Celebrities reunite on the red carpet, mingle during commercial breaks and experience impromptu star-crossings in the wings - - and we've got our eyes and ears trained on those moments.
From arrivals to after-parties, here's a running account of what you didn't see on TV:
3:22 p.m. - - Is the house open, a casually dressed Billy Crystal asks a backstage security crew a little more than two hours before the Oscar show is to begin. Wearing jeans, a sweater, sneakers and his Oscar credential, Crystal gazes out at an empty theater as he hits his marks and silently rehearses his monologue. A few minutes later, he's gone.
3:26 p.m. - - Outside the theater, things are beginning to heat up, thanks in no small part to the arrival of perennial Oscar heartthrob George Clooney. The fan bleaches erupt in a chorus of cheers and whoops as Clooney arrives on the red carpet, bobbing his head in time to chants of George, George, George. With him is his date, Stacy Keibler. Decked out in a stunning gold gown, she could almost pass as the gold-plated Oscar's sister.
3:27 p.m. - - Matthew Lillard of 'The Descendants' plays air guitar on the red carpet before taking off his jacket and breaking into a faux strip tease amid a shout from the bleachers of 'Shaggy,' a tribute to his role in the 'Scooby-Doo' movies.
3:40 p.m. - - Morgan Freeman quietly slides in through a back door to the theater and heads straight for the green room.
4:01 p.m. - - Viola Davis asks the bleacher crowd what it thinks of her new cropped copper `do. The crowed responds with an enthusiastic cheer.
4:03 p.m. - - Clooney, who a few minutes earlier had promised the bleacher crowd he would return, keeps his word. He walks right up to a throng of fans to shake hands and sign autographs.
4:27 p.m. - - Tina Fey, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith speed through the red carpet, using the center lane that separates the famous from the not really so much so.
4:30 p.m. - - Not all the glamour is happening on the Oscar red carpet. An hour before the show, Sir Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, stroll the white carpet at the 20th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards viewing party at West Hollywood Park. Bringing the proper amount of glitter to the affair, John is decked out in an embellished black jacket with his initials spelled out.
4:47 p.m. - - About 45 minutes to showtime and the theater is still nearly empty, with most attendees hobnobbing in the lobby over cocktails and hors 'd oeuvres. Milla Jovovich, however, quickly plops herself down in the third row where she reapplies her lipstick while watching the red-carpet action on one of two giant TV screens suspended above the stage. The 'Resident Evil' star then takes a call on her cell phone and steps back outside the theater.
4:53 p.m. - - Jessica Chastain has taken her seat - make that her armrest. 'The Help' actress squats on the armrest to chat with Christian Bale and others who are dropping by to say hello. The bonhomie is interrupted by an announcement over the theater's loudspeakers: ``Please take your seats. This year's Academy Awards will begin in 25 minutes.''
5:05 p.m. - - Gwyneth Paltrow stops on the red carpet to chat in Spanish with Penelope Cruz before the two make their way into the theater.
5:15 p.m. - - ``How much time do I have asks Oscar show producer Brian Grazer, his all-access credential hanging atop his tux. Fifteen minutes to showtime he's told. ``I'm going to see if Bennett Miller is in his seat, he replies and dashes off in search of the 'Moneyball' director.
5:21 p.m. - - Hey, thanks for dressing up, a tuxedoed Tom Hanks says as he passes a person wearing shorts and a T-shirt. Turns out the guy is part of the Cirque du Soleil troupe that is performing at the Oscar show.
5:23 p.m. - - Sandra Bullock is working the front row just minutes before showtime, chatting up George Clooney, awkwardly smooching Bradley Cooper and getting smacked on the rear by a jovial Meryl Streep.
5:25: - - The thing must really be ready to start. Billy Crystal has just been escorted to the stage.
5:28 p.m. - - And the award for the last celebrity to take his or her seat before showtime goes to ... Actually, it's a tie this year, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie claiming the honor.
5:34 p.m. - - Uh oh. 'The Artist' might be coming down with a cold. As the Oscar for cinematography is being presented, 'The Artist' star Jean Dujardin not-so-silently blows his nose and coughs a few times before apologizing to everyone around him.
5:44 p.m. - - Billy Crystal's opening routine doesn't earn a full standing ovation inside the Chapter 11 Theatre, as Crystal dubbed the venue that used to be named after financially troubled filmmaker Kodak. But maybe that's because Michelle Williams, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and others are too busy jumping out of their seats to schmooze during the show's first commercial break. Leading the charge, George Clooney dashes over to hug his pal Brad Pitt and a cameraman.
5:45 p.m. - - While the Oscar people are handing out their awards at Hollywood and Highland, a smiling, chatty Katy Perry is over at the Elton John AIDS Foundation's viewing party, looking single and ready to mingle. Sporting a sleek blue bob, Perry hobnobs with burlesque star Dita Von Teese and sits at a table alongside 'American Idol' alum Adam Lambert.
6 p.m. - - That's what makes the Academy Awards what they are - - because of you, Sandra Bullock tells Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz as they come off stage fretting that their backs-to the-audience presentation didn't come off as funny as they'd hoped.
6:10 p.m. - - When Octavia Spencer was announced as winner of the supporting actress Oscar for 'The Help' one of the loudest whoops came from backstage. Sorry, Sandra Bullock quickly apologized as workers turned to stare.
I don't even know what I said, a still stunned Spencer remarked as she walked offstage and into the arms of Bullock.
6:25 p.m. - - The Muppets puppeteers have taken up residence in a balcony box overlooking the theater. They'll soon be joined by their respective counterparts, Miss Piggy and Kermit, to introduce the Cirque du Soleil performances. They have a better seat that human co-star Jason Segal. He's situated down below, all the way on the right side of the theater next to a monitor broadcasting the show.