March 5, 2006 -- Oscar season is a carpet-rolling, flashbulb-popping, flower-arranging, bomb-sniffing hive of hyperactivity beamed to 195 countries -- from Iceland to Kazakhstan to Germany, and other places with funny microphones.
More will be spent on this one night than was spent to make "Crash" and "Capote" combined. Even the celery broth is sprinkled with gold.
"Everyone's going to get soup like that, with 24-karat gold leaf on top," said Wolfgang Puck, who is in charge of catering the governor's ball.
Executive producer Gil Cates is in charge of the Oscars for a record 13th time. He has been able to convince best-song-nominated rappers to sanitize the lyrics of "It's Hard out here for a Pimp," and promised big things from Jon Stewart.
"I promise you: It's special, surprising," he said of Stewart's monologue. "We have seen nothing like it on the Oscars before -- with a cast of people in the opening that I think you will find amusing and quite tasty."
The set, however, remains top secret.
"Oh, you ever been to the Amazon Rainforest theme restaurant in Vegas?" Stewart said. "It's like that, but with more parrot noises."
As for the giant Oscar statue, Stewart said, "We're hoping that the people run out and topple it, and we are greeted as liberators throughout this, throughout this ceremony."
Be Prepared, Be Very Prepared
Stewart has a half-dozen "Daily Show" writers nearby for back-up, along with a posse of hired guns, including veteran joke writer Bruce Vilanch. They'll sit in the wings throughout the show, hoping for fresh material.
"Say Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal fall madly in love on stage," Vilanch said. "Unlikely, but if it happens, all the writers will start coming up with ideas, things that Jon could say when he next comes out on stage."
Whatever happens, all the participants are in for the long haul.
"You're basically dealing with a group that 80 percent of the people here are walking home empty handed," Stewart said. "So you want to, hopefully, make sure that when that night is over, they don't feel like they just wasted 12 hours. Did I tell you the show is 12 hours? Twelve hours this year. The show is called, 'Bring a Snack to the Oscars.' "