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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.

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5:44 p.m. _ Billy Crystal’s long awaited return as Oscar host doesn’t earn a full standing ovation, but perhaps 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.

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6:10 p.m. _ When Octavia Spencer is announced as winner of the supporting actress Oscar for “The Help” one of the loudest whoops comes from backstage. “Sorry,” Sandra Bullock quickly apologizes as workers turn to stare. “I don’t even know what I said,” a still stunned Spencer remarks as she walks offstage and into the arms of Bullock.

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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 than their human co-star Jason Segel. He’s situated down below, all the way on the right side of the theater next to a monitor broadcasting the show.

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6:28 p.m. _ Robert Downey Jr. chews away on his gum and dances along to the music as he waits in the wings to present an award during the Oscar show’s Cirque du Soleil performance. When his cue comes he quickly deposits the gum in a napkin and steps on stage.

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6:42 p.m. _ Stage manager Dency Nelson has discovered Downey’s discarded gum. “Robert Downey Jr. chewing gum! We could sell it on eBay,” Nelson jokes before tossing it in the trash.

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6:51 p.m. _ Are the infamous Oscar hunger pangs already setting in? Meryl Streep just handed Sandra Bullock a piece of gum in the audience. A few minutes later, Melissa McCarthy hands what looks like a piece of candy to her “Bridesmaids” co-star Kristen Wiig.

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7:21 p.m. _ There’s no need to survive solely on what Oscargoers have in their purses. An army of 1930s-era candy girls has just marched into the crowd to dole out popcorn and candy. Stacy Keibler grabs some of each.

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