show: any shot of Jack Nicholson wearing sunglasses, deliriously laughing about something, looking like he might turn into the guy from "The Shining" at any time. They should have an alternate channel where the camera stays on Jack for the entire show -- I would watch the whole thing, just like I would watch the Slam Dunk Contest if the camera just stayed on Dikembe Mutombo the whole time. All right, I'm babbling.

6:18: Kate Hudson wins the Oscar for Best Actress In The Audience Who's Apparently Married to a Homeless Man.

6:19: Our next presenter: Mira Sorvino. You think she ever sits around getting ticked off about Zellweger's career? Aren't they the same person? And Mira came first! I'm not even paying attention to the awards, by the way.

(Does anyone care about anything other than the actor categories, best movie, best screenplay and best director? Please. If anything, they should expand the other categories -- Best Cameo, Best Thriller, Best Comedy, Best Performance By An Obviously Gay Actor in a Straight Role, and so on. The Grammys adds relevant categories all the time ... why can't the Oscars? This drives me crazy.)

6:27: Uh-oh. Salma Hayek looks angry, like she caught Ed Norton checking out J-Lo's butt or something. Just remember, Ed ... in the poker game of life, "women are the rake. They are the (expletive) rake."

Meanwhile, Paul Simon sings, "I'm Gonna Watch You Shine," as my Mom says, "Oh my God, another one who's not aging gracefully." Mom's on fire right now.

6:31: Is the Nia Vardalos Era almost over? Any signs of light at the end of the tunnel? Anything?

6:32: "Frida" wins for Best Use of a Unibrow. Unfortunately, the producers pass the 45-second mark and thank too many people ... here comes the Really Loud Orchestra Music.

6:35: Sean Connery (dressed like Austin Powers, for some reason) presents the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to our winner ... Catherine Zeta-Jones! She gives an emotional hug to her husband, Kirk Douglas.

6:46: Steve Martin introduces Kate Hudson as the star of "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." That reminds me of my friend Hench's joke when we saw Kate during Super Bowl Week in San Diego: "Here's the first way you lose a guy in 10 days -- small breasts!" Now that's comedy.

6:50: Standing O for Julie Andrews. Seems a little strong. "I thought she was unbelievable in 'Mary Poppins,' " the Sports Gal says. Nobody knows how to react to this.

6:57: As Sarah Silverman would say, ABC's new "Bachelor" looks a little "date-rapey." That's my favorite phrase of 2003 so far.

Salma Hayek
An Academy Award win would have killed any chance of Salma on Skinemax. Phew!

6:58: Forgot to ask: Does Salma Hayek's Oscar nomination preclude her chances from popping up on Skinemax? I think this is a bad thing. After "Studio 54" came out, I could have sworn that she was less than five years away.

6:59: As Julianne Moore strides out to present an award, my Mom says, "I don't get her. ... I don't get her at all ... and look how she walks, I just don't get it." She's genuinely perturbed. "Lord of the Rings" just won something else, by the way. Either "Rings" or "Chicago" has won every award so far. Nothing yet for "Gangs of New York." Thank God. That Miramax hype can only go so far -- I think "Gymkata" could have gotten three Oscar nominations with the Weinsteins behind it.

7:16: It's funny, it took Hollywood almost 20 years to figure out that guys just plain dig Diane Lane. She just presented Best Documentary Feature to "Bowling For Columbine," which also won the Oscar for Best Movie That Embarrassed a Guy Dying of Alzheimer's.

Now here's where it gets good: Director Michael Moore comes out with guns blazing -- no pun intended -- ripping President Bush with a vicious anti-war diatribe, even getting booed off the stage. Where was the Really Loud Orchestra Music for that one? My favorite part was when they showed Adrien Brody for a reaction shot, and Chad Lowe was sitting behind him, his mouth open in stunned silence ... then they cut to Lou Gossett Jr. You couldn't make this stuff up.

7:21: Everyone is still reeling from Michael Moore's speech. Wrong place, wrong time. Even James Cameron's "I'm the king of the world!" speech came off better than that. "The teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo," Steve Martin jokes.

7:23: More awards from the last hour: Best Animated Feature ("The ChubbChubbs"); Best Costume Design and Best Sound ("Chicago"); Best Makeup and Original Score ("Frida"); Best Cinematography ("Road to Perdition"); Best Use of John C. Reilly ("Chicago"); Best Evidence that Robin Williams Isn't Funny Anymore And Hasn't Been For Some Time ("Death to Smoochy"); Best Movie That Desperately Needed A Nude Scene And Refused To Deliver ("The Good Girl").

7:25: Classic Hollywood moment here: Presenter Kathy Bates joking, "Every time an Oscar is given out, an agent gets it wings," followed by raucous, hysterical laughter from the crowd. They'll be repeating that line at Spago's all week.

7:33: Our next celebrity: Mr. Colin Farrell, who just won me 10 bucks in my "When will Colin Farrell knock somebody up?" office pool (I had early-March). He introduces U2 to sing that "Gangs of New York" song. Not one of their finer efforts. When they break that baby out in concert, it's practically a stampede to the concession stands.

7:41: My favorite Oscars segment: The "Here's Everyone Who Died This Year" montage (introduced by a somber Susan Sarandon). Imagine being up there in heaven, looking down on the Oscars and finding out that Dudley Moore got more applause then you? Tough way to start the afterlife. By the way, it's probably best that Richard Crenna died before "The Hunted" came out -- I think he really would have flipped out.

7:48: Uh-oh ... apparently Bob Dylan sold out to Victoria's Secret. And since my editor (Jay Lovinger) just had a heart attack reading that last sentence, get ready for a number of typos during the final section of this column.

7:50: I think I've lost all feeling in my right butt cheek. And we haven't even hit the major categories yet. We're at the 2:20 mark, by the way.

Adrien Brody, Chris Cooper
Adrien and Chris should see their star shine for years. (aka -- see you in rehab)

7:51: And the Best Actor goes to ... Adrien Brody for "The Pianist." Wow! A genuine upset! I always liked this guy, ever since he starred in a barely-seen movie called "The Restaurant." Great actor. And he just slapped a wet kiss on presenter Halle Berry. Doesn't he know that her husband is crazy? Great stuff. He even shushed the Really Loud Orchestra, babbled for four minutes and got himself a standing O. What a night. Keep this guy away from Sunset Blvd. tonight so he doesn't pull a Eugene Robinson.

7:55: From my stepdad: "You know, everyone was standing up at the end of that kid's speech except for Martin Scorcese ... then I realized, he was standing up!" I think you have to be at least 55 years old to deliver a joke like that and make it work.

8:00: My Mom thinks Barbara Streisand got her dress at a thrift shop. Babs just presented "Best Song" to Eminem's producer, but not before making a face when she read the envelope. That was priceless.

8:10: Peter O'Toole accepts a lifetime achievement Oscar. I think we're all asking ourselves the same question ... Peter O'Toole is still alive?

8:15: We're at the 195-minute mark. I've said it before, I'll say it again: Nothing should run longer than 150 minutes unless there's a really good reason. Like Coppola saying, "You know, I can't make any more cuts to 'The Godfather,' it's good enough as is, I don't want to ruin it." That kind of reason. Two and a half hours is long enough for anything you would ever want to do in life. I feel very strongly about this.

8:17: The Best Actress category includes two actresses who made themselves unattractive for the roles -- Kidman and Hayek -- then were praised for their "courage" in making themselves unattractive. Now everyone's following suit with the Ugly Trend: For instance, Charlize Theron slapped on 25 pounds for some upcoming movie about a female serial killer. This is a really, really, really bad trend. I hate this trend. What happened to last year's trend, when Halle Berry won an Oscar on the basis of a raw, practically X-rated sex scene? What about that trend? Can that one come back?

8:19: Yep, Kidman wins the Oscar for Best Actress. Classic example of my Ewing Theory -- Tom Cruise breaks up with her, so Kidman becomes the most bankable actress in Hollywood and wins an Academy Award. That's right up there with the Patriots winning a Super Bowl with Drew Bledsoe on the bench.

8:22: As Nicole finishes her speech, my Mom adds this line: "And (expletive) you, Tom!"

8:27: All right, did we really need 59 Oscar winners on stage together, being introduced one by one? Definitely a ruse to get more stars to show up for the Oscars. Hey, I have an idea ... let's introduce everyone in the audience! The show could end Thursday.

8:30: They're still introducing Oscar winners ... we're only up to the "G's" in the alphabet. By the way, how did Lou Gossett Jr. win an Oscar for "Officer and a Gentleman" and get shut out for "Toy Soldiers"? Has anyone ever definitively answered that?

Martin Richards
Attention men of Earth. This is the dude who brought back the musical. Do as you must.

8:46: Oscars handed out in the past hour: Best Adapted Screenplay ("The Pianist"); Best Editing ("Chicago"); Best Screenplay ("Talk to Me"); Best Cinematic Evidence That Women Are Completely Insane ("Personal Velocity").

8:54: A classic Oscar moment: Harrison Ford announcing that the Best Director Oscar goes to Roman Polanski for "The Pianist," then Polanski (in abstentia) getting a standing ovation from the crowd. What a country. Um, Roman couldn't be here tonight ... he fled the country three decades ago to avoid a statutory rape conviction. The Academy accepts this award on his behalf.

8:56: And the Best Picture Oscar goes to ... "Chicago." Fitting. So to recap, the latest successful Hollywood trends revolved around A) actresses going out of their way to look ugly; B) elaborate special-effect movies based on confusing kids' books; C) Holocaust movies directed by statutory rapists; and D) lavish musicals filled with eye-popping dance numbers. It's almost enough to make me want to leave Hollywood and move back to Boston. Almost.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine, as well as one of the writers for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on ABC.