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Beverly Hills, Calif. • The back of my head was clearly visible on the live feed of the Oscar nominations Thursday morning. I'm still trying to live it down.

As it turns out, one of the live shots caught me looking grumpy as the Academy Awards launched its nominees. Which had nothing to do with the nominations and everything to do with getting up at 3:30 a.m. to make it to Academy headquarters for the TV event. (Stupid time zones. Stupid live East Coast telecast.)

It was show biz at its show-bizziest. Sitting second-row center as Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone read through the nominees, it felt surreal — enormous importance placed on their every word as dozens of camera clicked; local TV news reporters wouldn't shut up; while entertainment "journalists" ooohed, aaahed and even occasionally applauded.

"I feel like a celebrity — I'm not going to lie," said my TV critic pal, Gwen Reyes of FYI Television, who was seated to my left. "Except for the fact that my mother didn't watch."

(It was 7:30 a.m. in Texas; 5:30 a.m. in California.)

There was the expected Hollywood excess. Too many reporters, whom the Academy hustled out of the building as quickly as possible, and too much hype. Lots of giant gold Oscar statues and red velvet curtains.

It was like a scene out of a movie, which explains why there are a lot scenes that look like that in movies. Entertainment reporter Jeanne Wolf asked a big, gushy, vapid question and MacFarlane replied, "I can tell — you're a big personality."

(He was right about that.)

MacFarlane gave us a preview of what to expect when he hosts the actual Oscarcast on Feb. 24. And he exuded a little bit of a Las Vegas lounge-act air. "If you don't know who I am, just pretend I'm Donny Osmond," he said.

(Ba dum dum.)

After "Amour" was announced as one of the nominees for best foreign film, MacFarlane joked, "The last time Austria and Germany got together and co-produced something, it was Hitler, but this is much better."

(Ba dum dum.)

Twitter blew up on that one, pro and con. "Hitler is very divisive," quipped Oscars producer Neil Meron.

MacFarlane tried to be philosophical about it, saying the controversy "was to be expected. There's always that one joke that stirs up the pot a bit."

But at the same time, he asked whether the reaction was more pro or more con. And it gave him a glimpse of what the future holds.

"When was the last time you read a post-Oscars review where somebody said, 'What a great host'?" MacFarlane said. "You go into it knowing that, even if you put on the greatest show in the world, you're probably going to be lambasted in the press. So you might as well enjoy yourself."

Which he clearly was.

Asked a question by a reporter from Poland, MacFarlane replied, "Well, I would say any one of you could screw in a light bulb faster than me."

Pretty funny. Pretty brave. And that joke went over the head of almost everyone in the room.

Which may also have been a preview of what MacFarlane will be like as the host of the Oscars.

Oscar night

The 85th Academy Awards ceremony takes place Sunday, Feb. 24, at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre. It will be telecast live starting at 5 p.m. on ABC (KUTV, Channel 4, in Utah).

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